KOZHIKODE: Priests and nuns who wish to marry and lead a non-celibate life should be allowed to do so and it is high time we opted for a third path of serving God while simultaneously managing a family, said Sister Jesme . She was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Sexuality and Priesthood’ on the third day of the Kerala Literature Festival at Kozhikode beach on Saturday.
“ We should reinterpret our beliefs and customs and make marriage an option for priests and nuns,” she said.
In the backdrop of recurring sexual abuse accusations against several Kerala priests, Sister Jesme who left the robes of a nun 10 years ago , said, “ Marriage to an extend is a solution to the sexual assaults by priests. Even if one does not have self-control, at least the institution of marriage will ensure that the person stays within the limits,”she said.
The author of the controversial book ‘Amen’ also said people opted for life as a priest or nun primarily out of societal compulsion and family pressure.
“However, though it is several years since I left the Church, I prefer being referred to as Sister as I still serve God,” said Jesme.
Malayalam writer C V Balakrishnan and Journalist V P Rejeena whose post on sexual abuse at a madrassa had sparked controversy ,were also present for the panel discussion and spoke on how religion viewed sexuality and celibacy. “ In recent years, several priests not just in Kerala, but all over the world have been accused of sexual abuse and molestation. Priests becoming sexual predators is turning into a global issue. However, I strongly believe that marriage alone is not the solution to this problem,” said Balakrishnan.
In response to a question on the strict norms imposed for women by various religions and several radical organisations voicing opposition to Muslim women coming out in the public sphere, Rejeena said, “ Lies of the clergy are far more dangerous than political lies. If a women questions priesthood, she will be branded a traitor.”. She went on to state over the centuries, people of all religions had closed ranks to create anti-women practices. “ Purdah was not common among Muslim women in Kerala With Pan-Islamism, this tradition was imposed on Muslims here.”