A Pretoria Catholic priest has been arrested for sexually abusing a minor, after the church advised the victim’s family to lay a charge with the SAPS.
He is parish priest of a Catholic Church in the east of Pretoria.
His arrest on Friday was on charges related to inappropriate conduct with a minor, the chancellor of the Archbishop of Pretoria, Father Robert Mphiwe, said on Sunday.
“The complaint was initially laid with the Pretoria Archdiocese in January. The priest was immediately placed on administrative leave,” Mphiwe said.
Church officials advised the family of the complainant to report the case to the police as required by law, and the Archdiocese instituted its own initial investigation into professional misconduct, Mphiwe said.
The family was initially reluctant to lay a charge with the police.
But after thinking about it, they did so privately with the assistance of Mphiwe, as they did not want to lay the charge at the charge office.
“However, this will now be held over until the conclusion of all criminal processes and outcomes that might be brought against the priest,” Mphiwe said.
The matter was being taken very seriously by the Archdiocese, he said.
The church would fully co-operate with the civil authorities investigating and prosecuting the matter.
It also undertook to ensure the protection of all minors and adults directly or indirectly involved, Mphiwe said.
Their families and good name would also be protected.
Father Mphiwe emphasised that the priest had the same rights as any other citizen under law, including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“He has engaged his own counsel, which, at this stage, is not being funded by the Archdiocese,” he added.
The Archbishop of Pretoria, William Slattery, asked for prayers for the complainant and his family, for the accused and his family, he said.
Slattery was also asking for prayers for the Church in the Archdiocese of Pretoria, Mphiwe said.
“We also commit to provide appropriate and transparent communication with the families and the media,” said the priest.
The church urged all who had information which could be appropriate to this case to contact the Brooklyn police station.
He said the SA Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) had stringent measures in place to counteract child abuse allegations against its bishops, members of religious congregations, senior religious staff and priests.
“The SACBC has had a protocol for the procedure to investigate complaints of child abuse since 2007.
“It now has an ongoing process of promulgating a protection of minors policy which sets down procedures to ensure a safe church environment for minors,” Mphiwe said.
The policy was expected to be made public at the Catholic bishops conference’s national professional conduct committee meeting in March.
The Catholic Church worldwide has been rocked by sexual abuse accusations for many decades, with reports recently saying about 4 percent of priests during the past half century (mostly in the 1960s and 1970s) had had a sexual experience with a minor.