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Indian bishops demand ban on play defaming Catholics

Malayalam play ‘Kakkukali’ spreads misconceptions about convents and mocks Christianity, Kerala bishops’ forum says
People praying inside St. Mary's Church in Manarcad in Kottayam district of the southern Indian state of Kerala. Catholic bishops in the state are seeking a ban on a play for mocking their faith and community.

People praying inside St. Mary's Church in Manarcad in Kottayam district of the southern Indian state of Kerala. Catholic bishops in the state are seeking a ban on a play for mocking their faith and community. (Photo: UCA News)

Published: March 13, 2023 10:46 AM GMT
Updated: March 13, 2023 11:02 AM GMT

Catholic bishops in southern India's Kerala state have sought a ban on the staging of a play that they say mocks the Church and portrays convents and religious life in a misleading manner.

The Malayalam play, Kakkukali, is likely to disturb “the cultural fabric” of the multi-religious society in Kerala and the government should ban it, demanded Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council.

Cardinal Cleemis said the play disparages Catholic religious life and offends the Christian faith and its traditions.

The play, which draws its title from a game played by girls in the state, portrays the ordeal of a young woman who chooses to become a nun against the wishes of her father, a staunch communist.

A press note issued after an emergency meeting of bishops' council office bearers on March 9 said it discussed at length the contents of the play and its implications for the Christian community.

The play goes against the tenets of Christianity and is an insult to the cultural life of Kerala, where different religious communities live in peace and harmony, the press note added.

However, the state's communist rulers have supported the play, which was included in the International Theatre Festival of Kerala organized by the state from Feb. 5 to 14.

The state government has not yet responded to the Church’s demand for banning the play but the All India Youth Federation, the youth wing of the Communist Party of India, openly supported the staging of the play across the state.

“Such interventions [by the Church] will only be considered as an intrusion on the freedom of expression,” the federation said.

Job Madathil, the play’s director, told the media that there was no question of withdrawing it and so far 15 shows have been successfully staged.

Father Jacob G. Palakkappilly, an office bearer of the Kerala bishops’ pro-life moment, said no one has the right to insult or mock a religious community and such acts cannot be justified in the name of freedom of expression.

“The drama questions the life of nuns and priests who dedicate their lives to the welfare of society. It also distorts the history and portrays Catholic religious, especially nuns, in a very poor light,” he told UCA News on March 13.

Father Palakkappilly further sought to remind the state and those behind the play that the men and women they’re mocking are the ones looking after those ignored and abandoned by society.

“The state should not forget the services they continue to offer society,” he said.

Christians form the third largest religious group in Kerala making up 18 percent of its 33 million-plus people.

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2 Comments on this Story
Can't comment on the specifics of the play without actually seeing it. However, one needs to abide by the principle "Your freedom ends where my nose begins" . Freedom of expression can never be an absolute right, to the exclusion of all else.
What the play portrays about the state of nuns in convents is not surreal. So many young nuns are losing their lives in Kerala convents. Sr Lucy who for years earned money for her congregation as a Mathematics teacher, and strongly spoke out against the predatory practices of Franco Mulakkal, has been pushed out on the road by her Franciscan Clarist Congregation despite National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma writing to Kerala chief secretary to provide all possible assistance to Sr Lucy (Source: Times of India, Kochi, 20 June 2021). Even Pope Francis, for all his trumpeting on the care of women and their empowerment, refused to grant her an audience, despite repeated appeals from her; but he allowed Franco Mulakkal to meet him at the Vatican recently. So what’s wrong with the play that is getting the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) red-faced?
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