Time the Church Took the Confession Test

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A woman confessed to pre-marital sex with a priest to another priest. That libido in robes told the secret to two other ‘brothers’. And all three had a time blackmailing her to submit to the missionary position! Four priests in all. It was exploitative. It was humiliating. A report, for Different Truths.

A confession in Church could invite blackmail. As one woman found to her horror. She confessed to pre-marital sex with a priest to another priest. That libido in robes told the secret to two other ‘brothers’. And all three had a time blackmailing her to submit to the missionary position!

Four priests in all. It was exploitative. It was humiliating. With her confession and details thereof, it was sufficient to make life hell for her. Years later, the woman with moral support from her husband made public her confession and the four priests are in the dock. Along with ‘confession’ itself!

The basic requirement for ‘confession’ is a good, fat sin – a ‘mortal sin’. And feelings of guilt. Conscience should prick. Confession is ‘tell-all’ – make a clean breast of. Get the weight of guilt off the chest. Find closure with the plea ‘God I’ve sinned, so help me God!’

‘Contrition’ is the word for ‘confession’.

Confession is also a ‘Sacrament of Penance’. Sit behind a screen and ‘confess’ to a priest on the ‘other side’ of the screen. The identity remains ‘Anonymous’. There is an SOP. At the end of the confession, the priest may pass penance. If, in the rush of emotion, a particular sin is missed out, note it in the mental diary. There is always another confession.

God is overburdened by mountains of sins committed by mortals. He has to be told, reminded. And there ought to be a conduit – an ordained priest and the Church. And, at that, only a male priest. Pleas to give nuns the right are not entertained. It’s a sin! Gender equality doesn’t stalk church aisles. The likes of Tripti Desai wouldn’t be able to hold a candle in church!

The National Commission for Women (NCW) is more broadminded. With the Kerala woman’s ‘violated confession’ making national headlines, the panel asked for an immediate halt to ‘confession’, saying that the case is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands more must have gone unreported and women, especially young girls and children, are vulnerable.

The demand stirred the proverbial ‘hornet’s nest’. The Catholic Church wants the Centre to make its position clear. Speaking for the government, Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam spoke for the Church! A Catholic, he said ‘No way’ to the NCW’s “shocking statement”. To the Church, if misdemeanours are committed by ordained priests, it’s ‘part and parcel’.

That being said, Jesus did not introduce ‘confession’ to the faithful. Neither did his apostles come up with the bright idea. Confession is the Church’s doing to rid the flock of individual undoing. Come confess to your sins, be a part of the beautiful endeavour to rid the world of sin, not sinners!

Those who commit mortal sin get another shot at being good Christians. It’s like a dip in the Ganges for Hindus. For the Church, confession brought with it double benefits. One, it bound the faithful to the faith. Two, it strengthened the impression that the Church had a direct link with Jesus; Virgin Mary, too.

Confessions give evangelicals the strength of conviction to berate the flock. Remind the congregation that there is no escaping the wages of sin. In God’s compound all mortals are sinners. Only a few get to become saints.

What of sinners within the Church’s fold? Those with libidos that overflow robes. Like the priest who took the young woman’s confession and blackmailed her. Who will he confess to? What about his penance? The unholy four face the law of the land now only because this one woman spoke.

Sister Jesme, who appeared in a talk show on the subject, says it’s an internal affair of the Church and reformation should come from within. Former NCW chairperson L Kumaramangalam begs to differ. She says the Church doesn’t seem to be in any hurry or mood to reform. Father S. Muthu Shankar, spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, says some black sheep cannot hold the entire Church hostage.

Father Shankar says confession is “voluntary”. Sister Jesme cites what is called in Kerala the Aandu Kumbasaram or annual confession, which is “compulsory”. Lawyer Karuna Nandy says the Church appears to be “defiant”, to say the least, unwilling to accept to what Sister Jesme calls “evils” plaguing the Church. 

The Catholic Action Council tends to agree with Sister Jesme. It flays the misuse of “confession secret” to “sexually exploit women” and decries the Church’s attempts to “find fault with women”; that women are the ones “trying to seduce priests hearing confessions.” All four priests, who violated the woman’s confession, are on trial. But the Church gives the impression that a tap on the wrists would do for penance.

Several Christian organisations are baying for NCW blood. Members of the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement took to the streets and the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council alleged there’s a “hidden political agenda” behind the NCW demand. For the time being, the Centre has distanced itself. As much of 18.6% of Kerala’s 30 million are Christian and their shouts will be heard worldwide, breach the walls of the Vatican. Evangelical Donald Trump might start a Crusade.

But if the Supreme Court rules in favour of women’s entry into Sabarimala, all bets will be off. Religious practices, however sacrosanct, of whichever faith, will have to stand the test of gender equality. The Church will have to come off its high horse and let nuns into the confession box to hear women confess, even if it’s kind of out of the box!

Sushil Kutty

 ©IPA Service

Photos from the Internet