The silence on Ghana's Roman Catholic front

Gcbc Visits Prez 48 Catholic Bishops with President Akufo-Addo

Mon, 1 Jun 2020 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

The Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC) has been uncharacteristically quiet over the long trending sex abuse scandals among its priests that has stretched from Auckland to Aberdeen and from Guam to Guadalajara.

Why is that so even as the Catholic church in Ghana has organised various professional groups to help in its indispensable work?

Among these are Guild of Catholic Lawyers; Guild of Catholic Doctors; Catholic Association of Media Practitioners-Ghana, formerly called Guild of Catholic Journalists, Guild of Catholic Nurses, etc.

It is hard to miss the unconscionable silence of these groups.

We should all be able to agree that oaths/vows of secrecy do not include abetment/conspiracy to commit crime.

At a National Catholic Health Service annual conference in Koforidua in 2004, His Grace Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, then Bishop of Koforidua, in response to a question, announced that due to these scandals, the Catholic church of America was sponsoring the Vatican “by USD50 million less”.

I was a rapporteur for the conference, and the participants were just health professionals in Catholic institutions; not all exclusively of the Catholic faith. Therefore I am not revealing any secrets, as it were.

The eminent clergyman’s frankness in explaining why the Catholic hospitals in ghana were receiving less donations should arrest our attention because Catholic hospitals in ghana usually serve the rural population, and hence these sex abuse scandals have a bearing on all persons living in ghana.

At the very least it may place unwarranted suspicion on the activities of hardworking and honest priests.

When was the last time you heard in the news that Misereor or Catholic Relief Services or some foreign Catholic organisations had made donations in ghana? Clearly the frequency has gone down.

So where are all the journalists and reporters who used to publish such stories; have they not noticed?

And why have these same media houses and their staff gone quiet on the scandals? Are the sex abuse scandals not social issues? Should we not think about helping school children to understand and avoid any future advances if such are not already happening here?

Do our children not attend Catholic schools?

And do Catholic priests not teach in Government-Assisted Secondary Schools?

Furthermore, does the collective silence mean our Catholic professionals and the media generally perceive the problem as “a foreign disease”? If so, are there no foreign missionaries in this country?

Surely the Catholic church in ghana does not bribe media houses.

Pope Francis has not been forceful and decisive enough in dealing with the scandal; some might even be forgiven for seeing him as ambivalent.

Perhaps he is suffering the heartfelt fears of many who wear the crown of leadership: will my people tell me the truth, and how do I keep my power?

But to people of faith everywhere my mentor has this advice: “For we wrestle not against flesh nor blood, but against principalities and powers; against the rulers of the darkness in this world…..”, referencing the Letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 6 verse 12) in the Bible.

Can you imagine if it were some other organisation with all this baggage and scandal, and it had a branch in ghana?

We shall definitely then hear protests and condemnation from “here to there” with the Catholic Church “LOUD, LOUD” in front, and the Catholic Standard newspaper with bold headlines.

The Catholic Association of Media Practitioners-Ghana (CAMP-G) comprises professionals in print and electronic media, information technology, public relations, advertising, publishing, film production, press photography and academia.

This time not a “peep” from them; as if NOTHING has or is happening; they have all of a sudden become know nothings.

Silence over this matter is complicity and it is shameful.

Now shoot me, call me names….yes, come on!

If there is only one root cause fanning the silence, secrecy and complicity, then it must surely be nepotism.

As Professor Robert Addo-Fenning taught in 1997 in my free elective class “Selective Topics in World History”, Nepotism was coined out of a 17th Century practice whereby Popes preferred their relatives as bishops, and bishops likewise put their relations in charge of parishes.

Etymologically the Italian word nepotismo, comes from “nipote” meaning “nephew” and it references the shameful act of Popes favouring their “illegitimate” sons, especially, for appointed office.

Let us remember that to be parochial vicar of a parish, or parish priest, then and now, means control over property and revenues.

And where nepotism persists such as it does in the current Akufo-Addo government, it is hard to pronounce a just and truthful verdict in any conflict, big or small.

I would rather live where nepotism and…..”despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy”.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah