A Kerala Bishops' body has termed the National Commission for Women's (NCW) recommendation to the abolish the practice of confession in churches, as shocking, saying that it stands in the way of religious freedom.
A Kerala Bishops’ body has termed the National Commission for Women’s (NCW) recommendation to the abolish the practice of confession in churches, as shocking, saying that it stands in the way of religious freedom. This came a day after NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma had said that such church confessions “come in the way of security and safety of women,” and that “the confession could give an opportunity for the priests to exploit even men. With women, they can sexually exploit them. But with men, they could blackmail them for money. So this confession should go from the churches.”
Oswald Cardinal Garcias, the Bombay Archbishop who is also, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expressed shock at NCW’s recommendation. “I was shocked to read in the press about the demand from the National Commission for Women for a ban on the Christian Sacrament of Confession. This demand by the Commission betrays a total lack of understanding of nature, meaning, sanctity and importance of this Sacrament for our people; and also an ignorance of the strict laws of the Church to prevent any abuse,” he said in a statement, according to The Indian Express.
A probe by a central agency has also been requested by the NCW into these scandals as incidents are on a rise in Kerala, and how many churches are involved in these incidents. While in a Press Conference Kerala Catholic Bishops Council president Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said that NCW’s recommendation violates the religious freedom vested by the Constitution of the country. “Confession is an integral part of the Christian faith and the priest who hears the confession is only a representative of God and it is the God who absolves the sins of a person,” he said while also terming NCW’s recommendation as “communal agenda” showing “ulterior political motive”.
The recommendation has also drawn criticism from Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly, Ramesh Chennithal. He said the NCW should have never made such statement, “It is a matter of Christian faithful. The Commission should not have abruptly come to such a report,” he was quoted saying in the report.
However, Union Minister from Kerala Alphons Kannanthanam said on Friday that the central government has rejected the recommendation stating that it would never interfere in religious beliefs of people. Kannanthanam, Minister of State for Tourism, posted on Facebook, “It is not the official stand of the government. The Union Government has no connection with the stand taken by the NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma. It is a personal opinion of Rekha Sharma.” He also reportedly told PTI how such recommendations should not be made as “the Modi government rejects it outright.”
Reacting to which the Bombay Archbishop said in a statement, “I am confident the government will totally ignore this absurd demand from the Commission.” He also requested the NCW to pay more attention to empower women and prevent domestic violence “instead of dabbling in religious matters about which it understands nothing”.