Kerala Catholic Bishops Council says National Women's Commission has ridiculed the Orthodox church by recommending abolishing of age-old practice of confession.

Womens Commission wants confession abolished bishops body protestsRepresentational Image
news Faith Friday, July 27, 2018 - 19:29

The National Women's Commission (NWC), which has been closely monitoring the case where a woman was sexually exploited by five priests in Kerala, has recommended that the practice of confession should be abolished in churches as it can lead to incidents like blackmailing of women. This has evoked mixed response. Eby Varghese, the victim’s husband, too, has come forward in favour of the recommendation.  

Eby had complained that one of the priests used his wife’s confession to blackmail and exploit her.

The incident, which has shaken the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, has raised concerns over the age-old practices inside it.

Eby told TNM, “The priests used my wife’s confession to sexually abuse her. Even if the churches are keen to continue the practice, the current procedure should be abolished. There is no need for women to confess to men, for the chances of misusing it is high. Instead, women can confess to a nun or a superior who heads the nuns at a convent. Similarly, men should confess to men only.”

Meanwhile, Archbishop Soosa Pakiam, the Trivandrum Catholic Archdiocese and the president of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), told the media on Friday that the recommendation by the Commission has ridiculed the church and that it has sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister.

“Confession is an integral part of faith and the Commission has acted beyond its jurisdiction in the case. The NCW chairperson should not make such irresponsible statements. We are tempted to think there is hidden agenda. Some misdeeds do not always mean that a practice can be targeted. They should have discussed this with the church.”  

The Crime Branch, which is currently investigating the case, has booked the priests for rape and molestation.

‘Self-reformation is the need of the hour, not confession’

According to Eby, “Self-reformation is the need of the hour, not a repeat of evil deeds and confession. Even the Pope is aware of it, but the churches will not agree, because, eliminating the practice would mean the bishop or the head priest will lose control over the other priests. The Bible neither supports confession nor say anything about this practice. As far as we know, it is the church headed by priests that later introduced and imposed the practice.”

Jomon Puthenpurackal, an activist who fought against the Church and has been instrumental in exposing the death of Sister Abhaya in 1992, too has come out against practice.

“The Commission made the recommendation based on the instances of blackmailing and raping women using confession secret. When the sexual harassment of a woman by priests of the Orthodox church was exposed, the other churches said it was an internal issue of that church. Now, ever since the Commission made this recommendation, this is no longer an internal issue for the heads of other churches. They have become aware that it would question their very existence and hence responded,” said Jomon, adding, “The basic and prime realisation is that one should be capable of keeping their own secrets or share it with God; there is no need to share with anyone.” 

Syro-Malabar church denies receiving nun’s sexual harassment complaint against bishop

‘Want priests punished, I have proof’: Kerala church sex-for-silence survivor's husband