IN HIS Easter sermon in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, the Primate of Southern Africa, Dr Thabo Makgoba, addressed the recent allegations of past sexual abuse by Anglican clergy at church schools in South Africa.
He announced that the Church would be implementing widespread new measures to support victims of abuse and further offer formal church support for efforts to change the law so that old cases could be dealt with in secular courts and did not expire.
Dr Makgoba said that the highest priority should be given to the survivors of abuse, whether or not charges were brought in state or church courts, and that effective action should be taken to help the victims.
“What is far more important to us as pastors is to address the needs of those who have been abused, to restore their dignity, and to bring about holistic and sustainable healing,” he said.
He announced that he has asked all bishops “to appoint multi-disciplinary teams at diocesan, archdeaconry, and parish level to help and give guidance to people alleging abuse in parishes, church schools, or other institutions. 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.”
Dr Makgoba said that he has met lawyers to review the existing measures in church canon (law).
Last month, an award-winning South African writer, Ishtiyaq Shukri, accused the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, of ignoring clerical sexual abuse when he was Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) (News, 16 March).
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 Dr Tutu “has never fully addressed such systematic and institutionalised sexual abuse happening in his own organisation”.
Since then more victims have come forward.
Dr Makgoba said his impression at this stage was that those abused was a tiny minority, but that “no matter how many cases there may have been, we should welcome and embrace the newly found willingness by some to speak out and we must use it as an opportunity to address the issue.”
The Primate reiterated that he took “responsibility for what has happened in the Church in the past, and where we have wronged or failed anyone, we beg their forgiveness”.