Thursday, July 3, 2008

Aluva Cochin Kerala Nun Scandal

Church stunned by sex scandal in India's Kerala state

The Congregation of the Mother of Carmel expelled the 37-year-old woman, whose identity is being withheld, soon after a video showing her having sex with a driver for a Catholic hospital in Aluva was circulated over mobile telephones and came to the attention of the congregation's leaders in mid-June.

BANGALORE, India (CNS) -- A religious order in southern Kerala state has moved quickly to dismiss a nun after an embarrassing sex scandal in India's largest Christian region.

The Congregation of the Mother of Carmel expelled the 37-year-old woman, whose identity is being withheld, soon after a video showing her having sex with a driver for a Catholic hospital in Aluva was circulated over mobile telephones and came to the attention of the congregation's leaders in mid-June.

"This is really embarrassing for the church," Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of Verapoly, president of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, told Catholic News Service June 25 from his office in Cochin, the commercial capital of Kerala.

However, Archbishop Acharuparambil lauded the congregation for acting "promptly and in exemplary manner," saying that "when things like this happen, we have to deal with it sternly."

"This incident shows that religious life demands great sacrifice and constant vigil against human frailties," the archbishop said.

Sister Vincent Mary, superior of the congregation's Ernakulam province, told CNS, "When we came to know about it, we confirmed it with the nun and she agreed to leave the congregation" for breaking her vows. However, Sister Vincent Mary refused to identify the woman who was expelled June 15, saying it would prevent her from starting her life anew.

Sacred Heart Sister Leena Jose, secretary of the Kerala chapter of the Conference of Religious India, expressed relief that the incident was not overblown by local media.

Father Paul Thelakkat, spokesman for the Syro Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala, told CNS, "Everyone in the church and every decent man or woman will feel ashamed of it and feel sorry about it."

He noted, however, that there seemed to be a "devilish dimension and plot with (a) clear agenda of maligning the church" behind the incident, as the act was filmed secretly and circulated publicly.

Asked whether the incident would have a negative impact on the high number of religious vocations in Kerala, Father Thelakkat said a single incident should not dampen enthusiasm for the church in Kerala, which is known as the "vocation garden" of India. About 60 percent of the country's 120,000 sisters and priests are from the southern state.

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