Ban on confession against religious freedom: Kerala church

Thiruvananthapuram: The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church flayed the proposal of National Commission for Women (NCW) to prohibit the churches from practising confession, saying it went against the spirit of religious freedom envisaged in the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Syro-Malabar Catholic Church head Cardinal George Alencherry said the priests must protect the sanctity of the confession. A resolution read out in most of the Orthodox churches in the state said the proposal was against the spirit of ancient Indian culture and rich values, which respects all religions and faiths with tolerance.

“We request the government of India to reject this unilateral immature proposal of the National Women’s Commission, which is against the spirit of religious freedom as envisaged in the constitution,” the resolution said.

In a statement emailed to media this evening, Syro-Malabar Cardinal Alencherry said sacramental confession helps a sinner to get closer to God, cleanse his heart and soul and lead a peaceful life.

The Cardinal said the priests must protect the sanctity of the confession, adding the Catholic Church insists that those priests who violate the principle and make public the confession of laity should be punished. He also reminded the priests about the instructions to be followed while hearing the confession of women.

The NCW’s recommendation came in the backdrop of a rape case against four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church who were accused of sexually exploiting a married woman. The matter came to light after the victim’s husband wrote to the church alleging that the priests ‘blackmailed and raped’ his wife by using her confession.

The NCW had recommended abolishing the practice of “confessions” in churches over fears it can lead to women getting blackmailed. Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) had petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the move, calling it “shocking.”

The Kerala High Court had last week dismissed a petition for declaring confession among Christians unconstitutional, noting whether or not to confess one’s sin was an individual’s right. Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam, from Kerala, had “rejected outright” the NCW’s recommendation, insisting that the Modi government would never interfere in religious beliefs of people.

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