Kerala Catholic Bishops Council president Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said in a press meet that the NCW’s recommendation infringes upon the religious freedom envisaged in the Constitution.
A day after the National Commission for Women (NCW) said it has recommended that the government abolish the practice of confessions in churches as “they come in the way of security and safety of women”, a bishops’ body from Kerala said the NCW’s suggestion is shocking not only for Christians but for all those who stand for religious freedom.
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, who is also the Bombay Archbishop, too, expressed shock at NCW’s recommendation. This comes after NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said on Thursday that the commission has sought a probe by a central agency into two sex scandals in churches in Kerala that surfaced last month. She also said that the commission had recommended that the practice of confession be abolished as it is being misused by the priests.
Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam on Friday said the central government rejects the recommendation and insisted that it would never interfere in religious beliefs of people.
Kerala Catholic Bishops Council president Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said in a press meet that the NCW’s recommendation infringes upon the religious freedom envisaged in the Constitution. Confession is an integral part of the Christian faith and the priest who hears the confession is only a representative of God and it is the God who absolves the sins of a person, he said. The NCW’s opinion shows “ulterior political motive” and the “communal agenda” of the chairperson, he added.
Senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said the women’s commission should not have made such a recommendation. “It is a matter of Christian faithful. The Commission should not have abruptly come to such a report,” he said.
Kannanthanam, Minister of State for Tourism, wrote in a Facebook post, “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.”
“The Narendra Modi government would never interfere in religious beliefs,” he insisted.
He said there was no need for making such a recommendation. “Since it has come, the Modi government rejects it outright,” he told news channels in New Delhi, according to a PTI report.
Oswald Cardinal Garcias, Archbishop of Bombay and president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said, “I was shocked to read in the press about the demand from the National Commission for Women for a ban on the Christian Sacrament of Confession. This demand by the Commission betrays a total lack of understanding of the nature, meaning, sanctity and importance of this Sacrament for our people; and also an ignorance of the strict laws of the Church to prevent any abuse.”
He said abolition of the practice of confession would be an infringement on the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution. “I am confident the government will totally ignore this absurd demand from the Commission,” he said in a statement.
He urged the commission to pay attention to empowerment of women and prevention of domestic violence “instead of dabbling in religious matters about which it understands nothing”.
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