This slim volume packs a powerful punch. Released in June 2021, it is a report of a survey commissioned by the women’s section of the Conference of Religious India (CRI), to ascertain the truth of media reports in 2018, claiming that women religious are grossly exploited by bishops and priests. The survey was conducted among Superiors General and Major Superiors in India.
The results based on the answers of 121 respondents from across India and the sui juris churches, were collated and analysed by Hazel D’Lima DHM, Cletus Zuzarte and Pallavi Xalxo of the College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan.
The book identifies problematic issues faced by Sisters in their relationship with the clergy, attempts to understand the Sisters’ perception of their charisms and their engagement in the mission of the church, and explores best practices as models of constructive action. It has a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, and in addition to informative tables, tells stories of harassment, verbal abuse, injustice and sacramental blackmail that show bishops and priests in bad light. It however, also cites examples of successful dialogue with bishops.
There is some introspection on the passivity of Sisters, their desire to please the authorities in the Church, their prejudices rooted in caste, rites, class and language, and the power dynamics within their own Congregations.
The book ends on a positive note, addressing avenues for change in formation, suggestions to improve working relations with the hierarchy, and an action plan for effective follow-up of the study.
This Report is a must-read not just for women religious, but also for the ordained in the Church who hold power over them and with whom they work closely. Reading it would mark the first step in a process of listening – so essential for dialogue that leads to change.
Title: It’s High Time- Women Religious Speak up on Gender Justice in the Indian Church
Authors: Dr. Hazel D’Lima, Cletus Zuzarte, Pallavi Xalxo
Publisher: CRI Women’s Executive 2018
The author is the Director, Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation, Government of India.