Media reports say that the State Women’s Commission (SWC) has made, after studying a complaint it received, the following recommendations to the government regarding admitting nuns to the convents:
- Ensure that girls below the age of 18 are not forcibly enrolled as nuns
- Implement a scheme to rehabilitate women who leave the convents.
There cannot be any dispute on these. In fact, the first point should apply to marriages as well. No person should be compelled to act against her/his will. It is worthwhile noting here that a Catholic marriage is annulled by the Church if defective consent is proved.
Another suggestion by the SWC is that a girl’s share of her family wealth should remain in her own name and not vest with the convent she joins. This can raise some questions.
Would it interfere with the fundamental right of citizen to handle his/her wealth? What about the many poor girls who join as nuns? How would they be provided for? When a person joins a community with full consent is not that person bound to follow the rules of that community? Can there be a meaningful religious group consisting of rich members and poor members?
To a lay mind the effect of this recommendation would be that a nun’s share of her ancestral property could go to anyone else or to the government but not to the convent of which she is a member. Somehow that doesn’t seem fair.
The SWC affirms that it does not want to tamper with matters relating to faith.
The major churches in Kerala have come out with clarifications:
- No person under the age of 18 can be accepted as priest or nun.
- Only if there were full consent their training would start.
- There is no compulsion that a girl should donate her share of the family wealth to the convent she joins.
- Even after the final wows are taken, a person can leave the vocation.
- Help is extended for rehabilitating those who leave the convents.
The Church authorities should have explained all these to the SWC. But it is not clear whether they were given a chance to do so.
Also see: Vedas, Syrian Christians