Politics thrives on scandal and religion feeds on secrecy. At last, the Bishop of Jalandhar is in the cooler for sexual assault after a long battle between nuns and the church. In the fight, the church broke the law, offered bribes and slandered the nun. If this had been the 17th century in England or Europe, or even Goa, she would’ve been burned at the stake and the bishop would be having dinner with the governor. For, “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” (Corinthians 14:34)
Religious institutions abhor interrogation. It destroys divine mystique, since priests are God’s own vessels who carry divine grace: their hands, if soiled, will soil God Himself. And that’s not an option. The $30 billion Roman Catholic Church, one of the world’s most powerful institutions, will bring down the wrath of God on anyone who says otherwise. It cannot afford to lose any of the 1.2 billion souls in its flock to doubt, and admit that a wolf in priest’s clothing can debase and destroy God’s lambs which come to them in good faith: nuns or little boys.
A month ago, Pope Francis condemned corruption and cover-up within the church as “caca”, an Italian word for human excrement. Italian writer-philosopher Elias Canetti compared guilt with excrement, kept sequestered in the subconscious like toilets in the house. Guilt is also the central theme of Christian faith: being born itself is Original Sin. You can go only downhill from there. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’.” (Genesis 2:18) Eve’s life story in a Biblical nutshell. Now we can’t have helpers giving lip to their masters, right? Like the helper nun to the master bishop?
Sex is the tabula rasa of misogyny in the Abrahamic religions, which brought warped gender values to the subcontinent: the core belief being there are only two kinds of women—Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene. Hence there are Romeo squads, acid attacks on nikah halala victims and raped nuns and sodomised children.
There is also hope. There are compassionate priests. Politicians and judges who condemn bigotry. Reformers who challenge the clergy and win. The church is losing believers and attendance more than any other world religion. It is caught in a trap: risk Biblical inconsistencies being questioned or cling to medieval lore and lose connect with young laity. It took 350 years for the church to admit Galileo was right and the earth does indeed move around the sun: the Inquisition had arrested him for heresy. It is believed Galileo muttered “eppur si muove” (and yet it moves) after his sentencing. The next big admission by all religions would be that the life of a woman does not revolve around men’s desires.