The National Commission for Women’s recommendation asking the government to abolish the practice of confession in churches has drawn criticism from several quarters. The commission said that the practice, which is meant to be a secret under church laws but was allegedly used to blackmail people, hindered the “security and safety of women.”
Head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Baselios Marthoma Paulose II said in a statement on Friday that the NCW chairperson has no right to interfere in religious affairs. “It is an attempt to deny people’s right to practice their religion,” he said.
Marthoma Paulose II said the church had taken a stand that the priests should be punished if they are found guilty. “It is not correct to blame all the priests in the church based on allegations,” he said. Following the allegations, the church sent the accused priests on leave.
Kerala BJP leader George Kurian on Thursday warned that any move to abolish the practice will be met with opposition. “Feminist ideology has crossed its limits with the move,” he said.
Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council termed the statement as irresponsible and made with an ulterior-motive. “The commission made the statement without consulting any Church, that too on a subject that is out of their jurisdiction,” said the council’s spokesperson Varghese Vallikkatt. “This is against the Constitution and comes as a shock to all those who stand for freedom of religion,” he said, according to The Times of India.
The NCW recommendations
The commission’s chairperson, Rekha Sharma, said the commission has also sought an investigation by a central agency into the two scandals that surfaced in Kerala last month – one involving four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church blackmailing and sexually abusing a woman and the second one in which a Catholic nun accused the Bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal, of rape.
“We have recommended that confession be abolished from the church,” The Indian Express quoted Sharma as saying. “It is being misused by the priests. Many women are suffering. Women cannot share their private life with priests,” Sharma said.
Sharma also said the commission has recommended an investigation into the cases “because such incidents are on a rise in Kerala”. “They [investigative agency] should go deep into it to see how many churches are involved in these incidents,” Sharma said.
The National Commission of Women constituted an inquiry committee to look into the alleged sexual assaults against women in churches, and has sent its report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and the DGP of Kerala and Punjab, PTI reported.