Church sex abuse scandal – four victims come forward
Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba says four cases of sexual abuse in two dioceses have emerged in recent weeks.
Urgent consultations are now under way to bolster procedures for dealing with cases of sexual abuse in the church‚ he said on Thursday.
The church has been rocked by allegations of abuse‚ with South African author Ishtiyaq Shukri saying he had been “repeatedly and routinely” sexually abused in the past by priests at St Cyprian's Cathedral‚ Kimberley.
A second victim told the Weekend Argus at the weekend that he had been abused from the late 1970s until the early 1980s when he was 13 years old.
“The other priest stopped pursuing me. But one continued. He would come to our home‚ telling my parents he was taking me to church events. This continued for about four years. And suddenly he was moved about 150km from Cape Town‚” he said.
Archbishop Makgoba acknowledged on Thursday that the church had been “lagging behind in our care for victims of abuse”.
“In recent weeks‚ four individuals have either spoken out publicly or contacted my office privately to report experiences of sexual abuse in two dioceses‚ apparently during the 1970s and 1980s‚” he said.
The church's Synod of Bishops held a detailed discussion on the worldwide Anglican Communion's Safe Church Network – an international body founded in response to cases of abuse – in February.
“In Southern Africa‚ church law makes provision for someone who holds a licence to minister in the church‚ and who is accused of sexual assault or harassment‚ to be charged before a church tribunal within their diocese‚ and disciplined if found guilty. We have also advised complainants in the past to lay charges with the police‚” said Makgoba.
“However‚ it is clear from the experiences reported in the last few weeks that we are lagging behind in our care for victims of abuse.
“In Cape Town‚ I established a team some years ago to advise me on the handling of complaints. The team included a psychologist‚ a lawyer‚ a priest and the head of an institution involved in a case.
“However‚ since that team does not have the capacity to advise bishops across Southern Africa I wrote to all our bishops last week advising them to establish similar advisory teams in their dioceses and in their local archdeaconries and parishes.
“I have asked that these teams be appointed to intervene when there are allegations of abuse in parishes or church schools. They should include a psychologist‚ social worker or counsellor; someone who is qualified to give legal advice; a community worker from outside the church; and the head of the affected entity within the church.”
Makgoba said he was consulting widely on how the church can act more efficiently in cases of sexual abuse.
“As I have said previously‚ I take responsibility for what has happened in the church in the past and where we have wronged or failed anyone‚ we beg their forgiveness‚” he said.