Sr Jesme who left her robes as a nun 10 years ago and wrote her controversial autobiography 'Amen' shares her thoughts on the incidents of alleged sexual abuse by priests in Kerala.

Truth should come out Ex-nun Jesme on two cases that rocked church in Kerala
news Sexual Assault Saturday, June 30, 2018 - 16:27

I am tired, she says. 

Dr Sr Jesme has seen and heard so much. Too much. She has spoken too. For others like her, but still trapped in the confines of a system that has gone terribly wrong.  

Five priests of the Malankara Orthodox Church may face a probe by the Crime branch over allegations of sexually abusing a woman in Thiruvalla, taking advantage of a confession she's made to one of them. They have been asked to go on leave following the complaint made by the woman's husband. The inquiry is pending. 

Sr Jesme heard that. And before she could even digest it, there's another news – a nun from Kuravilangad, Kottayam, has filed a rape complaint against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar. 

"Before I could even heave a sigh, this second piece of disturbing news comes. I am so tired," says Sr Jesme, ex-nun. The 'Sr' still stays as part of her name. This August 31st, it would be ten years since she took off the robes of a nun and left the Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC). Eight years since she wrote that famous autobiography 'Amen:  The autobiography of a nun' that shocked the world. 

Sister Jesme, who had been a nun for over 33 years, quit the Church alleging harassment by her superiors.  

"It's only got worse, year after year," she says. “But let this case be clear first, she adds, let the truth come out. It is still now just pieces of news coming out. But if it's proven true, it is just sad”.  

"Confession is for your mental peace. That's what is being misused," she says. She remembers her days as vice principal at the Thrissur Vimala College, when girls would come and tell their horrible experiences at the confession chamber. "When they have to admit that they had felt 'pleasure' - pleasure is considered a sin – the priests they confide to would keep probing for details. They would ask the hows and whats. I told them to not go anymore. A nun is not supposed to say that. The church can throw you out if you don't confess once in a year – it is called aandu kumbasaram. But I told them if they need to, they can get counselling from the teachers and sisters (nuns). Or else they can always talk to Jesus." 

Sr Jesme herself had stopped confessing a long time ago. Neither would she chant with her rosaries. All her talking and confession, she does directly to Jesus. “A friend once argued with me. She said there won't be the same purity if you don't use the rosary. That's how they are taught, that everything had to go through the church.”

She talks of the confession she made at the time of the 'Bangalore event' that she wrote about in her book. A priest who had moved to Bengaluru from Kerala had forced her to strip, to look at a 'man' and touched her. She wrote in her book:

I carry this burden of guilt within me until a new priest from elsewhere comes to the convent, and I am able to confess everything. Performing penance and some prayers he suggests, I feel pure again. 

"That priest I confessed to had asked me if I lost my virginity. I said no. And he said then he does not need to report it. Years later when I spoke to him again, he does not even remember this confession I made. That is his purity. But he is a rarity. I'd say only about 1 per cent of his kind are left now, those who have received the true calling of god. The other 99 per cent come with different desires,”Jesme says. 

So it doesn't surprise her that these women – the Thiruvalla woman who got blackmailed and the Kottayam nun – had kept mum for long. "Who do they tell? Whom to share it with? Even when you try telling home, they say, 'Don't tell anyone'. So imagine telling it at the church. Everyone just becomes a slave." 

God, she says, has left. 'They' have to lose the corporate mentality and come back to real spirituality. There simply is no faith, she says, or why else would they go after money and political influence. "They want variety with no responsibility. If a nun gets pregnant, she will be thrown out and she will have to raise the child herself. It is good that people are opening up. Let the truth come out." 

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