Nuns treated like servants by priests: Cardinal

Nuns treated like servants by priests: Cardinal

Published March 20, 2009

Nuns treated like servants by priests: Cardinal
17 Mar 2009, 0401 hrs IST, Ananthakrishnan G, TNN

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Early last year, a study by the Catholic church found that 25% of the nuns in Kerala were unhappy with life inside the four
walls of a convent. More recently, a former nun dropped a bombshell revealing in a book about sexual abuse and mental harassment she suffered in the order. Now,there’s further confirmation of their misery and it comes from the leader of India’s archbishops.

Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who is president of Catholic Bishops Council of India, says the nuns are humiliated by priests and they live in fear.

The cardinal’s views have appeared in his biography, much like the nun’s own. If Sister Jesmi’s book was called `Amen! Autobiography of a nun’, Vithayathil’s book is titled `Straight from the heart’. The cardinal tells his biographer Paul Thelakat, the spokesperson of Syro-Malabar Church, that the time has come to free the nuns from the “pitiable situation” they are in.

“I would say to a great extent our nuns are not emancipated women. They are often kept under submission by the fear of revenge by priests. That’s how the priests get away with whatever humiliation they heap upon them. It is a pitiable situation from which somebody has to liberate them,” says the 82-year-old cardinal.

“A big complaint of our nuns is that the diocesan priests are treating them like servants, making them wash their clothes, prepare their food, wash the churches, etc and that too without getting paid. These are all unjust ways of treating the women religious.”

About the criticism against the clergy in the controversial Sister Abhaya murder, the senior priest says he believed that the Church had not tried to hide anything in the case. “The Church does not want to protect anyone.”

Vithayathil admits that there has been erosion in values in religious life. “I think asceticism has gone out of religious life.” He also points to the growing gap between the clergy and laity.

Also, in what would be music to the ears of the Sangh Parivar, the cardinal lends legitimacy to arguments against religious conversion. “I must add that there is some truth in their contention that certain Christian groups are going about making mass conversions without any real conversion of heart.”

He says the Church believes in admitting to its fold “people who have belief in the Church” and not in mass conversion of people “who have no faith and become Christians only nominally”. He, however, slams anti-conversion laws, which he says, have banned even legitimate conversion.

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