Confession row: Kerala bishops’ body approaches PM Modi against NCW recommendation

New Delhi/Kochi: Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam has “rejected outright” the National Commission for Women’s recommendation for abolishing confessions in churches in view of fears that the practice could lead to blackmail.

Rekha Sharma, the NCW chief, had looked into the rape charge levelled by a woman against priests of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The 34-year-old woman was allegedly forced into sex by a priest when she was a teenager in the 90s. She confessed to a second priest, who along with other priests, allegedly blackmailed her into having sex. After inquiring into the incident, the NCW chief said “there must be many more such cases” of priests pressuring women into telling their secrets and recommended abolishing the practice across the country.

Alphons, himself a Catholic, underscored that Rekha Sharma’s views are not that of the government. ‘‘What she said is her opinion and not that of the Centre. The policy of the Modi government is not to interfere in the religious beliefs of the people,” he said in his reaction. The assertion came even as Kerala’s top Catholic Church body complained to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the “shocking” statement and wondered if there was a hidden “agenda” behind the recommendation.

Soosa Pakiam, the Arch Bishop of Trivandrum Catholic Archdiocese, has confirmed the decision to send the memorandum to PM Modi. He told NDTV that PM Modi and other government leaders often spoke about their commitment to the constitution and respecting religious rights of minorities. “But in practice when we see such statements, we are tempted to suspect a hidden agenda and this is what we want to bring out in open to people concerned,” he said, dubbing the NCW  chairperson’s recommendation as “irresponsible”.

“We believe that the motive of the Commission is to spread tension and religious unrest among the minorities and to create division and polarization among people for political gains,” the Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Conference has said in a statement. Confession is a sacrament that allows a person to confide in God by telling their sins. It is a way to spiritual progress and salvation. As per Catholic rites, only a male priest can hear the confession and according to rules, the confession is always kept as a secret


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