By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The Union of the Catholic Press (UCAP) also known as the Union Catholique Africaine de la Press in French that was held in Cape Town in South Africa has challenged Catholic journalists to take up proactive steps in reporting child abuses in an effort to protect the Church’s reputation.
Addressing Catholic journalists at Schoenstatt Conference Center situated close to the Table Mountain, Archbishop Stephen Brislin challenged the church journalists to support the church’s effort in exposing cases of child abuse and other abuses as a witness to their discipleship.
Archbishop Brislin, who is also the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said Catholic journalists should break the silence on abuse cases affecting the Church.
“I believe it is of utmost importance that Catholic journalists “break the silence” regarding abuses in society or in the Church. These abuses especially those against children, are tearing the body of Christ to pieces-they are counter-evangelical, turning people away from the Church and away from Christ, rather than leading them into a relationship with He who came to save us. Rather than sowing the seeds of the Kingdom of God- the kingdom of truth, justice, peace, righteousness, love- the seeds of hurt, anger and despair are scattered among Christ’s little ones,” said Archbishop Brislin.
The Archbishop said Catholic journalists cannot ignore the scandals of the abuse cases and the tragedy of human suffering that these have caused to the victims/survivors and “you are unable to turn a blind eye to evil nor for that matter to other abuses such as financial abuse or mismanagement.”
He challenged Church journalists not to be “prophets of doom” but to be true and prophetic in helping people recognise Christ who is active in the world.
“As people of faith, you are not called to be “prophets of doom” but also to recognize Christ active in the world, the many good things that are being achieved by God’s servants in the Church. You are also called to recognize and promote the seeds of the Kingdom of God, present in the world even in the darkest of times. You are not only called to bring hope and to counteract discontent and resignation which generates apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits, but you are obligated to do so. You must not fall into the trap of believing that your mission is bad news or the fear that “good news does not sell,” Archbishop Brislin stated.
Archbishop Brislin detailed that Catholic journalists should not allow the conspiracy of covering up bad things in the church but should actually help the Church leadership to identify and deal with issues. He said journalists did not only encounter a conspiracy of silence within the Church, but a conspiracy of silence from other journalists, law enforcement, lawyers, civil officials, chancery staff and so on.
He stated: “The whole issue of the sexual abuse of children is uncomfortable to deal with and the tendency has been to try and push it out of sight, hoping it will simply go away. Catholic journalists, on occasion, may feel under pressure to “cover up” such incidents, leaving it to mainstream media to report on what has happened and themselves ignore the issue by and large. Pope Benedict connects the two concepts of “truth” and “reconciliation”, saying the church needs to be present in the media also for educating the African peoples to reconciliation in truth.”
Archbishop Brislin pointed out that local Churches should rise above the belief that abuse cases were “western problems” as the issue affected the entire body of Christ.
“We should not think that these are “western problems” and that they are not relevant to Africa. What has been exposed in other places will indeed reach Africa,” he reminded journalists present attending a conference running from 9-13 September 2018.
Other issues dealt with at the workshop include making the Church more relevant to the youth in the Church in Africa, promotion of peace truth and reconciliation in Africa in a digital age and promoting the social teaching of the church through media in Africa. The Conference was attended by delegates from the Vatican, CAMECO, SIGNIS Africa, and catholic Media in France as well as representatives of Catholic media bodies across the African continent.