Unlike other orthodox religions, the Catholic Church has been reformist in delineating a complementary role for the women who enter its fold, the nuns. But here the progression seems to end. An unequal power structure exists in the church, sodden in patriarchy. The nuns form the bottom rung of the hierarchy, and are not part of the clergy. Therefore, any case of sexual abuse of a nun is met with denial, dismissal and countercharges. Of late, the clergy of Kerala Church is in the throes of uncomfortable complaints of rape and sexual abuse. Over 10 priests belonging to the Roman Catholic and the Syrian Orthodox Church are facing police probe. The latest has been a rape complaint against the Bishop of the Jalandhar diocese by a senior nun. The nuns have expressed no-confidence in the probe against the move to hand over the Bishop case to the crime branch.
A large number of nuns come from deprived backgrounds and have forsaken family and the world, to take the vows of abstinence to embrace the order. They can’t be treated as church handmaidens, free to be exploited. With the nuns now breaking silence to seek justice, it is in the best interest of the Church, and its believers, to clean the putrefaction that may have set in. No one is above the law, not even the men of the Lord, enjoying covert impunity. A self-regulatory, internal mechanism is imperative. Dirty talk by elected representatives, like Kerala MLA PC George, who, instead of showing any real solicitude, calls the victim names, is demeaning and outrightly reprehensible.
Such occurrences befoul the very precepts of church-hood. Which God is being served here? The Church heads, who are spiritual mentors and speak of the Lord’s word, must honour it by displaying munificence. The Commandment, ‘Thou shall not covet’, may have been breached. This is not the first time allegations of sexual abuse have been made. But the Church can ensure it is the last, by setting the house in order and showing the way to the wayward. It is time for confession. Amen.