Agenzia Fides REPORT - The Southern African Bishops lament the fact that the Church's voice is struggling to be heard in the general debate on issues such as sexual morality and the proper utilisation of wealth. In his report at the Plenary Session of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC, which brings together the Bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland), Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg and President of the SACBC, said: “It is relatively easy to appreciate the public role of the Catholic Church in the area of social services, health care and development projects.... What is missing in the public spaces of our societies is the voice of the Catholic Church (or the religious sector) that genuinely seeks to engage the public on moral-ethical issues which impinge on the society at large.”
Archbishop Tlhagale notes further: “Our three nations are developing democracies. They are politically stable, but fragile. To varying degrees, they are characterised by graft, violent crimes, corruption, the serious lack of service delivery and self enrichment by those in positions of responsibility. The South African jails are overflowing with prisoners. To the majority of the ordinary citizens, the promises of democracy and rule of law are not only dreams that have failed but in many a reminder of the painful experiences of the past.”
The President of the SACBC also denounces the “materialistic society” which “protects and promotes the rights of individuals to accumulate wealth.” Consequently, the “Christian principles of fairness, equality and justice have fallen by the wayside. Our societies have lost a basic tenet of morality: the upliftment of those who have a greater need. The rich flaunt their wealth. They have become incapable of postponing their own personal interests in favour of the upliftment of poor communities.”
“All this begs the question. What is the role and possibly the influence of Christian morality on our societies and nations? Is the church capable of persuading individuals to move away from a rights-based morality – 'It is my right to accumulate wealth.'? Is the Church able to persuade our fellow citizens that to be truly moral person it is equally important not to harm others and to avoid greed?” Archbishop Tlhagale asks in conclusion.