African Church leaders express concern about clerical abuse

African Church leaders express concern about clerical abuse Precious Blood Sr Hermenegild Makoro

When child sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests emerge in Africa, they do not draw a frenzied reaction similar to that witnessed in developed countries, but the continent’s Church is affected, Catholic leaders have said.

While there is a general view that the scandals are a challenge of the Church in Europe and America, African officials confirm the incidents, amid reports of some provinces expelling or defrocking priests.

In Africa, clerics view the issue as too delicate and sensitive for the public, and many remained tight-lipped on the subject. At the same time, the Church leaders said they were concerned about the abuses and closely follow any such reports, both locally and globally.

“Africa is also affected like any other continent, but to what extent, I am not sure,” said Precious Blood Sr Hermenegild Makoro, general secretary of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

In October, the South African Church defrocked three priests over sexual abuse of children in the parishes. Since 2003, 35 cases of abuse involving priests have been reported to the Church in South Africa.

Sr Makoro said out of the 35 cases, only seven were being investigated by the police, and one has led to a life sentence.


Some sources – including former priests and seminarians – say some women and Catholic sisters may be victims of the abuses, but Sr Makoro said in mid-January that the National Professional Conduct Committee of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference had not received any complaints so far.

Fr Christian Anyanwu, director of social communication of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, said cases of child abuses were not pronounced in the country when compared to Europe and America.

However, he noted that the Church is a single family, and whatever happens to one anywhere is bound to affect others.

“There are measures being put in place by the (Nigerian) Church to ensure that we avoid the mistakes that have been made in Europe and America with regard to child abuse,” said Fr Anyanwu.

In Kenya, Fr Joachim Omolo Ouko, an Apostle of Jesus priest in the Archdiocese of Kisumu, agreed that cases of sexual abuse had also occurred in Africa, but few were reported.

“I think the cover-up is very strong,” said Fr Ouko.