The recent incidents of clergy exploiting nuns and treating them as servants has brought in focus, the institution’s misogynist mindset. According to a report in the The Times Of India, a Catholic church owned magazine has openly criticised priests for mistreating nuns. In a scathing column for Assisi, which focuses on reviewing the condition of convents in Kerala, Fr Jijo Kurian, a priest in Idukki has said, “Most of the priests consider nuns as their servants. They want the nuns to wash their clothes and cook their food…” He has warned that if nothing is done to improve the living conditions, all convents across the state will shut down within 20 years.
This, however, isn’t the only time the mistreatment of nuns at the hands of clergymen has been in the news. In March this year, a Vatican magazine called Women Church World’s monthly edition also shed light on how nuns are often treated like bonded servants by cardinals and bishops, for whom they cook and clean for next to no pay.
Nuns performing this underpaid labour in name of church duty and unappreciated intellect of religious sisters can no longer be ignored now. It makes us question, are women not equals even in the house of God?
Misogynist mindset even plagues devout minds
Despite devoting their lives in service of God and prasticing a simplistic lifestyle, women in Catholic churches are not treated equally. The Catholic clergy is in fact, reflecting the virtues of our society by considering nuns to be inferior to them. Why else would the male members up in the hierarchy feel that they are superior and hence entitled to treat nuns like their servants?
- Fr Jijo Kurian has criticized Catholic clergymen for treating nuns and sisters like servants.
- Do clergymen expect nuns to perform chores like cooking, cleaning and washing because they are women?
- This feeling of entitlement to service from nuns stems from the misogynist mindset, but it is certainly the undoing of the very lifestyle they have chosen to lead.
Do clergymen feel that nuns are obligated to clean, wash and cook for them because they are women and it is what women must do?
The nuns’ devotion is somehow not potent enough to earn the respect of their male colleagues. This is because in our world gender is a card which trumps every aspect of women’s life, irrespective of who or where they are. How is it right that clergymen are burdening nuns with jobs simply due to their gender? Isn’t her dedication and devotion enough to earn her a dignified life? Why must nuns endure manual labour, all because high-handed clergymen do not consider them their equals?
The sisters need to take a strong stand against this servitude.
No one has the right to make them feel inferior due to their gender. This unpaid labour is a systemic abuse of both women and their pure intentions to devout life for what they think is a worthy cause. Sadly, the clergymen have misled them into believing that serving bishops and cardinals and father as servants is also a part of their religious duty. They have guised their misogyny in the shroud of dedication to the institutional demands. Unpaid service is one end of their spectrum of misogyny, while the case of sexual abuse of a nun at the hands of a bishop from Jalandhar is another end.
Nuns give up a certain lifestyle for devotion to their belief. But those who are to stand by their side in this journey are exploiting their faith. It is high time these clergymen come down from the horse of entitlement. It is against the virtues of the life they have chosen to lead, to exploit others. The brotherhood needs to take a hard look at its own conduct towards women. Before they step out preach others next time.
Picture Credit: Unlocking Femininity
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own