It seems there is light at the end of the tunnel for the embattled Catholic Diocese of Gaborone as the investigations into the circumstances that led to the resignation of Bishop emeritus Valentine Seane as the Apostolic Administrator are complete, this publication has learnt. Highly placed sources at the Southern African Catholic Bishop Conference (SACBC) – an episcopal conference consisting of all the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland – have revealed that the bishops from the three countries will meet next week Tuesday in Pretoria to ponder on the investigation report. Bishop Frank Nabuasah, who was appointed Apostolic Administrator after the resignation of Bishop Valentine Seane, is expected to present to the Southern African bishops his findings and recommendations from him, Seane, Bishop Emeritus Boniface Setlalekgosi, the clergy, religious and the laity. At the top of the agenda will be to discuss the suitable candidate for the diocese and the conference is said to be divided between recommending the appointment of a new bishop and assigning Bishop Nabuasah to the troubled diocese. “Nabuasah is more experienced and had dealt with some of the issues bedevilling the dioceses while still bishop of the then Vicariate of Francistown and is only left with 5 years before he retires giving the church ample time to groom a successor,” revealed a source. Should the Vatican reject the appointment of Bishop Nabuasah as the bishop of Gaborone, SACBC is said to be pinning their hopes on Father Robert Mphiwe, Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Pretoria. According to the SABCBC source, Father Mphiwe is a disciplinarian and will be given strict instructions to restore order in the church in Gaborone.
High level of indiscipline among the clergy
A burning issue, which is troubling the SACBC bishops, is the high level of indiscipline among the local clergy with most of them living extravagant lifestyle. “It has come to a situation that prevents them from fruitfully carrying out their duties,” reads a snippet from the report. The exorbitant indulgences by the local clergy were worsened by Bishop Seane’s failure to instil discipline on his priests as he allegedly splashed them with top of the range cars. Another issue that has not settled well with the Vatican is that most of the priests were assigned parishes while they were still new in the ministry. “The issue was once raised with Bishop Seane because is best if they are made in charge of a parish at least when they are three years in priesthood. The inexperience and excitement of finding themselves holding power resulted with indiscipline,” he revealed. As a way of restoring order among the clergy, the report recommends that some of the ring leaders who immensely contributed to the resignation of Bishop Seane be sent on sabbatical leave. The bishops are also expected to recommend that each parish must have one car rather than having each priest with his own car. They won’t be allowed to drive cars of the clergy as this brings division among the laity, reveal the source.
Appoint Local clergy to key positions
Empowerment of local clergy is one area that the Southern African bishops will discuss extensively as they have complained to Bishop Nabuasah that they have been sidelined in the running of the church. Some argued that this has resulted in some of them finding refugee among the laity who managed to capture them, thus disobeying Bishop Seane. After his appointment as the bishop of Gaborone, Seane is said to have sent most of the priests for further studies but to their dismay after they completed their studies their expertise was not used resulting with them relegated to being parish priests.
When Seane took over most of the church investment, especially the managing of the church commercial wing was in the hands of the laity. The awkward arrangement compelled him to try and change the status quo which put the church in collision with some investors. This, according to the source, led to the resentment from some of the business community within the church who planned his downfall. Some of the business community aligned themselves with Diocesan priests and Sisters of Calvary who had already felt that Seane has side-lined them. The source gave an example of the multimillion Marian grotto at Diocesan Minor Seminary which was built by benefactors without the approval of the bishop. “It was commissioned by a junior priest instead of Bishop Seane or in his absence the Vicar General as it is the tradition within the Roman curia,” revealed the authoritative source. This was viewed as the highest form of disobedience to the bishop and proved a wide division within the church. The bishops are expected to recommend for the deployment of priests with expertise in business to come and help the diocese in managing their resources. “The church books are in a mess and I believe the SACBC will recommend to Vatican the deployment of the expertise to sort them out and manage them for a while,” revealed the source. With a net value of over P5 billion, Diocese of Gaborone owns Forest Hill KO9 farm which stretches up to Tsolamosese. The area houses Game City, Kgale Spar and Pick n’ Pay shopping complexes, Gaborone International Commerce Park, Kgale Mews and Finance Park. In partnership with Wharic construction, the church is currently expanding Gaborone International Commerce Park.
Nuncio expected to visit
The Apostolic Nuncio (equivalent of ambassador) for Botswana Archbishop Peter Bryan Wells accompanied by SACBC leadership is expected to visit Botswana and meet government officials regarding the situation of the church in Gaborone. The church is a good partner with the government especially in the education and health sectors.