The Catholic church in Pakistan is embroiled in a controversy after a priest accused the archbishop of Lahore of ordering his suspension for allegedly refusing to surrender to the latter’s sexual advances.
Father Rashid Alfonse had in a video on August 4 called Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw a “homosexual bishop”, accusing the archbishop of making advances on him while providing graphic details of happenings during his pastoral work at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore.
“I denied. My faith and spirituality were shattered. We want to get rid of this leadership,” Alfonse had said in the viral video.
“The bishop threatened me. I lived under pressure but didn’t refuse my vocation. I am ashamed to admit that a homo bishop ordained me. He repeatedly pressurised me to sodomise him and threatened with transfer and losing a chance to become a parish priest.”
Father Alfonse further said that his life was in danger and urged government authorities, the apostolic nuncio, and the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference to ensure his safety.
“My purpose is to get rid of the heinous and dictatorial attitude by the religious leaders of Lahore archdiocese,” he added.
Kross Konnection tried to contact Father Alfonse for a comment but he was unavailable.
‘NO TRUTH TO SUSPENDED PRIEST’S ALLEGATION’
Rejecting the allegations on Aug 8, Father Asif Sardar, vicar general of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lahore, said there was no truth to the suspended priest’s claims and he “needed psychological care”.
“I strongly condemn the video [posted] by Father Rashid Alfonse against our archbishop on social media a week after the former’s suspension,” Father Sardar said in a video message.
He went on to claim that Father Alfonse was mentally unstable and had earlier also instigated a Catholic family “to kill the rector of the St Mary’s Minor Seminary” where he himself served as the vice rector.
“He [Father Alfonse] had even asked the family to plant some weapons and alcohol in the rector’s room and call the police to frame him in a criminal case,” the vicar general said, adding that his behaviour was what had led to his suspension.
“After suspending the priest, the bishop formed an investigation team that uncovered that Alfonse had even made a plan to kill three other priests of the Lahore archdiocese. We wanted to give him psychological treatment so that he doesn’t harm others… [but] he confessed to these things, sought an apology and returned home,” Father Sardar claimed.
CATHOLICS DIVIDED OVER SEX ALLEGATION
While the Church has rubbished Father Alfonse’s claims, Catholics seem to be divided over the allegations levelled against Archbishop Shaw.
Another user, Nawab Huma, on the other hand, said that homosexuality was quite common in the Catholic Church even in the west.
“Catholic priests suffer for not having enough sexual fulfillment. Medical science has made enough progress and the bishop should go for a medical examination,” Huma said, demanding an investigation into the matter.
SEX ABUSE SCANDALS & CATHOLIC CHURCH
In recent years, the Catholic Church has been shaken by a string of sex abuse scandals, especially those involving children, globally.
In 2019, Pope Francis defrocked a former American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, in a first for the Roman Catholic church. He had sexually assaulted a teenager half a century before.
A grand jury investigation into Pennsylvania dioceses in 2018 exposed the systematic cover-up by the Church of sexual abuse by “over 300 predator priests”. More than 1,000 child victims were cited.
Between 1950 and 2018, the US Catholic Church received credible complaints against 7,002 members of the clergy, according to the website bishop-accountability.org. Several senior Church members in the US have been forced to resign for protecting sex offender priests, including the late cardinal Bernard Law.
In 2019, a French court gave Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, a six-month suspended jail sentence for covering up for a priest, Bernard Preynat, accused of assaulting around 70 scouts between 1986 and 1991. The conviction was overturned on appeal a year later, but the pope accepted the cardinal’s resignation. Preynat was jailed for five years in 2020.
In March 2021, an independent inquiry found that at least 10,000 children had been victims of clerical abuse in France since 1950. The French Catholic Church said it would offer a “financial contribution” to the victims dating back to that time.
Several sexual abuse cases involving the Catholic Church have also been reported in Ireland, Australia and Germany among other countries over the past couple of years.