‘Abolish practice of confessions in churches’, NCW chief on allegations of misuse of confessions

Taking a strong note on the recent issue of the increasing number of rapes and sexual harassment cases in Churches, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has written to the Centre to investigate the matter.

The Chairperson of the NCW, Rekha Sharma has also asked for setting up of a central agency to look into the investigation of these rape incidents and has even set up an inquiry committee to look into the sexual assaults against women in the churches. The reports have been sent to Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and the DGP of Kerala and Punjab.

The National Commission has also recommended for the abolition of the practice of confessions in the churches, as it can lead to the blackmailing of women. The “confession”, which is known as one of the seven sacraments of the church, has come under scrutiny after certain allegations came out regarding the misuse of confessions. According to NCW, the confessions in the church have come in the way of security and safety of women.

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Rekha Sharma said, “The priests pressure women into telling their secrets and we have one such case in front of us, there must be many more such cases and what we have right now is just a tip of the iceberg.” She further said that they have recommended abolishing the confessions as it is misused by the priests and many women are suffering.

These recommendations came after the recent allegations of rapes involving one of the four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the also another Bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal. The husband of the victim had accused the church of misusing the confessions and then exploiting his wife by blackmailing her using secret confessions she made to one of the priests.

Sharma said that the confessions could give an opportunity to exploit more men and women. “With women, they can sexually exploit them. But with men, they could blackmail them for money. So this confession should go from the churches,” she said.

Rekha Sharma, when asked about interfering with the customs of a religious community, she said that if religious customs and practices are coming in the way of security and safety of women, NCW can definitely seek remedies.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was of the view that the proposal of NCW was “unacceptable” and said it was “a direct encroachment into the freedom of a believer.” He said that, Article 25 has given them rights to profess, practice and propagate religion and by proposing the abolition of confession, the NCW is encroaching their freedom.

The Supreme Court has also taken a tough view on the alleged sexual abuses occurred in the Kerala churches. It has asked the crime branch to submit all the records of the investigation related to the case.

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