Abu­sive pas­tors should know: all will be dis­closed

Sunday Times - - Opinion -

To­day we re­port on a sick­en­ing scan­dal in­volv­ing a bishop who preys on his fe­male con­gre­gants, some of whom have ac­cused him of rape. Oth­ers say he got his per­sonal as­sis­tant to send him pho­to­graphs of their pri­vate parts. It is, un­for­tu­nately, only one ex­am­ple in an emerg­ing pic­ture of a bur­geon­ing in­dus­try of un­scrupu­lous pas­tors and churches that com­mit crimes un­der the pur­ported cover of God’s au­thor­ity. Far from com­fort­ing the weak, vul­ner­a­ble and af­flicted, th­ese wolves in sheep’s cloth­ing use their flock as easy vic­tims for their abu­sive pur­suits.

We note other no­to­ri­ous cases in re­cent times — self-pro­claimed prophet Lethebo Ra­bal­ago, who sprayed Doom in the faces of his fol­low­ers and was found guilty this week of as­sault; Dur­ban tel­e­van­ge­list Ti­mothy Omo­toso, who is await­ing trial for al­legedly traf­fick­ing women and girls from his church; Penuel Mn­guni, who gained no­to­ri­ety for feed­ing snakes to his con­gre­gants, and later used cock­roaches; self-styled prophet Le­sego Daniel, from Pre­to­ria, who in­structed mem­bers of his con­gre­ga­tion to drink petrol.

Th­ese pas­tors are in po­si­tions of im­mense au­thor­ity over their con­gre­gants, be­ing party, they claim, to God’s will. It is to them that peo­ple turn when they are in need of spir­i­tual guid­ance or are at their most vul­ner­a­ble. For their fol­low­ers, to rebel against their au­thor­ity would seem cer­tain to carry the added risk of re­belling against the au­thor­ity of God. And to speak out against a man of God is to risk be­ing cast out from the fel­low­ship and com­mu­nity that a church can of­fer.

But speak­ing out de­prives an abuser of one of his most ef­fec­tive weapons — bul­ly­ing his vic­tims into si­lence. For this rea­son, we ap­plaud the courage of the PA who con­fessed that she as­sisted Bishop TJ Pitso in his abu­sive prac­tices. What has been a pri­vate hell of iso­la­tion for each of the women in­volved is now re­vealed as a pat­tern of abuse for which Pitso will have to ac­count. It may help pre­vent other women falling vic­tim to him.

For those pas­tors who be­lieve they are not bound by earthly laws, we urge them to con­sult the Good Book, which says in Luke: “For there is noth­ing hid­den that will not be dis­closed, and noth­ing con­cealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

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