Rot in church due to affluence: Kerala nun-author (With Image)

June 17th, 2009 - 10:35 am ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) Money, power and even sex are corrupting the church and anybody who dares speak up is gagged, says a Kerala nun who left her congregation last year amid much controversy and whose autobiography has just been published in English.

“The rot in the church has set in because of affluence and power. The spirit of Jesus is depreciating. The greed for money and power is allowing all sorts of evil to creep in,” said Sister Jesme, 52, who had left the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel in Kerala On Aug 31, 2008.

“With wealth and power come sex. The ambience of service and simplicity should be brought back,” she told IANS over the phone from Kozhikode.

“Amen: The Autobiography of a Nun” was published in Malayalam in the third week of February this year. The English version of the controversial book, which takes a critical look at the church, was published by Penguin Books-India this week.

Sister Jesme, the former principal of St. Mary’s College in Thrissur, decided to write her autobiography after leaving the order.

The nun said the authorities’ repeated attempts to declare her “insane” was the immediate cause for her to leave her congregation. “They were trying to malign my reputation with false charges and medicate me. I pleaded for a month’s time, after which I decided to walk out,” she said.

“Anybody who dares to speak out is gagged. The church does it all the time. They had done it to another sister in Kerala after diaries containing details about abortions in the church and illicit sexual relations were discovered. When the Women’s Commission in Kerala visited her in the asylum to bring her back, she was taking 12 tablets a day.”

The book documents her 33 years as a nun. It speaks of the corruption by way of donations, sexual relations between nuns and priests and “same sex” relations between nuns.

Her congregation apparently forged “anonymous letters” branding her a lesbian to remove her from the post of principal of the college, she writes in her book.

The book also discusses class distinctions whereby “cheduthies” or poorer or less educated sisters do menial work and there is a gap between comforts enjoyed by priests and nuns, hinting at gender imbalance.

Some of the priests are so rich that they own two cars, Sister Jesme said.

The demand for nuns, says Sister Jesme, is growing every day because the church has fanned across the state with schools and colleges. “The nuns man these institutions and make up the faculties. The demand for novices is so great that the church is now recruiting from school campuses. Some of the novices are as young as Class 10 students. The bottom line now is quantity, not quality,” she said.

“All our education institutions are in profit, but very little money is going for charity. The money of the people is in the hands of the church, but there is no accountability,” she said.

Sister Jesme was drawn to religious life at 17 after a retreat at a junior college. She was allowed by the church to complete her post-graduate and doctoral degree in English literature and to pursue her passion for cinema and literature.

“I even exposed my students to films believing aesthetics enhances spirituality,” she said. But her fight to restore her congregation to its “monastic form,” her creative thought processes and her wit landed her in trouble.

The book is full of anecdotes - like priests allegedly kissing novices and Christian colleges collecting capitation fee.

“I am planning to write a novel about a woman who is a little different from the ordinary women,” said Sister Jesme, who is also fighting another battle at the moment - a thyroid malfunction.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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