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April 22, 2015 / subramanyam

A story that had to be told

Disclaimer : When I say Church in this article I am speaking about the Catholic Church. I believe that was the one to which Sister Jesme went. I am open for correction in case this is not correct.

I first heard about “Amen — The Autobiography of Nun”  somewhere in 2009, there was quite some controversy and the book indeed sparked many debates.  Some went on to say that this book attacks a religion.  I wanted to read it then but then something else came up and had to park it out for a while. Recently, I got a chance to read it and here are my thoughts on that book.

This book is about Sister Jesme’s years as a nun. She speaks about the best of the times and worst of the times as a nun. Amen the autobiography of a nun She starts the book by giving us a glimpse of her life before she became a nun. She sets the background, lets us know why she wanted to be a nun, why and how she became a nun and then takes us to the nunnery along with her.

What happens to her from there on is the crux of the book.  She tells about the vows the nuns take. She speaks about the discrimination that exists within the four walls of the convent. Then she speaks about the way “sex” has found its way into the 4 walls of the convent.  She speaks about the troubles and tribulations the nuns have to encounter within the 4 walls of the Church. She speaks about rules that bring in tears in the eyes of the nuns. She portrays the ways in which corrupt activities take place in the Church and the way she suffered because of them.

Then she shows us as to what happens when you stand up against these authorities.  The way they tried to brand her as a mentally sick person and the reason why she wanted to come out of Church are illustrated later.  The book highlights a lot of things that are already wrong or going wrong with the priests and people of considerable authority in the Church.

I liked the book because the author dared to say something no one else did before.  There are nuns who came out of the convents but I think she was the first (at least in India) to speak about it.

The claims of Jesme might just be valid,  for there are instances where nuns killed themselves.  Here is a link  that speaks about that.

Here is a case where the Church was paying 12 Lakhs to a nun after there were allegations that a priest made some advances against her.

Here is the story of another nun.


Every institution is established with a purpose. When an institution is established all the rules, all the regulations that are put in place are the ones that suit those times.  In fact  most of the times they would be forward looking to an extent where they would handle the issues that might come up in the next few decades or so.  However, as days turn into years and years turn into decades we see that some of these rules need be relooked at.   Changing times and changing social conditions force a change in the rules and some reform is definitely needed.

Then we have the people issues, it is not always that you would have the best and the most honest ones occupying the highest office in an institution.  The rules regarding the authority, the control and the hierarchy can become threatening to ordinary members when an incorrect person is at the highest echelons of power.   To me that was the underlying thread through out the book.

How much ever one wants to contradict it,  The Church has its problems.  There is a need for reform and this must be addressed at the earliest. The book is not against a religion, it is an appeal that a renovation is the need of the hour in an institution.

Here is an interview of Sister Jesme.


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