By Greg Alexander Mashaba
Bishop Valentine Seane
Early yesterday morning I received an email enquiry from one cousin of mine who is a parishioner at St Charles Catholic Church in Victory Park, Randburg. He wanted to know if I was aware of reports regarding sexual abuse of women religious (that is, nuns ) by the Catholic Bishop of Gaborone, Botswana, Bishop Valentine Seane . I immediately to do a brief website enquiry on the subject. If these allegations are proven to be true, this would mark a new low for us as Catholics when it comes to abuse of power especially against the most vulnerable groups in society, namely women and children.
Bishop Valentine Seane resigned as Bishop of Gaborone on 8 August 2017, a day before we in South Africa celebrate Women’s Day. His resignation had been approved in terms of Canon Law by both his immediate superior, Archbishop William Slattery of Pretoria and Pope Francis. According to reports posted on online media houses in Botswana, Seane resigned in order to “clear his name”. In its issue dated 14 August 2017, “The Monitor” released excerpts of alleged communication between the nuns of the Sisters of Calvary, the Archdiocese of Pretoria (under which the Diocese of Gaborone falls), and the Vatican, wherein the nuns sought immediate intervention to end alleged sexual abuse by Seane. In one of the letters they wrote that “….Bishop Seane’s insatiable sexually needs (sic ) are putting us at risk more so that he does not use condoms…….The end result of his actions, we are in spiritual crisis of unending abortions ..”
In article on another online publication , “SNAP”, which is apparently dedicated to exposing and combatting sexual abuse by the clergy, reported that the former Superior General of the Sisters Of Calvary ( whose name is not given ) turned their religious congregation “…into fertile ground for Seane’s sexual insatiable appetite…Put differently , our former Mother Superior created some of us as Bishop Seane’s sex tools or toys. In most cases when the bishop undertakes a trip to South Africa, Mother Superior will instruct that he is either accompanied by a novice or a young sister….He will spend days in expensive hotels raping us. He will tell us that he is untouchable..”
Supporters of Seane on the other hand claim that he is the victim of a witch hunt. In an article posted online on 11 August 2017 , “The Patriot on Sunday” reported that Bishop Seane had survived an assassination attempt when he was warned not to eat food and consume drinks served at the ordination of one priest in 2016 as it had been laced with poison. His supporters claim that he took the decision to resign at that point . It is said that the plotters were powerful business people who were opposed to his installation as bishop because he sought to investigate claims that they were in possession of land which belonged to the Church.
The nuns conclude by saying that Seane has institutionalised corruption and sexual abuse in the Church so much so that some of his friends in the ranks of the clergy , especially the Stigmatine Priests are on “..a sexual high drive..”
The Vicar General of Gaborone, Fr Andrew Makgetla in a statement released on 11 August 2017, said all protocols of the Church would be followed in investigating this matter.
I certainly hope that Church hierarchy will treat this matter with both the urgency and circumspection it warrants. The law enforcement agencies in both Botswana and South Africa must also react appropriately.
Cardinal Goerge Pell
I have noted that Bishop Seane has resigned and agreed to cooperate with all in the impending investigation . When he faced similar charges in Australia, Cardinal Goerge Pell, the Prefect of The Congregation For The Economy , the third most senior cleric in the Vatican sought leave of absence from Pope Francis and flew back to his native Australia to face criminal charges in a court of law. To his credit, Cardinal Pell and his immediate superior did not seek to sweep the issue under the carpet. I expect nothing less than this from our bishops in Southern Africa.
BischoP Franz-Peter Tebartz-van-Elst
The alleged abuse of power by Bishop Seane brings to mind the matter of the Bishop Emeritus of Limburg, Germany, The Most Reverend Franz-Peter Tebarts-van Elst who came to be known as the “The Bishop of Bling” because of his lavish lifestyle. He became notorious for allegedly spending 31 million Euros on renovations to his official residence. He was eventually removed from his position as bishop by Pope Francis and assigned a clerical position in the Vatican.
I pray that the allegations against Bishop Seane are not true for I love the Catholic with all of its teachings and its institutions. I believe that I am a better person (though not a saint) in a large measure because my parents brought me up in the Catholic faith. It is my Catholic faith which pointed me in the direction of the African National Congress. As a very young boy in 1974 I asked my mother where I should go if I wanted to help fight apartheid in my homeland South Africa. She calmly told me to consider joining the ANC. Hence I shall fight to support the integrity of these two institutions to the end of my days on earth.
Greg Alexander Mashaba Is An Additional Branch Executive Committee Of The Anc Ellen Khuzwayo Branch In Ekurhuleni. He Writes In His Personal Capacity