A racist at the pulpit?

Kabelo Dipholo
HOLY MAN: Father Matthews

Roman Catholic Priest accused of racism

A Roman Catholic Priest in Selebi Phikwe is at the center of racism allegations that are threatening to tear the church apart.

Concerned members of Tlhatlogong Catholic Mission have accused Polish native, Father Matthews of racist behavior towards his black flock since arriving in the country three years ago.

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In an interview with The Voice, a whistle blower, who preferred anonymity, said the European holy man despises black congregants, who make up the large majority in church.

“He says that black people stink!” the source claimed.

“This matter was escalated to the church leadership. They are aware that he once called Father Alfred, an Indonesian man, ‘a baboon’. That is one of the reasons he left,” continued the source.

He further claimed that when Father Matthews arrived he demanded that all the furniture previously used by Father Alfred be thoroughly cleaned because ‘he could not stand the smell’.

“A house helper who’s been with the church for many years was told to pack and go. He cooks for himself and doesn’t want black people anywhere near him. The congregation is dispersing because they are not allowed anywhere near the priest’s house,” he said.

“As I speak the Committee Chairperson has resigned. In fact the entire committee has stepped down save for the Treasurer,” he continued, a claim The Voice later verified.

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The paper reached out to the Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Francistown, which oversees Phikwe, Father Gabriel.

In a brief interview in the presence of Gabriel’s clergymen, Father Onkabetse, Father Sylvester, Father Mosalagae and Dean Mokgothu, the church leadership acknowledged that all was not well in Selebi Phikwe.

“There’s a challenge at Phikwe church, but we’re yet to identify the source of the conflict,” said Father Gabriel.

The softly-spoken Gabriel confirmed they are still investigating and are in the process of resolving the matter internally.

“The church has an internal process that will deal with this matter. Our church is universal and there’s no room for racism,” he said.

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Father Sylvester told The Voice that they met with the Pastoral Council Executive Committee to follow-up on the racism allegations.

“We didn’t find anything to substantiate the racism allegation. In fact what we picked is that there’s a conflict which Father Matthews found already existing when he arrived in 2017,” he said.

“I just think his leadership style might have rubbed some people the wrong way,” said Father Sylvester, a sentiment shared by Father Mosalagae.

The five clergymen painted a sorry state of affairs at the former mine town church branch.

“Father Matthews found this mess there. He had to deal with a lot, found the church in debt with water bills reaching P30, 000. The church is in debt,” said Father Sylvester.

The Dean, Father Mokgothu added that embattled Father Matthews had alerted them to the situation in Selebi Phikwe.

“We met as the leadership but before we could resolve this issue The Voice called,” he said.

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Efforts to get a comment from Father Matthews proved unsuccessful as only the Administrator, Father Gabriel, is at liberty to talk to the media.

The Roman Catholic Church is not new to scandals.

In 2017 Bishop Valentine Seane, of Christ the King Cathedral in Gaborone, had to resign following accusations of sexual misconduct by the Sisters of Calvary.

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The Catholic Church has been rocked by sex scandals over the years.

In one of the well-publicised cases at least 60 children were abused by Marcial Maciel, founder of the ultra-conservative Catholic order Legion of Christ in Mexico.

In 2006, Maciel was ordered to retire to a life of penitence after years of allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

He died two years later at the age of 87 without facing his accusers.

A report published by the Roman Catholic group, stated at the time that 33 priests in the order abused at least 175 minors since it was founded in 1941.