Archbishop: Murderers should not get Catholic services

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Murderers should not be buried from Catholic churches, and recipients of stolen property should be banned from receiving Communion, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg said at the funeral of a murdered priest.

“We have every reason to be outraged,” Archbishop Tlhagale said at the Oct. 11 Johannesburg funeral of Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Allard Mako, 42, who died in Nelspruit after being shot by carjackers.

After AIDS, violent crime “is the biggest and most sinister threat to the well-being and security of South Africa,” said Archbishop Tlhagale, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He said many people “live in fear for their lives, many have been stripped of their freedom and dignity, many have been killed in cold blood, fallen prey to these heartless, senseless, cold criminals – who kill with impunity.”

Father Mako, an associate novice master who was ordained in 2003, was driving home to the Oblate house in Nelspruit late Oct. 5 when he was shot. He was found at the side of a road and taken to hospital, where he died the next day after surgery.

Father Mako “has been cruelly and needlessly sacrificed at the sinister altar of crime,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.

South African Police Service statistics show 19,000 murders and almost 13,000 carjackings in the country from March 2006 to March 2007. South Africa has a population of about 48 million.

“It is a futile, meaningless and hopeless cop-out to blame crime on poverty, or even to consider crime as a long-term result of the apartheid policies,” Archbishop Tlhagale said, noting that, “Criminals are homegrown.

“They come from our own communities,” he added. “The stolen guns that kill randomly are at times hidden away by members of the family. That gun, they say, brings bread home. It keeps hunger and starvation at bay.

“People who knowingly and consciously receive stolen property or assist the criminals in their sordid trade are members of our church community” and “ought to be banned from receiving Communion,” he said.

“Money from the sale of drugs and stolen property or from bank robberies should not be accepted in the church as part of a tithe or Sunday collection,” he said, noting that the “injunction of the Gospel on this matter is clear.”

In an effort to redress injustices from apartheid, South Africa’s former system of strict racial segregation, the current justice system “has simply softened its policies and laws to a point where criminals feel that they can commit murder and get away with it or that if they are caught, they will simply get a slap on the wrist,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.

“We all have a moral responsibility” to end crime, which has “weakened and undermined” South Africa’s moral fiber, he said.

“It is morally reprehensible to stand by and watch helplessly, as if in a state of paralysis,” he said, urging people to “protest in the strongest terms against the weakness of government in curbing crime.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.