Bishop blames clericalism as one of the causes of child sexual abuse
Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, who is the Bishop of Mthatha in South Africa as well as the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has blamed, among other things, the scourge of clericalism prevalent in some quarters in the Church as one of the causes of child sexual abuse.
Bishop Sipuka was speaking at the plenary assembly for 2019 of the SACBC currently taking place in Mariannhill, South Africa. In his view, clericalism is the “use of clerical status or power for selfish reasons and getting away with it. In the case of sexual abuse, the selfish reason is the perverted sexual engagement with children by priests with impunity and being offered the opportunity to repeat the offence by being covered up by the bishop and lay people”.
The SACBC, being an assembly of the Bishops of Botswana, Eswatini and South Africa, has chosen the topic of child sexual abuse for study during the current plenary session. To this end they are hosting Fr. Hans Zillner SJ who has worked in this area for a number of years now. There is also a presence of some Bishops from Lesotho.
In the same address, Bishop Sipuka recalls the meeting of the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences which took place in Rome in February as a momentous occasion for the universal church in tackling child sexual abuse. For him, the meeting in Rome was not just a face-saving scheme for a church struggling with its image. On the contrary, the meeting managed to also focus on the fact that such abuses happen even outside the church and as such the causes of abuse are far more than mere clericalism.
The Bishops of the SACBC normally meet twice a year to reflect on the life of the Church in their territory and this is their second meeting for 2019.