Liberian Catholic Church Mute On New Explosive Book Sex Abuse
MONROVIA – The Catholic Church has refused to respond to the release of a new explosive book detailing top level religious sex abuse in the Liberian Church. Decades of allegations of homosexual assaults on junior priest by superiors, the sexual abuse of minors and gross misuse of power that hung over the church are fully explained in the book titled ‘Vigilant Catholic’.
Report by Tecee Boley, New Narratives Justice Correspondent
For two weeks Frontpage Africa has tried to contact the President of the Catholic Bishop Conference of Liberia, Bishop Anthony Borwah. He replied to the first email but failed to reply to a follow-up or answered his phone afterward. Bishop Borwah wrote,
I am traveling at the moment and will be back in Liberia in three weeks.
By next Friday, August 23rd, you will get the Church’s position from me or a representative of the Church.
Bishop Tony Borwah”
The Secretary of the Catholic Bishop Conference Father Dennis Nimene also failed to respond after a visit to his office did not yield fruit. When contacted by phone, Father Nimene responded, “How can I respond to allegations in a book that I have not read?”
A link to the free online copy www.teachpeacefoundation.org was sent to him after he requested it. But after two weeks, he is yet to answer to the charges leveled against the church.
According to the Author David J. Dionisi who is a practicing Catholic, copies of the book have been seen by the Church’s hierarchy. In his book, Dionisi conveys hard facts to help stamp out what he refers to as “corruption, by a carefully documented trail of evidence”.
The refusal of the church to respond is a replay of the way the Liberian church handled the scandal in the past three months. The Church declined to take an official opposition since May 10 of this year when this paper first reported accusations from a popular priest, Gabriel Sawyer that he was persecuted and suppressed for refusing to have sex with Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia and Bishop Andrew Karnley of Cape Palmas.
The allegation form that leading priest took the church and its members by storm. There were arguments and counter-arguments for and against the two bishops and the priest at entertainment centers, restaurants and on social media platforms.
“The fact that people speaking the truth are paying a price is not the only issue. The fact that many people can be influenced to choose silence or lie is not the primary issue. The primary issue is the more time we give criminals to persecute and intimidate witnesses, the more the truth will be suppressed. I believe the sex abusing leaders in Liberia’s Catholic Church fear we are at or soon approaching a tipping point.”– David J. Dionisi, Author, Vigilant Catholic
More of its 166,000 members were threatened by some priests not to speak out against the top-level church officials who were being accused. “The fact that people speaking the truth are paying a price is not the only issue. The fact that many people can be influenced to choose silence or lie is not the primary issue. The primary issue is the more time we give criminals to persecute and intimidate witnesses, the more the truth will be suppressed. I believe the sex abusing leaders in Liberia’s Catholic Church fear we are at or soon approaching a tipping point,” stressed Dionisi.
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However, some of them representing the three dioceses of the church called for investigation of all those involved with the allegation. But the church also refused to say whether or not it would consider investigating the allegations. Up to today, it is not known if the local church will look into the matter.
Meanwhile, our sources say, there is an investigation ongoing at the level of the Vatican. Alleged pressure from that investigation caused the Archbishop Zeigler to again deny the allegations during this year’s feast day of the Knights of St John International. He for the first time since the story broke, denied ever soliciting sex from Father Gabriel Sawyer. Eye witnesses say, he broke down in eyes as he talked about what the allegations caused him.
Around that same time he received a letter from the Vatican. Following that, he felt sick and was admitted in room 1 at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Congo Town. The content of the letter is unknown as the Archbishop has given straight instructions that the letter remains sailed as he has it now and be buried with him.
Reports reaching this paper say the Bishop of Cape Palmas has stayed at the place of his dominion for three months now since the story was first reported, neglecting his usual travels to the United States instead visiting local outstations. Catholics who prefer not to be named for fear of retribution say he is trying to reach out to other priests who he persecuted over the years in an effort to stop them from going public. Something observers say it is strange.
This allegation has tempered with the morale of the Catholic Church in Liberia. Its system is respected across the country for it has contributed immensely to the education of many prominent Liberians. Moreover, it was seen as the beacon of hope during the dark days of the country’s history for its Archbishop Michael Francis was revered as the conscience of the nation. He spoke against ills in the society no matter who was involved.
This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project. Funding was provided by Australian Aid. The funder had no say in the story’s content.