15-Aug-2018

Minister rejects NCW's recommendation on banning confessions

NEW DELHI July 27: Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam has "rejected outright" the National Commission for Women's recommendation for banning confessions in churches over fears they could lead to blackmailing of women, and asserted the government should not interfere with the religious beliefs of people.
 
The Kerala Catholic Bishop's Council (KCBC) has, meanwhile, written to George Kurian, Member Secretary of National Commission for Minorities, requesting him to raise before appropriate authorities the concerns of the church Mr Kurian was learnt to have forwarded the letter from KCBC chief Archbishop Soosa Pakiam to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
 
"We strongly feel the recommendation is unwarranted and intended to tarnish the credibility of the Church. It is unfortunate that people in responsible positions make such statements which deeply wound the religious sentiments of the Christian minority community," Mr Pakiam said in the letter.
 
Mr Kannanthanam came out against the NCW recommendation after the Church in Kerala protested, calling it an "attack on the Christian faith and spiritual practice".
 
"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 wrote in a Facebook post.
 
"The Narendra Modi government would never interfere in religious beliefs," he insisted. The minister said there was no need for making such a recommendation.
 
"Since it has come, the Modi government rejects it outright," the minister, a Kerala native and a Christian told Malayalam news channels in New Delhi.
 
Ms Sharma, while referring to incidents of rape and sexual assault in churches of Kerala had said yesterday that priests pressure women into revealing their secrets and exploit them.
 
"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," she had said.
 
The head of Kerala-based Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, assailed the NCW recommendation, saying it violated the freedom of religion, a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
 
The Kerala Catholic Bishop's Council (KCBC) termed as "shocking" the NCW's recommendation to the Union Home Ministry to ban the "Sacrament of Confession" among Christians.
 
"The chairperson has ventured into something which is totally out of her prerogative, and without any consultation with the Christian churches and communities, and without considering the moral, theological or psychological aspects of confession among the Christians," the KCBC said in a statement in Kochi.
 
It said the NCW Chairperson has "crossed the boundaries of her statutory powers of jurisdiction. It is an attack on Christian faith and spiritual practice".
 
The statement said the recommendation was unwarranted and violated the honor and credibility of the Christian community.
 
"We suspect communal and political motives behind this interference in the spiritual affairs of the Church," the KCBC said, insisting that a confession was a "holy sacrament" in Christianity and "a way to spiritual progress and salvation".
 
The sanctity of the seal of confession was held so high in the history of the Church that there are instances of priests having sacrificed their lives to protect it, the bishops' body said.
 
The NCW recommendation came following an allegation by that four priests of an Orthodox Syrian Church in Kerala used a woman's confession to blackmail and sexually exploit her. The case is being investigated by the local police.
 
"The National Womens Commission based on this incident conducted its own inquiries and has now come up with the strange recommendation to ban the Holy Sacrament of Confession among all Christian denominations and communities of India.
 
"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 KCBC statement said.