KOCHI: Aggrieved by negligence and discrimination experienced from within the Church and sometimes their own families, Catholic men and women who have left their religious life are set to organise themselves.
The Kerala Catholic Church Reforms Movement(KCRM), a congregation of laymen, is organising a conference of priests who have shed their cassocks and nuns who have come out of the four walls of convents. The unique meet will be held in Kochi on February 28.
“A national-level organisation will be formed at this conference. It may be the first time in India, perhaps in the world, that such an organisation is being formed,” said Reji Njellani of KCRM.
A 101-member committee, comprising former priests and nuns, has been formed for organising the conference.
“Men and women who give up their religious life are often harassed by the faithful, the Church and even by their family members. Society views them as if they have committed an unpardonable error. Family members think a priest or nun who leaves religious life is a disgrace to them,” said Reji Njellani.
Those who left priesthood or came out of convents are finding it difficult to live in Kerala. The unfavourable situation within families and outside often prompt them to leave the country. Around 50 per cent of those who give up religious life in Kerala are living outside India. Another aim of their migration is to make a living. “Since they are trained for priesthood or convent life, most remain unskilled. They find it difficult to fit in the job market,” Reji said.
“We were overwhelmed by responses from within India and outside after information regarding the conference was released. There is also support pouring from the faithful,” Reji said.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council does not find anything unusual in the decision of former priests and nuns to organise. “Those who left religious life are likely to be isolated by others. It is good if they can form a platform of their own and maintain constant interaction with like-minded people. It would be even fine if such movements can do something good for society,” said Fr Varghese Vallikkat, deputy secretary, KCBC.