India wants to ban confessions to protect women

Church leaders are resisting India’s National Commission for Women’s call to ban confessions.

The women’s group says it has proposed the ban because information disclosed in confessions is being used to blackmail the women who confessed it.

There should be a federal inquiry into into complaints of rape and sexual assault involving priests, the group says.

Although the complaints have been laid against two priests from the Orthodox Syrian Church, the ban would also apply to the Catholic Church, the women’s group says.

They announced their proposal after two priests were arrested for allegedly raping and blackmailing a woman for over 20 years.

At present, two more Syrian Orthodox priests are also being investigated in the southern state of Kerala.

“The priests pressure women into telling their secrets and 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,” commission chairwoman Rekha Sharma said.

The National Commission for Women’s recommendation was made in a report to the government on sexual abuse in the church.

Church officials say the women’s plan is unnecessary interference in religious affairs.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council said the demand hurts the religious sentiments of India’s Christian minority.

“It is an attack on the Christian faith and spiritual practice. We strongly feel that the recommendation is unwarranted and violates the honour and credibility of the Christian community,” a bishops’ council spokesman said.

“We suspect communal and political motives behind this unconstitutional interference into the internal spiritual affairs of the Church.”

Christianity is the third-biggest religion in India according to a 2011 census.

Christians make up 2.3 per cent of the 1.3 billion population, or about 28 million people.

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