The women section of the Conference of Religious of India undertook a study after media reported about widespread exploitation of Catholic women religious in the Church.
The reports in L’Osservatore Romano and Matters India in 2018 spoke of nuns in menial occupations with little recognition from their “employers” in the Church.
“The articles were eye openers and instrumental in telling us that it’s time sisters in India wake up and take responsibility for their collective future,” says a statement from Sisters Hazel D’Lima and Noella de Souza, who conducted the CRI study during 2019-2020.
Sister D’Lima is a member of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and de Souza belongs to the Missionaries of Christ Jesus. Besides exploring the truth in the media reports, the study looked at the working relations between women religious and the hierarchy.
The study was published mid-June as a book titled “It’s High Time, Women Religious speak up on Gender Justice in the Indian Church.” It is for private circulation, not for sale, de Souza clarifies.
“Our study proved to be path breaking as it is the first of its kind. Although nothing seemed new to me, many areas are striking. One is to do with matters concerning property, where through the various different instances stated, it is the same problematic that comes across constantly, this which reflects the power relations between men and women in the Church. Church authorities almost always take the moral high ground. This power over property is only one symptom of the power dynamics within the structure of the Church.”
“Without consecrat-ed women there would be no Church in India, let’s be clear about it. It is the women religious who reach far flung places where no clergy man would set up home and it is the women religious who undertake Mission work, which most clergymen would never think of doing.” “Even if the Church offers to ordain women tomorrow, I would not want to be ordained; I would lose my prophetic charism, as I would become part of the structure of the Church. Now, I am free to exercise my prophetic vocation in the Church.”