Monday 3 May 2010 / by Muritala Bakare
Recent sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church in Europe and the Americas seem to be spreading to Africa. Alleged claims that Catholic priests have also abused African children in Kenya and other parts of Africa are now adding to the already damaged image of the Vatican.
Damning reports accusing senior Catholic clerics of institutional cover-up of sexual abuses are still emerging, as predator priests in Europe and the Americas sent to Africa, allegedly, continued offending whilst dodging prosecution in their home country.
Last March, the world woke up to a series of sexual abuse reports, which lay blame on the Catholic hierarchy and the Pope for not acting quickly enough to sack priests found wanting or report them to the police for sexually abusing children.
Revelation of the extent of priestly scandal, cover ups and failings exposed six decades of physical and emotional abuse by some paedophile clerics of the church in Ireland, and another in the United States. In Germany, more than one hundred people are reported to have launched formal complaints of sexual abuse by Catholic priests since the beginning of this year alone.
The AFP has been questioning people in Nigeria, which counts the highest number of Catholics in Africa, Uganda and Congo if such abuses have been endured by some members. The head of the Southern African Bishops Conference has, meanwhile, publicly acknowledged that the issue of paedophilia has truly inflicted African Churches and that about 40 abuse cases have been reported since the last 14 years.
News24, an online South Africa news source, quotes a former clergyman from Burkina Faso, Felix Koffi Ametepe as saying: “When I was in the church, I happened to discover some suspected cases of abuse, especially by foreign clergy. There’s a certain tolerance among African Catholic communities regarding priests who visit women. Even if people very well know that the priest has a child, or that he has ongoing relations with a woman, no one does anything about it.”
“Everyone accepts if a priest is with a woman, but no one would understand what he would look for in a boy. That means that no child would be believed if he said that a priest had touched him.”
Last month, the Kenya Catholic Church said it was investigating claims that three young men and a boy told the police that they had been sexually abused by an Italian Priest at a children’s home a few years ago.
Also last week, Mozambique state radio reported that an Italian Jesuit priest in Brazil was transferred to Mozambique following sexual abuse allegations involving eight boys and young men.
Archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Tlhagale was quoted describing predator priests as “wolves wearing sheepskin”.
“What happens in Ireland or in Germany or America affects us all. It simply means that the misbehaviour of priests in Africa has not been exposed to the same glare of the media as in other parts of the world,” he said.
Meanwhile, a visit to The United Kingdom by the Catholic Pope in September could be protested against by a Protestant organisation known as the Orange Order, — which prides both as a civil society and a religious movement, — while leading Atheist, Richard Dawkins, has backed a campaign to arrest the Pope for ‘crimes against humanity’, should he come to Britain.