There is no doubt that the National Commission for Women has stirred a hornet’s nest by recommending that the practice of confession in churches must be outlawed to save unsuspecting women from exploitation by priests. For some of the Christian sects, particularly in Kerala, the statement by NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma has come as the height of intolerance.
This has even weakened sympathy for the victims of predators who are mandated with the so-called spiritual emancipation of sinners within their fold. The concept of confession is very old, although not all sects of the Church practice it. The idea is that one confesses to God and the priest who, in most cases, sits across a curtain to listen is supposed to be the Almighty’s representative and behave like one. The priest is not supposed to divulge the secrets to anyone, including the confessor once the process is over.
So conceptually, there is a safeguard against the abuse; but in practice the representatives of God have often been found to behave like Satans. There have been numerous cases of confessions being used to blackmail the victims into submission and many women have taken their lives as they could not reconcile between shame and repression. In the latest incident, four young priests had even formed a fun circle, raping a married woman by turn, blackmailing her with a confession made to one of them many years ago. But her husband stood by her, on whose complaint the four are now in the dock. They have been suspended from the priestly order and are now facing trial for the heinous crime.
In another more blatant case, a Jalandhar Bishop has been accused of raping a nun under his administrative charge and despite repeated complaints to the higher authorities, the senior clergyman continues to be at large. The Church in full force is backing him and trying to shame the victim for her own moral turpitude, a well-known tactic employed by the perpetrators. Curiously, the Kerala police, which is supposed to investigate the case as the crime was committed in the state, has been dilly-dallying on taking action or even interrogating the Bishop as the Pinarayi Vijayan government plays vote bank politics. Meanwhile, the accused and his supporters in the Church order have been resorting to all means, including enticement, persuasion and threat, to get the aggrieved nun to retract on her charge. But she and her family have remained steadfast in their course.
No one is advocating interference in matters of faith and religious practices; but when these violate human rights and the law of the land, the political system has to take a call. Any injustice, whether in the name of religion or God himself, has to be fought with the full force of law.