Two days ago, Pope Benedict XVI called for the acknowledgement of the sins of the clergy in a letter to priests.
His call comes at a time when a number of church leaders have been making headlines for the wrong reasons across the globe.
Apparently the Catholic Church’s topmost leader is concerned about the bad image some priests have brought onto the Catholic Church, probably the strongest world institution/organization.
The bad publicity rotates around issues of sodomy and paedophile by priests and bishops especially in the USA.
The church had to part with a lot of money to settle most of the cases brought against its priests. A few days ago a catholic missionary priest made news when allegations of sodomy were brought against him in Kenya.
In far off Paraguay Fernando Lugo a former catholic bishop and now President of the republic, faced a public humiliation when he was forced by a young woman to admit that he fathered her child, when he was still a serving bishop.
And then a few days later another woman emerged with similar allegations against him.
One would be tempted to think that the scandals are related to the celibacy vows that priests have to make. But apparently even high flying Pentecostal church leaders-the colourful pastors-have had their fair share of sodomy and molestation scandal allegations.
So what is the problem with the church leaders? The church is a centre of power and privilege for its leaders. They are trusted with money by their flock and also have the privilege of listening to people’s woes and daily tribulations.
This gives them what one can term as absolute power. And as they say absolute power corrupts absolutely.
At their disposal, they have institutions like schools and hospitals that provide social services. With such institutions at their disposal, they command loyalty from many.
What has further complicated matters is the notion of the gospel of prosperity. This is especially with the emergency of the Pentecostal movement.
There apparently exists no conventional criterion for one to become a pastor in this Pentecostal movement. One only needs that gift of the garb and trip to the states (USA)-the Mecca- of the Pentecostals.
Upon returning, he she will have acquired the necessary American accent, where God is pronounced as Gad and the rest falls in place- the flashy lifestyle and a string of hangers on.
The Anglican Church has also had its fare share of bad publicity with the controversy about the ordaining of an openly gay bishop.
The moral breakdown of the church has a direct impact on break down of social values. What is most likely to follow is the breakdown of the traditional family. Then you get single parent families where the father is permanently absent.
This is a phenomenon that has largely been prevalent in the African American community.
In all this, it is important to highlight that there are many good men and women in church leadership. But the few wrong elements bring a cloud of suspicion over the rest.
For the traditional churches, apart from the element of secrecy that seems to surround all their activities, there are hierarchies and codes of conduct that can be used to bring the wrong elements to order.
What is not clear is the mechanism the Pentecostals can use to bring order within their house, since each pastor seems to be independent with each claiming to have his/her own line of communication with Gad.
In Rwanda the Catholic Church has been faced with issues of clergy who had a role in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.
Apparently they have not had the moral courage to own up to that. As they confront this latest test to their priests, they ought to have the courage to face the reality of what happened and atonement ought to be the logical next step.
There have been reports that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. This is despite the fact that it has been at times been juxtaposed to international terrorism.
Apparently the strict enforcement of religious values by Muslim leaders has something to do with this.