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Catholic commission condemns child abuse

by Sunday Express
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Pascalinah Kabi

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace Lesotho (CCJP) yesterday appealed to law-enforcement agencies to help children who report abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic Church (RCC) priests.

The commission further condemned acts of child sexual abuse within the church, adding those found guilty must be severely punished.

The CCJP was founded as a national agency of the Lesotho Catholic Bishops Conference (LCBC), and  mandated to promote and foster research, education, advocacy and action on social justice, peace and human rights, integrating them into the lives of Catholics and Basotho at large.

According to CCJP Executive Secretary Boi Mohapi, it was disheartening that “custodians of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC)” stand accused of violating innocent souls they are supposed to protect.

Last week, the Sunday Express carried a story of two priests who were allegedly chased away from their parishes in Leribe and Thaba-Tseka, after allegedly sodomising their congregants, including a catechist.

The Sunday Express has since learnt that one of the priests (name withheld) impregnated a 15-year-old girl in 2015, who has since given birth to a baby-boy. After the pregnancy, the priest was chased away by angry residents and is now based in Maseru and carrying out his duties “as usual” at Mofumahali-oa-Tlholo. The Sunday Express understands his matter was brought before the court and the priest charged with statutory rape but this could not be immediately verified.

The Sunday Express crew visited the priest at Mofumahali-oa-Tlholo on Friday but the cleric refused to talk to this reporter.

“I can’t welcome or talk to you because last week, you wrote a story about me without first seeking my permission to do that story,” he said.

Asked how he knew the story was referring to him as no name was mentioned, the priest said: “I know because I can relate to what was written there.

“Besides, Ntate Lerotholi (head of the RCC in Lesotho Archbishop Tlali Lerotholi) told me that you called him seeking to interview him about this same matter.

“Secondly, I know what you are going to ask me and I will not talk about issues that are currently in the courts of law.”

However, according to Mohapi, the CCJP agrees with Pope Francis that anyone accused of child abuse must be tried and punished if found guilty.

“It is therefore the responsibility of the justice system—the police and courts of law—to ensure that suspects are tried and prosecuted but having said that, it is important for us all to understand that the Catholic Bishops Conference is the custodian of the CRC (Convention of the Rights of the Child),” Mr Mohapi said.

“The Pope has always maintained that everyone must report child abuse, and those found guilty of abusing the children, includes church-leaders, must be punished.

“The church doesn’t condone child abuse in any way and the Pope is serious about rooting out these acts within the church and as the CCJP, we will continue to support him in every way possible.”

Mr Mohapi said as a commission, it was their responsibility to sensitise Basotho about the CRC and ensure every child’s rights are protected.

“The clergy knows that abusing children is a sin in the eyes of the Lord. It is also a crime against humanity, society and the laws of this country and no one in the church is above the law. Those found guilty must be punished severely according to the law,” Mr Mohapi said.

He urged police officers who investigate and arrest anyone suspected of sexually abusing children within the church to ensure they are brought before the courts of law.

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