Monica Cheru- Mpambawashe Lifestyle Editor
IN the face of paedophilia, allegations of homosexual relations and offspring from the loins of ordained priests, the Roman Catholic demand for vows of chastity from its clergy seems to be more than flesh and blood can bear for most.
The latest scandal to break in Zimbabwe is that of a priest and a nun at St Charles Lwanga in Manicaland allegedly being involved in a passionate relationship complete with leaked WhatsApp saucy messages and pictures.
According to our sister paper The Manica Post, Father Taurai Saunyama (30) and Sister Rukudzo Rosemary Nyamugunduru (22) forgot their vows to be the dedicated spouses of Jesus Christ and turned to each other for some very human comfort.
The WhatsApp messages, they allegedly sent to each other, show that this is not a case of two innocents who had just been tempted and were in any way regretting the lapse, but a case of seasoned operators.
Sister Rukudzo blatantly relives memories that she intends to recreate as she says, “Musi wuye watakaenda kuChipinge ummmmm wakandigonera wena. U are sweetie. Manheru ndouya here?”
Fr Taurai was equally hot bloodied and went on to detail how the pair could keep their meeting closed to prying eyes:
“Jus going to sort out papers kuoffice u tell them or check if u switched off lights and plugs and I will be right there naked for you,” he advises his playmate who is obviously no longer a sister in Christ, but something more earthly. There is no guilty conscience apparent.
Reading through the messages, one can conclude that there is no line dividing those who go around dressed in costumes proclaiming their sexual abstinence and the rest of the wicked world.
The two lovers are just as lurid and graphic as any of the other fornicators exposed almost daily by H-Metro.
Vicar General of the diocese Fr Fungai Chipiro says that the church is not about to rush into any decisions based on media allegations.
“As a diocese we are making our own ground investigations. Until we have concluded those investigations, these are just rumours,” he said in a telephone interview.
Perhaps in a reflection of the times, a scandal in the church is nothing extraordinary.
Stories of church leaders in extramarital sexual relations with married and unmarried congregants abound.
Convicted rapist Robert Martin Gumbura is just one example of the depravity that lurks in the houses that are meant to be consecrated to God.
But somehow such nonchalance becomes hard to affect when the sex scandal is in the Roman Catholic Church. After all, the church goes out of its way to wave its clergy’s chastity belts in the face of congregants and the world at large.
But before one rushes to judge this pair, it is well to look at the history of the Roman Catholic clergy in the country and beyond. If there was ever a time when the church has been free of scandal worldwide, then it might not be in living memory.
Internationally one of the scandals to hit the church in the past century was that of the late Fr Michael Cleary. Wikipedia sums up the case as follows:
“Michael Cleary an Irish Roman Catholic priest, who became a radio and TV personality as well. A charismatic and powerful figure in the Catholic Church, he presented a late-night radio phone-in show in Dublin in the 1980s and hosted his own television chat show. He also published a book about maintaining faith in the modern world. After he released two albums of songs, he was nicknamed ‘The Singing Priest’. He achieved more notoriety when it was revealed after his death that he had lived with Phyllis Hamilton and fathered two children with her, while she acted as his housekeeper. They lived as a family in secret.”
In another case that set the world talking Zambian Emmanuel Milingo lost his right to be the bishop of the Archdiocese of Lusaka and a Roman Catholic priest when he controversially received a marriage blessing from Sun Myung Moon, the leader of the Unification Church, in defiance of orders from Rome not to. He went on to form an organisation advocating priests to marry. Rome responded by threatening to defrock any priests who signed up with the movement.
But perhaps worse than the cases between consenting adults, the Roman Catholic church is struggling to shake off the image of an institution that over the years turned a blind eye to cases of child sexual abuse by peadophillic priests.
There are many jokes about how choir boys sigh in relief when a priest dies implying that it is often boys who are victims more than girls.
Exposes started in the United States in 2002 through investigations by the Boston Globe led to an avalanche of reported cases with.
Wikipedia says, “From 2001 to 2010 the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, “considered sex abuse allegations concerning about 3 000 priests dating back up to 50 years” according to the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice.”
Locally, the most prominent Catholic to be embroiled in a sex scandal in recent times would be former Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube who resigned from the clergy after a hidden camera caught his trysts with one Rosemary who was a secretary in the cathedral.
There was much politicising of the story with the usual brigade saying that Ncube had been set up to silence his anti-government rhetoric. But what none of his sympathisers could not deny was the man of the cloth had failed to stick to the vow of celibacy.
In recent times there have been stories of a wife and child surfacing after a priest died and also priests embroiled in maintenance wrangles as they fail to look after the children they have sired despite vows of celibacy.
Many other examples of sexual activity among priests and nuns abound.
So the question is; should the church continue to demand celibacy from its clergy or should it take a reality check and let them serve as normal human beings with normal desires and not neuters?
British newspaper The Guardian in 2013 ran a story quoting that country’s most senior Catholic openly saying that the next pope (current incumbent) could review the celibacy vow for priests in an interview with the BBC. He said that there was no biblical injunction making such a demand:
“For example the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry — Jesus didn’t say that,” O’Brien said.
“There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the church — in some branches of the Catholic church — priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again.
“In my time there was no choice and you didn’t really consider it too much, it was part of being a priest. When I was a young boy, the priest didn’t get married and that was it.
“I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.
“It is a free world and I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own.”
In January three priests from Iloilo in the Phillipines who are married fathers wrote a petition asking Pope Francis to consider optional celibacy.
While they serve as priests, they say their children have been ostracised from society.
Last year, a German priest Stefan Hartmann sent a personal petition to Pope Francis last April 2014 to waive his vow of celibacy.
Hartmann came out to confess that he had secretly fathered a daughter. He said procreation was a human right.
Meanwhile the Roman Catholic Church has already quietly opened its doors to married priests by admitting married Anglican priests.
These are conservative minded priests who have broken with the Church of England over its reforms like the decision to ordain female priests.
Pope Francis who is seen a reformer has not yet made his pronouncements on the issue.