Allegations of child sexual abuse divide Anglican church

An Anglican bishop of the diocese of the Diocese of the Highveld, the Right Reverend May, has been accused of protecting a priest in his pastoral jurisdiction allegedly involved in child grooming and exposing minors who were his altar servers to pornographic material.

The alleged grooming took place several years ago, and since then the bishop had turned a deaf ear to calls for action by members of the parish in the East Rand, Ekurhuleni.

As a result of the allegation, several senior members of the diocese Sunday World interviewed said it would be better if the bishop were to be removed or resign as “he did not fit the bill to be the bishop of the church of God”.

The allegation comes a few weeks after the diocese was accused by some members of the diocese of the Highveld of protecting one of his priests who was accused of alleged sexual assault.

However, the diocesan registrar Jonathan Cornelius, said in a statement that ”the allegations were not officially made to the bishop nor was the diocese ever notified of the incident prior to your enquiry (Sunday World)”.

“In light of the diocese being alerted of the alleged incident, the diocese will contact the Wattville parish to verify the alleged facts as stated herein,” said Cornelius in a statement.

Regarding the allegation of the priest’s “sexual impropriety” at the parish of St Boniface, a matter this newspaper reported a few weeks ago, the registrar, who is also an attorney, said the female complainant lacked “detail and ability to provide content”.

The registrar said he has been “tasked to assist resolving the mentioned matters” and the diocese was investigating the claims.

The bishop did not respond to our emailed query and blocked our phone calls to him.

A senior official of the Commission for Gender Equality has promised to investigate the gender-based violence matter relating to the Saint Boniface matter.

A senior priest in the diocese, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the diocesan community was “really concerned” about the direction the man of cloth was taking as the chief priest of the diocese – putting the diocesan in a difficult situation in terms of its moral compass and ethical leadership, “which is now being increasingly doubted and put into question at every turn”.

“We were all surprised when the priest who was abusing the children, displaying raw porn to them, was not dismissed, or subjected to disciplinary action, but was instead transferred to another parish within the diocese to assume a more senior position there.

“Our appeal to have allegations investigated fell on deaf ears. We must now begin a process of mobilising parishioners in all dioceses to have the bishop removed. He is not fit to be a priest.”

A senior parishioner of the diocese, who did not want to have his name mentioned, said he was disappointed at the way in which the bishop conducted himself, claiming that his tenure at the diocese had been “a source of concern”.

“When he was installed to his position, we were all excited and thought we were getting a black bishop. But we now know that black does not always translate to excellence. His leadership has been a source of great concern.

“He is a disappointment. He has let us down; his behaviour is abhorrent. We need to find a replacement sooner than later, and the people of this diocese must stand up against any form of tyranny.”

The allegation comes at a time when the diocese is due to hold a Diocesan Family Day to raise funds at a projected figure of R2.5-million to prop up the dwindling diocesan coffers. The family day gathering takes place at the Saint Dunstan playgrounds in Benoni, Ekurhuleni, today.

Recently, the bishop was accused of not explaining what happened to a R594 000 investment, which was under the supervision of the diocese under his leadership.

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