Indian church officials moved quickly to insist that girls under the age of eighteen cannot take vows after the Kerala State Women's Commission asked Parliament to bring in laws banning the practice.
However, Fr Paul Thelekkat, the spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Church of Kerala, said the commission is unaware of the process undertaken to become a nun, the Indian Catholic reports.
"Nobody in the Church can pronounce vows before the age of eighteen, not even a temporary vow in the church," he said.
The commission has also proposed to rehabilitate those who leave convents, and suggested making legal provisions for nuns to own inherited properties and wealth in their own names.
Fr Stephen G. Kulakkayathil, the secretary of the Kerala Regional Latin Catholic Council, said Church laws allow religious to pronounce final vows only after eighteen years of age.
"Only after the school studies children are admitted to such a life, also with their full consent. The church also permits them to leave this kind of a life at any point of time during the training," he added.
The Orthodox Church's Bishop Poulos Mar Milithios Bava said his church does not accept nuns taking vows before 18 and they are accepted in the church only with the permission of parents and themselves.Archbishop Mar Joseph Perunthottam said that the Catholic Church has its own systems to rehabilitate those who leave religious life.
"The little funds collected from the aspirants to religious life are spent on them only. The aspirants are given their religious garb only after six years of rigorous training after they join," he said.
The bishop was responding to Women's Commission chairperson D Sridevi who said "parents who force their children who are not yet adults to nunnery in the churches in Kerala need to face legal action".
She said women who decide themselves to be Catholic nuns should be at least of 18 years of age.SOURCE
Church reacts to Women Commission's proposals (Indian Catholic, 4/6/08)
Women Commission seeks laws to protect nuns (Indian Catholic, 3/6/08)
Minor as nun: Women’s panel for legal action (New India Press, 3/6/08)
Kerala women's body wants minimum age for nuns (Mangalorean, 3/6/08)