Parish Reacts to ‘Diabolical Masterpiece’
A parish in Johannesburg archdiocese has presented its resolutions from a public forum on Church clerical abuse.
Immaculate Conception church in Rosebank presented the resolutions from its Groundswell forum, held in October, to Archbishop Buti Tlhagale and apostolic nuncio Archbishop Peter Wells.
The forum was constituted by Rosebank’s pastoral council.
The resolutions recorded “anger, shame, humiliation and sorrow regarding the sex-abuse scandal in its various dimensions”.
“We are dismayed by the inconsistency between the message proclaimed in the joy of the Gospel—a message of love, justice, mercy and care for the poor and vulnerable—and actions within the institutional Church at the level of leadership that have betrayed our trust and respect,” the document said.
It called for “radical answers” to the sex-abuse scandal.
“To restore confidence and trust in the Church, we believe that it is necessary to face and address the broad systemic issues—especially clericalism—that provide a context and climate for the sex-abuse scandal; and we call on our bishops to do so in consultation with all the People of God—lay, religious and clergy—in a true spirit of co-responsibility,” the Groundswell forum said.
It called for measures that will prevent sexual abuse, suggesting “comprehensive screening procedures for all people in the Church—clerical, religious and lay—who will be involved with young people in their professional or pastoral activities”, which in many areas of the Church is already standard.
The document also noted that “it is also essential to hold clergy and bishops accountable for their actions in the past, present and future—accountable not only to the authorities in the Church, and the faithful, but also to the civil authorities where applicable, and the criminal justice system”.
The forum called on the bishops “to institute an investigation of all claims and allegations of sex abuse by clergy and consecrated persons” in the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference region, as well as into how these allegations were handled.
This, the forum said, must be handled in “a credible, effective and transparent way, with significant lay involvement”.
The bishops, it said, must “give serious consideration to instituting a process of public reconciliation where victims and survivors of abuse can speak out to Church leaders and where the harm and hurt can be addressed.”
Submitted to Archbishop Buti Tlhagale
The resolutions were submitted to Archbishop Tlhagale with a request that they be conveyed to his fellow bishops in the SACBC, and in particular to the president of the conference, who will be participating in the summit in Rome in February which has been called by Pope Francis to address the sex-abuse crisis.
In an address to the forum, Deacon Brent Chalmers of Rosebank called the abuse crisis, which was created by people within the Church, “a diabolical masterpiece”.
“There can be no doubt that this is demonic; it undermines the work of the Church in every way,” he said.
“What would be the best way to undermine any evangelical effort, efforts to propagate the Church’s teaching, to make the Church attractive to people, to draw them to Christ—what would be a more effective way to undo that work than to have priests engaged in the sexual abuse of young people?”
Deacon Chalmers called on Catholics not to leave the Church in disgust, but to fight for it prophetically.
“You fight through your own righteous anger. You fight by your very presence at Mass. You fight by organising your fellow Catholics. You fight by joining Groundswell. You fight by making your presence felt and your opinion heard at public forums just like this. You fight by writing a letter to your priest, your bishop, the pope. You fight by demanding the truth—the truth will set us free,” he said.