The National Commission for Women’s (NCW) proposal to abolish the practice of confessions in churches drew immense flak from the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference on Friday, with the latter writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to reject it.
In a letter addressed to the prime minister, the church urged the Centre to reject the panel’s recommendations and also demanded NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma to withdraw her statement that “confession should be abolished from the church”.
“We have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to reject the panel’s recommendations. This is the question of the existence of the minorities. On what basis has the panel made such a suggestion? What is its motive behind such an act?” Father Varghese Vallikkatt, spokesperson for the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference, told The Indian Express.
Alex Vadakumphala, the Bishop of Kannur, termed the statement made by the NCW chief as “irresponsible”. “Confessions have been a long-standing tradition and hundreds of people experience spiritual solace by confessing their sins. These are kept confidential, even at the risk of the priest’s life,” he said.
The bishop added that the women’s panel should have held talks with the church before making the recommendations to the government. “Even if there are legal cases, we should wait for law to take its own course. The NCW chief should have held discussions with the church before making such recommendations to the government. It was absolutely irresponsible on her part and she must immediately withdraw her remarks,” he said.
Soosai Pakiam, Archbishop of Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, told ANI, “The NCW chairperson shouldn’t dictate to us that we must abolish this (practice of confession).”
The women’s panel on Thursday submitted a report on the two sex scandals in churches in Kerala and recommended that the government should intervene to abolish the practice of confession in churches as “they come in the way of security and safety of women.”
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said the commission has sought an investigation by a central agency into the two scandals that surfaced last month — One involving four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the second one accusing the Bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal, of rape.
“We have recommended that confession should abolished from the church. It is being misused by the priests. Many women are suffering. Women cannot share their private life with priests,” Sharma had told The Indian Express.
Following this, the conference yesterday wrote to the National Minority Commission of India, saying that the suggestions made by the NCW chief only reflected her “political ambitions and communal mindset”. “The recommendations made by the panel, without understanding the practice confessions, and in the light of an isolated incident, is a violation of the religious freedom enshrined in the Indian Constitution,” the letter read.