“Just the tip of the iceberg”

Priest in the confessional © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

India's state women's commission calls for abolition of confession. Accuses priests of blackmailing women with statements made during confession. Church reacts with indignation.

India's Catholic Bishops' Conference firmly rejects the demand of the State Commission for Women to abolish the sacrament of confession. "She does not have the right to interfere in the religious affairs of Christians," Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the bishops' conference, told Asian Catholic news service Ucanews (Monday).

Accusation of rape

Commission accuses priests of blackmailing women with statements made during confession. "Priests put prere on women to tell them their secrets. We have such a case before us. There must be many more such cases. This is just the tip of the iceberg," Ucanews quoted commission chairwoman Rekha Sharma as saying.

In the current case, the commission is investigating the complaint of the husband of a woman who was allegedly blackmailed and sexually abused by four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church after confession. Bishop Mascarenhas told Ucanews reports of abuse of confession for sexual purposes are "more than rare".

Prime Minister Modi called in

The women's commission is also currently investigating allegations of rape of a woman by the Catholic bishop of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal. It will hand over the results of its investigations, along with recommendations, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Women's Affairs Minister Maneka Gandhi, it said.

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