Federal agency calls to abolish Confession in India

Federal agency calls to abolish Confession in India Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas

An Indian federal agency has proposed abolishing the Sacrament of Confession on grounds that Christian priests misuse it to blackmail and target women, but Church officials believe the plan is an unnecessary interference in religious affairs.

The National Commission for Women, a body that protects women’s interests, also proposed a federal inquiry into two cases of rape and sexual assault involving clergy of two Christian churches in Kerala, media reports 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,” commission chairwoman Rekha Sharma said.

The commission probed a man’s claim that four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church used the confession secrets of his wife to blackmail and sexually exploit her.

It also investigated a June 29 complaint by a 48-year-old Catholic nun that Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese in Punjab raped her four years ago. She accused the bishop of abusing her 13 more times over the following two years on his visits to Kerala.

Both cases are now under police investigation. The commission constituted an independent panel to probe them and sent its findings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and the heads of police departments in Kerala and Punjab.

Indian bishops said the commission’s proposal to scrap Confession was unwarranted interference in the affairs of Christians.

“It is none of their business to interfere with the religious matters of Christians,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

He said allegations of misuse of confession for sex are “the rarest of the rare” in the Church’s history and “generalising and stigmatising a whole community for the alleged misdeeds of a few people is totally unfair and uncalled for”.

The regional bishops’ council in Kerala said the proposal has “shocked not only Christians but all those who stand for religious freedom”.