Former Nun’s autobiography to expose Catholic Church’s crisis in Kerala

published on April 1, 2012

KANNUR: Young nuns leaving the order unable to cope with the rigors of convent life is nothing unusual in Kerala. But in recent times, some of them have not just left the order to return to secular life, but have talked about the sexual frustrations that go behind the closed doors.

Sister Mary Chandy (67), a former nun with Catholic Church’s Presentation Convent in Kerala, had quit the order 12 years ago when a priest tried to rape her. Or, that’s her side of the story.

Now she is writing her autobiography — Swasthi.

To be published by Kairali Books in Kannur, Mary wants to expose the debauchery she witnessed in the convents during her stint as a nun through her book.

More than a decade after stepping out of the convent at Perumpunna in Peravoor (Kannur district), Mary continues to live an austere life in a rented house-cum-orphanage (Santhisadan Charitable Society) with 17 orphan children in Pulpally, Wayanad.

Wayanad is a district that relies on agriculture and has witnessed a series of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in the last six months.

“All those memories of the life in convents are burning in me like embers. I know when I write it down, it will hurt many. But someone has to speak the truth,” she says.

Though she has been planning to write the book ever since she left the convent, Mary said she could not do that as she was caught in a fight to survive. “I am not a writer. For me it is more important to take care of the children in my orphanage,” she says. But as a nun she feels that she has a social commitment to talk about the corrupt practices that happen inside the convents.

The rape attempt inside the convent has left an indelible impact on Mary. She says in an attempt to wriggle out from the priest she hit him with a wooden stool. But when she complained about the priest, the church branded her as a misfit.

Mary says that nuns getting pregnant and trying to kill the newborns are commonplace in convents. She claims to have saved a newborn baby when the mother, a nun, tried to kill the baby by pushing it inside the tank of a toilet. “That boy is a student who lives the life of an orphan,” she said.

She feels that the life in convents in the state is so miserable that it is high time that priests are allowed to marry. “Everyone knows that there is no need to deny sex. But if you preach celibacy, you should practice it. Otherwise leave the priesthood and lead a normal life,” she says.

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