KOZHIKODE: The increasing incidents of sexual abuse involving Catholic priests and nuns and priests charmed by the earthly affairs leaving the church have triggered a debate on allowing them to marry, either ensuring a gentle exit or accommodating them in its organisational framework. The issue has been already a point of hot discussion within the church. But till recently there were none to raise the issue in public.
Inspired by Pope Francis, who took a revolutionary stand on issues like recognising gays, recently the Catholic Laymen’s Association (CLA), based in Kozhikode, which bats for reformation in church laws, demanded the church as well as the state government to intervene to ensure married life to priests and nuns.
In a memorandum to the president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Major Archbishop of Syro Malabar Church Mar George Alencherry and the state government, the organisation said the denial of married life had resulted in some sexual anarchy in the church. Catholic Laymen’s Association secretary M.L. George told Deccan Chronicle that incidents of abortion among nuns, suicides due to mental depression and sexual abuse of girls and boys by priests are on the rise in the recent past.
“Though one or two such incidents were reported majority cases got suppressed,” he added. However, church leaders pointed out that some priests have married. Syro Malabar Church spokesperson Fr Paul Thelakkat told DC that Catholic priests could be either celibate or marry. “Oriental Churches have married priests. Mainly in the Latin Catholic Church, there is the law of celibacy for priests. Following the Latin Catholic Church, the two Oriental churches of the state Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara opted celibacy,” he noted. “It was adopted to ensure more commitment and dedication from priests and nuns free from the entanglements of family.”
Many pointed out that those priests and nuns who opted for married life leaving the sacred life live a clandestine life away from the community. But Sr Jesme, who left the church and wrote a controversial book ‘Amen, the autobiography of a nun’ on her experiences, told DC that majority of priests and nuns would opt for marriage life if they were allowed by the church to live in dignity.
“Those truly committed and dedicated who opt for celibacy can be leading lights as bishops and cardinals,” she said. “At the same time the church instead of avenging those who opt out of celibacy can continue to avail the services of married nuns and priests.”...