On his part, Jesuit Fr. Lawrence Daka noted that although at the universal level of the Church, structures are now in place, and there is evidence that the leadership has taken full responsibility of safeguarding minors, the situation is different in the Church in Africa.
“At local structures, especially here in Africa there is a sense of general fear, shame, and protectionism, woven into a certain clericalism!” the Rector of Zimbabwe-based St. Ignatius College Chishawasha within the Catholic Archdiocese of Harare said.
The holder of a Doctorate in Social Economic Philosophy from Boston College further observed that in the Church in Africa, clericalism is woven in silence, which he said is “emblematic and symptomatic of the so many challenges that have bedeviled and obfuscated what is demanded of responsible, transparent, and accountable leaders in the Church and society in general.”
“Creating a culture of safeguarding and protection in the Church is no longer the sole responsibility of Church leadership,” he said adding, “In Africa, we go a long way if we collaborate with traditional leadership in the transformation of how we view children.”
Towards a safer environment for minors in the Church, Fr. Daka who is also a Professor at the Arrupe Jesuit University (AJU) in Harare called for, among other things, urgent “conversion and restructuring of the local Churches, leading to healing, and restoration of the dignity of life for every child.”
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Making his presentation on the topic, “Renewing the Theology of the Church as a body of Christ in the age of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults by leaders in the Church,” Jesuit Fr. Joachim Zoundi called for a renewal of the Theology of the Church.
“Our theology has been at times too academic; neither pastoral nor spiritual enough to nurture the faithful,” the Burkinabe Cleric said during the April 28 virtual seminar and added, “Particularly the crisis of sexual abuse of minors is one of a probable theological failure to orient the faithful.”
According to Fr. Zoundi who holds a Doctorate in Spiritual Theology, the crisis of abuse of minors in the Church “reminds us that we are a church in pilgrimage and as such we have to take courage to examine ourselves and cut off what does not help us to make progress, and to spread the Good News of Christ, calling for love and care for all, particularly for the little ones.”
In renewing the church, the Kenya-based Jesuit Cleric called for a systemic approach in addressing the abuse of minors among the people of God.
He explained, “This approach requires working with all parties involved: first of all, the child, then its parents, social workers, people in charge of education and of children’s health care, the police, and those who control the policies of the State and issue its laws.”
Set to run until April 30, the colloquium is a response to Pope Francis’ 2019 Apostolic Letter “Vos estis lux mundi” that establishes procedural norms in dealing with sexual abuse in the Church.