Archbishop Desmond Tutu accused of not addressing Church sexual abuse during his tenure

16 March 2018

REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, celebrates his 86th birthday outside St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, last year

The Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, celebrates his 86th birthday outside St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, Sou...

AN AWARD-WINNING South African writer, Ishtiyaq Shukri, has accused the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, of ignoring clerical sex abuse when he was Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA).

Mr Shukri published an open letter, “Why I find Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s statements regarding Oxfam painful and hypocritical”. Dr Tutu announced last month that he would retire as an ambassador for Oxfam because of allegations of abuse at the charity.

In the letter, Mr Shukri spoke of his sexual abuse at the hands of Anglican priests at the St Cyprian’s School, Kimberley, in South Africa. He said that the Archbishop “has never fully addressed such systematic and institutionalised sexual abuse happening in his own organisation.

“From the age of ten and throughout my adolescence and teenage years, I was repeatedly and routinely sexually abused by priests at the church in Kimberley where my maternal family worshipped. As a child, those words — sexual abuse — were not part of my lexicon.

“The abuse was alienating and confusing. I did not know what to do; so I kept quiet, knowing that I was not alone, and that there were others, too. That knowledge provided a distorted sense of comfort, normalising the abnormal, which, after all, is what life in apartheid South Africa trained us all to do.”

He wrote that the abuse started in 1978 and continued for a decade, and described the clinical depression he has suffered throughout his life.

Mr Shukri is the author of the novels The Silent Minaret, which won the EU Literary Award in 2004, and I See You, published in 2015.

DPA/PAArchbishop Thabo Makgoba in 2016

The current Primate, Dr Thabo Makgoba, has apologised for past wrongs of the Church and its failure to address sexual-abuse claims. In a statement, he said: “I take responsibility for what has happened during the time of my predecessors and where we have wronged or failed anyone, we beg their forgiveness.”

Dr Tutu’s office issued a statement on Monday, which said: “Archbishop Emeritus Tutu was mortified to learn this week of the suffering Ishtiyaq Shukri has described enduring at the hands of priests in Kimberley. . . He has the utmost faith in Archbishop Makgoba’s commitment to hold those clergy accused of wrongdoing to account, and support those whose trust in the clergy has been betrayed.”

Dr Makgoba said that the Anglican Church’s Synod of Bishops “was shocked and distressed to hear a report on Mr Shukri’s situation at a meeting last month”.

“His experiences were reported to the bishops while they were discussing the work of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Network, an international body on which our Church is represented. The body was created as a result of what Anglican churches world-wide have acknowledged is ‘the tragic betrayal of trust by some clergy and church workers in Provinces and churches across the Communion, who have abused children and adults for whom they have had pastoral responsibility’.”

Mr Shukri has declined to name his alleged abusers.

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