KOCHI, INDIA, June 16, 2016 (Religion News Service): A high court in southern India has ruled that Christian priests and nuns are entitled to their right to property despite their vows of poverty, signaling an end to a centuries-old tradition that has left many in the clergy destitute. In its order last week in favor of a priest whose relatives cut him out of his share of ancestral property, the court in Kerala state said a priest can give up his property if he wishes to, but there can be no "automatic deprivation" because he is in a religious order and has "renounced worldly pleasures." The ruling applies to all religions in the state, and to women in a religious order as well.
The high court, which overturned a lower court's ruling against the priest, placed the Indian Succession Act -- which guarantees all citizens equal inheritance rights -- above canon law, which requires the surrender of any inheritance to the church, said Sabu George, a lawyer for the priest. The Catholic priests' association has long demanded a state pension and compensation from the church for retired priests and those who leave the clergy. They are often forced to live on a small stipend or depend on the largesse of the parish. A spokesman for the Catholic church in the state said they were disappointed with the ruling, and may appeal.