No sacraments for Indian families favouring child marriage

Indian Bishop Joseph Gomes and his West Bengal priests have banned at least a dozen Catholic families from the sacraments for three years after supporting marriage of children as young as six years old.

"We will not baptise children of guilty people and will prevent families from attending church functions," Bishop Gomes told Reuters in Kolkata.

Although women have to be 18 and men 21 to legally wed in India, child marriage is common in villages where deep-seated tradition has proved hard to change and law enforcement is poor.

At least 65 per cent of girls are married before 18 in India, government data shows, and activists say at least 150 cases of child marriage are reported every day.

Children as young as six have been married off.

Now Bishop Gomes and his priests in a populous diocese in the south of the state are fighting back, and say they will impose a fine of 3,000 rupees ($A87) on people flouting the law.

At least a dozen families have already been banned from receiving the sacrament for three years for supporting child marriage in Nadia district, which neighbours Kolkata.

"The disciplinary action is part of our reforms program and we want to ensure that everyone follows the laws of the country," Joseph Biswas, a Catholic priest, said.

However, Bishop Gomes said there would always be a way back to the church for those who admitted their error.

"Jesus does not reject a person. He may punish, but he forgives if someone is repentant," he said.

Priests expel Indian Catholics over child marriages (Scotsman, 14/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Bishops' Conference of India

Indian priest compares India's child labour to Africa slave trade (CathNews, 13/6/06)


15 Feb 2007