Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amen: Autobiography of a nun: Dr. Sister Jesme

What happens when the rakshaks (protectors) become bhakshaks (tormentors)? We have to either bear it silently, because no one would believe us, or rebel against the system.

Sr. Jesme's book, is the story of her rebellion against, what she terms as atrocities of the Church against the nuns of the congregation. In her book, she talks about the unexpected activities that go behind the closed walls and doors of the convent and the Church. She talks of the illicit, and many times, forced relations between nuns, physical relations between priests (Father, Brother, etc.) and nuns and how sometimes these relations affect the nun's progress in the congregation.

A place of religious activity should be free from the five enemies- lust, anger, greed, attachment, jealousy and ego. However, the priests and nuns of the Church do not seem to have conquered those. The sadder part is that nuns in the congregation are involved in political one-upmanship and try to plot against one another.  On top of that, there is a class (and caste) conflict within the convent. Sisters coming in from poorer (or less educated) backgrounds are treated as lesser humans and are engaged only in menial and physical activities. The sisters from upper class and those well-educated, keep away from them and encourage the new entrants to behave in the similar manner. All this, when they preach that everyone is equal in the eyes of God. The Church, as expected, has denied all the allegations levelled by Sr. Jesme. They have tried to label her an mentally unstable, and its official publication in Kerala has gone far to call her a prostitute. The Church has constantly stone-walled attempts to investigate the allegations. What is it afraid of? Let the place of religion be cleansed of the deviants.

As a book, the writing is not too much to be talked about. Sr. Jesme doesn't give a time-line of the events. This is perhaps because it would allow a trace-back of all the persons involved in the incidents. What, therefore, happens is that you do not get a feel of the duration for which she suffered a particular incident. The incidents too are written in a manner, their enormity never dawns upon you. You get a feeling that they are written in a haste and hush-hush manner. Only, since you know that these persons are bound by vows of chastity, such acts are entirely unacceptable. Similarly, acts of irregularities in colleges do not seem very dangerous, when you read it, but only when you analyse it, the enormity dawns upon you.

Another problem is that, if your a not a Christian, it is very difficult for you to understand the terminologies involved. Is Mother Superior higher than a Priest in hierarchy or not? Who has to obey whose orders? There should have been a flowchart of the hierarchy of the congregation in the book. This also would allow non-Christians to realise the extent to which unacceptable behaviour has spread within the congregations and priestly orders.

Overall, the book is an eye-opener. Unless the Church openly investigates all the allegations, more such allegations will continue to turn up. It should realise that after all, the nuns and priests are humans and occasionally a few might give in to the temptations. But it doesn't mean that they should treat themselves as above all and infallible. Instead, investigate the causes, rectify the situations so that fewer people repeat the mistakes.
Amen: Autobiography of a nun: Dr. Sister JesmeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

No comments:

Post a Comment