Another abuse claim rocks Anglican Church

By BULELWA PAYI Time of article published Mar 18, 2018

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THE Anglican Church has been rocked by another disclosure of sexual abuse, a few weeks after a well-known author broke a 40-year silence on his own experience.

This week, David Fields (not his real name) recalled how the abuse lasted from the late 1970s until the early 1980s when he was 13 years old.

“As a young boy I grew up in church. Our parents wanted us to attend church and priests were looked up to in the community as people with authority and power.

“The priest and another one in the parish started taking an interest in me, but at the time I didn’t know why nor could I understand what the interest was all about. Then the abuse started with touching and led to sexual activity.

“The other priest stopped pursuing me. But one continued. He would come to our home, telling my parents he was taking me to church events. This continued for about four years. And suddenly he was moved about 150km from Cape Town.

“But this didn’t stop him coming to our house under the pretext of wanting me to help him with something or taking me to a church event. At first, he would take me to the house where he lived in on the church grounds, where he would sexually abuse me,” Fields said.

The priest also took Fields to meet his friends and family.

Fields said he was not the only one to be abused, as he later heard other boys had been abused by the other priest.

About 20 years after the abuse, he sought counselling and, in 2003, had the courage to tell his parents and family about it.

“By that time, though, my marriage had broken down and this had also affected my relationships with other people.”

Fields said he later heard the priest had moved from place to place and a parent had tried to shoot him, possibly because of sex abuse claims.

He said he was aware the church had revoked the priest’s licence to preach, but that he was still requested by some parishes in the small towns to be involved in church-related events.

About two years ago, Fields’s partner wrote to the Anglican church about the allegations, expecting the church to record the incident and initiate a probe.

The church’s response, he said, was that Fields needed to open a case with the police.

Fields said he went to the Bishop Lavis police station to lay a charge, but the investigating officer later told him there was nothing they could do as, legally, there had been a time lapse of 20 years.

The Criminal Procedure Act is now before Parliament for amendment.

“I decided last year to initiate a meeting with the priest who abused me. The meeting took place on a Sunday afternoon at the office of the dean of St George’s Cathedral.I wanted to hear him apologise for the trauma he put me and my family through. He accused me of making him look like a monster. In the end I had to drag the apology out of him."

Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa Thabo Makgoba confirmed that Fields had approached him through the dean of Cape Town, Michael Weeder, asking to meet.

“I explained that if he was to lay charges against a priest under church law, I might have to handle an appeal in my capacity as archbishop. I would not want a case to fail on the grounds I have a conflict of interest. I assured him our Diocesan Standing Committee had resolved that we should not hide such cases,” he said.

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