Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nasty habits: nun's sex and torture tell all

A former nun's tell-all story which details illicit relationships, sexual harassment and bullying in the convent where she spent three decades is causing ructions in the Catholic Church in the south Indian state of Kerala.

In Amen - an autobiography of a nun, Sister Jesme says when she became a nun she discovered priests were forcing novices to have sex with them.

There were also secret homosexual relationships among the nuns and at one point she was forced into such a relationship by another nun who told her she preferred this kind of arrangement as it ruled out the possibility of pregnancy.

"I did not want to make this book controversial. I want to express my feelings and to explain what happened to me ... I want people to know how I have suffered," she said, speaking from the town of Kozhikode.

"People say that everything is OK, but I was in the convent and I want them to know what goes on. I have concerns for others."

Sister Jesme, who quit last year as the principal of a Catholic college in Thrissur, alleges senior nuns tried to have her committed to a mental institution after she spoke out against them.

In her book, she says that while travelling through Bangalore, she was once directed to stay with a purportedly pious priest who took her to a garden "and showed me several pairs cuddling behind trees. He also gave me a sermon on the necessity of physical love and described the illicit affairs that certain bishops and priests had".

The priest took her to his home, stripped off his clothes and ordered her to do the same.

She also alleges that while senior staff turned a blind eye to the actions of more experienced nuns, novices were strongly punished, even for minor transgressions. She was not allowed to go home after she learnt her father had died.

"I was able to see [the body of] my father barely 15 minutes before the funeral," she writes.

"The [response] of the superiors was that the then senior sisters were not even lucky enough to see the bodies of their parents."

When she resigned as a college principal, she claimed convents had become "houses of torture", saying: "The mental torture was unbearable. When I questioned the church's stand on self-financing colleges and certain other issues, they accused me of having mental problems. They have even sent me to a psychiatrist. There are many nuns undergoing ill-treatment from the order, but they are afraid of challenging it. The church is a formidable fortress."

The allegations are not the only controversy to rock the Catholic Church in Kerala.

Last summer, a 23-year-old novice committed suicide and left a note saying she had been harassed by her Mother Superior.

Reports suggest there have been a number of similar suicides.

And in November, police in Kerala arrested two priests and a nun in connection with the killing of Sister Abhaya in a notorious 1992 murder.

Last night, a spokesman for the Syro-Malabar order of the Catholic Church, Dr Paul Thelakkat, dismissed Sister Jesme's allegations as a "book of trivialities".

"It's her experiences, but these are things that might creep into a society of communal living," he said.

Asked if the church would be shocked by the allegations, he replied: "Absolutely not. The church knows about these things."

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The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: RCNG)


Anonymous said...

Yes the Church knows about ALL abuses within it.

They know yet they cover them up and deny everything for as long as they can possibly get away with it.

Unfortunately that is the problem with the Church, its like the Banks and any big business - NO ACCOUNTABILITY.

Their book of rules and how to damage people must be universal. They try the psychiatrist visit and fake reports to damage anyone who opposes or stands up to them.

That is the tactic of bully boys and the Church should be above that but no they sink to the depths of the lowest of the low when they want to come out on top and win.

Morals? Fairness? Caring? Honesty? They don't know the meaning of any of them. For well educated men they just know how to cheat, lie and hurt others in their care.

Shame on them. Let St. Peter lock the gates when they show up and say sorry we are closed. No Entry!

Father Mark said...

Dear Father, I don't think it just that this article should be illustrated with a photograph of a Brigittine Nun. The Brigittines have nothing to do with the story.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the sentiments of your first commentator.

The triviality of "Father Mark"s comment in contrast to the seriousness of the allegations in the article says a lot, if he really is a priest, about how such abuses can continue.

My own objection to the picture is that its ridiculous sensationalism undermines the issues raised.

Sister said...

Fr Mark is right to object to ths picture. If it were the Order involved, fine. BUT there are Orders who remain pure thankfully.
And that image is far from pure and should not be used anyways; it does indeed sensationalise the matter.

Anonymous said...

Back in the early 1970's, I lived in a hostel by Brigittine Nuns in Bangalore. This was a working woman's hostel. I can honestly say, that the nuns were decent and kindly women. They all appeared to be from Southern India. No foreign nuns. I don't recall even one incident of abuse of any sort of the working women or students who lived there. As a matter of fact, one nun,the mother superior Sister Cecelia was one of the kindliest and holiest persons I have met in my life. I remember one time, I was sitting by the rabbit. hen coop, in tears, very dejected (I was but 16 years or so), missing my parents and siblings. I felt I was totally friendless. Mother Cecelia happened to walk by on her way to the hostel, and saw me crying. She consoled me and said, "I am going back right now into the chapel, to pray for you." And she did. She was praying for a long time for me. Thank you dear Mother Cecelia, I have always remembered this act of caring and kindness on your part. I now live in the USA, and have not forgotten the many nice nuns who are Briggitine Nuns.