In my life having gone through Catholic schools i met priests who were great people and lived by their vows but then there were also those who broke all the rules and gave priesthood a bad name.The Catholic church for a while now has been reeling under the accusations of sexual abuse of minors by some of its priests in Europe and North America.The scandals began receiving public attention in the 1980’s but the church hierarchy as it is structured in the affected dioceses never reported the matter of these priests but just transferred them to other locations.Wikipedia provides a detailed article on the scandals here.
Kenya has got its own share of these scandals when we have had Father Kizito Sesana’s name dragged into the mud over his misconduct with boys and young men and reports of the battles he has been fighting here and here.
Both times there has been no concrete evidence found to charge him and he has fought of his accusers by saying that they are more interested in the millions involved in the projects he runs through Koinoinia Kenya.
The hierarchy of the Catholic church in Kenya has chosen to keep quiet over the scandals.Their stand is similar to the position taken by the Vatican when the sex scandal emerged,they were swept under the carpet with the fervent prayer sent to heaven that they would just disappear,but they did not.Over the years the allegations against some of its priests have increased and the young victims of these priests who are now grown men have chosen to speak up.
When Father Kizito used to write articles in the Sunday Nation and were serialized under the title Fr Kizito’s dairy, i read them voraciously and they were great and inspired my faith then in many ways.When the first scandal hit the press in 2009 i wanted to cry for this man who had inspired me not only with his writing but who i admired for the noble vocation he had taken.
It is very easy to hate on religious people who fall of the high pedestal we have placed them on and the reason for this is because a majority of people look up to them because they represent an institution that is meant to uphold morality in the society.That is why when Fr Kizito’s alleged scandals first hit the headlines,a lot of furore and debate ensued on whether his accusers were legitimate or they were after the millions in his projects.
After following the scandals the Vatican has been battling over alleged abuse by the men of the cloth i think it is time that the church in Kenya investigated itself.It is time the church hierarchy asked itself,what if there are priests abusing their high office here ,how do we handle it?
Reuters had an article on how the scandals have affected the church in Germany with thousands leaving the church and it can be read here. Much of this has been caused by the dismal handling of the matter by church which has not been stemmed by the apology offered by the Pope which elicited mixed reactions.An article by the New York Times on the apology to Irish Catholics can be read here .
Maybe it is time the church stopped the fire fighting approach it has taken to reports of abuse by its clergy.The systemic issuing of apologies that is directed at only the affected countries needs to stop,instead the church needs to make its stand on sexual abuse by men of the cloth known,it needs to publicly state that it will not be condoned or tolerated and that the abusers will face the full force of the law.
Sermons made by priests from all the catholic church pulpits need to remind the faithful that the church does not and will not hide sex abuse scandals.The faithful who give of their time,money and energy in church activities need to hear that the church will not hide the crimes or wish them away but will make sure the perpetrators who break the law and their victims have their day in court.
Each of the one billion Catholic faithful who make up at least 50%of the global Christian population need to hear that the church will act and is protecting them from the wolves who come adorned in priestly robes.They need to hear that the church is listening to the voices and the cries of those who have been abused by these men .The church needs to shout from the pulpit that sexual misconduct of its priests cannot be condoned ,every catholic from the remotest village church in Turkana to the Basilicas in Rome needs to hear that.Only by doing so will the church get some of its credibility back.