“What happens in Ireland or in Germany or America affects us all. It simply means that the misbehaviour of priests in Africa has not been exposed to the same glare of the media as in other parts of the world,” he said in a holy week homily released on Wednesday.
Tlhagale, who is also the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, did not detail any specific incidents in Africa.
The Catholic church has recently been hit by sex scandals in Germany, Italy, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland, following years of similar cases in the US, Canada, Australia, and Ireland.
Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of not stopping paedophile priests while he was the archbishop of Munich, then as a Vatican cardinal, and of helping to cover up their actions.
The halo has tilted
Tlhagale said the image of the Catholic church was virtually in ruins because of the bad behaviour of its priests, “wolves wearing sheep’s skin, preying on unsuspecting victims, inflicting irreparable harm, and continuing to do so with impunity”.
Many people who had looked up to priests as their models felt betrayed, ashamed and disappointed.
“They feel that some priests have ‘slipped away from the footprints of the apostles’. Trust has been compromised. The halo has been tilted, if not broken.”
The church had to take responsibility for the hurt, the scandals, the pain and the suffering caused by priests who claimed to be models of good behaviour.
“I wish I could say that there are only a few bad apples, but the outrage around us suggests that there are more than just a few bad apples,” he said.
The abuse weakened the church’s authoritative voice.
“As church leaders, we become incapable of criticising the corrupt and immoral behaviour of the members of our respective communities.
“We become hesitant to criticise the greed and malpractices of our civic authorities. We are paralysed and automatically become reluctant to guide young people in the many moral dilemmas they face,” he said.
It was only by being above reproach that the church would rebuild the public’s confidence and respect in it and its priests. SAPA