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‘Confession exploits women’: NCW chief demands scrapping practice, slammed by Kerala church

Trivandrum Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Cleemis said nobody can question the constitutional rights of minorities and tamper with their religious customs.

india Updated: Jul 27, 2018 17:45 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Church,NCW,Confession
National Commission for Women chief Rekha Sharma, who was in Kerala last week to meet the victims of alleged sexual assaults by priests, said many told her that confession was often misused to exploit believers, especially women. (Shuterstock image/Representative image)

The church in Kerala has strongly criticised National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson, Rekha Sharma’s demand to scrap the religious practice of confession on allegations of its misuse by priests to exploit women.

Trivandrum Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Cleemis said nobody can question the constitutional rights of minorities and tamper with their religious customs.

“You can’t generalise things citing some incidents. If there is a crime, the law of the land should deal with it. You can’t blame religious customs citing this,” Cardinal Cleemis said, adding nobody can question rights of minorities guaranteed by the Constitution and tamper with their customs.

“It is a sweeping statement. We would like to know what the Union government says about the NCW chief’s opinion,” the Cardinal said.

Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference also sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over NCW’s proposal, according to news agency ANI.

Archbishop of Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, Soosai Pakiam, said “The NCW chairperson should not dictate that you abolish this (religious practice of confession).”

Sharma, who was in Kerala last week to meet the victims of alleged sexual assaults by priests, said many told her that confession was often misused by some priests to exploit believers, especially women.

In her 25-page report to the Union home ministry, she recommended steps to scrap the custom of confession.

She also sought a national agency probe against the Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal and five priests of the Orthodox Church who have been accused of sexually abuse.

National Commission for Minorities vice-chairman George Kurian also criticised Sharma’s statement. “It is a wrong statement. I don’t know on which context she said this. Constitution guarantees certain rights to minorities and nobody can take them away,” he said during a TV discussion.

He asked persons holding high constitutional positions not to make such statements that could create “misunderstanding among minority communities”.

Syro-Malabar spokesman Fr Jimmy Poochakat also deplored her. “How can a person holding a constitutional position raise such a recommendation? She can’t hurt sentiments of another community like this. Hope the government will reject her recommendation with the contempt it deserved,” he said.

Soon after two sexual assault cases emerged, the church had promised authorities all help in the investigation.

The state crime branch had filed a case against four priests of the Orthodox Church after a home-maker complained that she was sexually exploited by them based on a confession she made to one of them. Two priests were arrested and released after two-week custody and bail applications of two are pending before the Supreme Court.

A case was registered against the Jalandhar bishop on a complaint by a nun who accused him of sexually abusing her several times between 2014 and 2016.

However the bishop maintained that he was implicated in the case for taking action against her for “financial misappropriation and immoral activity.”

Marxist veteran V S Achuthanandan had written to the state police chief demanding immediate arrest of the bishop. After intelligence reports, police had tightened security for the convent where the victim is staying.

First Published: Jul 27, 2018 15:40 IST