Crimes against women (representative image). Photograph:( Reuters )
Citing the alleged sexual abuse of a married woman by five priests of a church, women members of a Kerala-based outfit today sought reform of the centuries-old method of the sacrament of confession, saying nuns be allowed to perform the penance for women.
Representatives of the Kerala Church Act Action Council, an outfit comprising members from various church denominations who stand for reforms in the Church, said there was a possibility of intimate confessions by women being "misused" in the present form.
Last month, a man from Pathanamthitta district accused five priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Kerala of using his wife's secret confession to blackmail and sexually abuse her.
The alleged sexual abuse by Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church priests came to light after an audio clip containing the victim's husband's purported conversation with a church official alleging sexual abuse of his wife by the priests was widely circulated on the social media.
Vice-chairperson of the Kerala Church Act Action Council, Indulekha Joseph said this incident could not be viewed as an isolated episode and similar incidents might have been taking place across denominations for decades.
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Joseph termed the practice of only priests performing the sacrament of confession an example of gender bias in the Church.
"Why are nuns not being allowed to perform the same? They are also strictly adhering to the church rules and following the prescribed norms. Hence, they should be allowed to perform the penance for women and minors instead of priests," she said.
She claimed that nowhere in the Bible has it been said that only priests should perform the sacrament of confession.
"Otherwise, an ancient method like 'Pizhamoolal', in which believers seek forgiveness by recounting their sins in their minds in the presence of a priest, should be reinstated. There is no need for vocal confession," Joseph said.
"The women members of our outfit will stage a dharna in front of the Secretariat here on July 7 demanding government intervention to end the exploitation of women in the name of the religious practice," she told PTI.
Joseph, also a lawyer, said the group had raised the same demand last year after a Catholic priest allegedly raped a minor girl in Kannur district's Kottiyoor village.
Though a representation was given to the church authorities, no action was taken, she said.