Kerala Catholic forum: Let nuns hear women’s confession

| | Kochi

An organisation of the laity of Kerala’s Catholic Church has come out with the demand that nuns should be allowed to perform the sacrament of Confession for women and minors instead of priests.

The Kerala Catholic Reformation Movement (KCRM), an outfit that claims to stand for reforms in the Church, has raised the demand in the context of the infamous sexual abuse scandal involving a senior priest of the Church, who has been accused of raping and impregnating a 16-year-old girl in Kottiyoor in Kannur district.

KCRM members staged a sit-in at the gates of the Archbishop’s House of Ernakulam-Angamaly Major Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church at Kochi the other day to bring their demand to the notice of the top clergy. They said they had resorted to this step after Major Archbishop Mar George Cardinal Alencherry refused to take their demand seriously.

Indulekha Joseph, the outfit’s legal advisor, said they were raising this demand in the context of the increasing incidents of priests being accused of and punished for sexual abuse. “The Holy Bible does not say that the sacrament of Confession should be performed by priests alone. Nuns should also be allowed to perform sacraments like Eucharist and Confession,” she said.

The lawyer said that she had known of situations where priests used to ask women during Confession to divulge details of their flesh-related sins. In such cases, a woman had no way of knowing whether the priest she was confessing to was a pious soul or not, she said, adding that allowing nuns to perform the sacrament could be a lot safer.

“The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, in which the faithful attain absolution for sins committed against God and neighbours. I have asked several priests why the sacrament could not be performed by nuns but the answer had always been simply that it was not allowed,” said a former nun of the Catholic Church.

According to Indulekha, Catholic priests have always managed to make material gains using their positions tough they are not allowed to take home their earnings but nuns are always far away from power. The protest at the Archbishops’ House also saw a reading from the Bible referring to the misdeeds of the clergy during Christ’s time.

Nirmala from Fort Kochi said that she had lost the passion for confessing before a priest after a parish priest was punished by a court last December for raping a minor girl in the parsonage. “I should say I am a bit afraid. The fear grew after the recent incident in Kannur. How do I know what sort of a person I am making my confession to?” she asked.

“To some people, it may sound like a beautiful idea but I would say it is entirely impractical,” was how a senior Kochi-based Catholic priest responded to the demand. “Any such change should come from The Vatican and it is unlikely to come. Moreover, is it for the first time a priest is facing the allegation of sex abuse?” he asked.

However, Syro-Malabar Catholic church spokesman Fr Paul Thelekkat said that the very demand was contradictory to the sacrament itself. According to him, the right to perform the sacrament is given to ordained priests. It is scrutinized every year and the authority is renewed, he says, adding that nuns are not ordained priests.

The demand has come up in the context of the recent arrest of senior priest Fr Robin Vadakkumchery, Vicar of St Sebastian’s Parish Church in Kottiyoor, Kannur for raping a 16-year-old girl, who gave birth to a baby boy on February 7, and the alleged efforts of the Church to hush up the scandal using its influence and institutions. 



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