“It is true, I do admit that I did fail in keeping God’s commandment with regard to adultery,” he said in the filmed interview. “Having failed in keeping the Seventh Commandment Thou shalt not commit adultery, I would like to apologise to you, I’d like to apologise that so many of you were praying for me, for the fact that so many of you standing with me in fact suffered so much.”
This is rather pathetic, after Ncube so strenuously denied the allegations at the time. He needs to apologise for not having coming clean after having been caught or trapped, whichever was the case. Misleading his well-wishers even after the scandal broke may have been even more of a “sin” than messing around with a consenting adult.
The article claims Ncube’s apology “was directed to the people of Zimbabwe, where the majority of Christians are Catholics.” This rather grand assertion seems absurd when one considers that the article and film are for a foreign audience. There are any number of more effective ways Ncube could have directed an apology “to the people of Zimbabwe,” such as through the pulpit or the local media. But the claim may have more to do with the self-importance of the Scottish newspaper in which the article is published, or the “secret film interviewers” than with Ncube himself.
And as for whether the majority of Zimbabweans who call themselves Christians are Catholics, is this true?
It was only in his final filmed interview that Ncube revealed he was going to Rome. He added: “I’m disturbed. I’m very traumatised by this situation. My mouth just dries up. I did fail my vows. The problem is how do you repent, how do you turn round, how do you regain your integrity?
You do not regain your integrity by continuing with denial of the veracity of the allegations against you for months, and then only owning up in a “secret interview” with a dodgy crew of foreign journalists! That is not facing up to your Zimbabwean flock and supporters.
Zimbabwe has lost in the immediate term what was one of the most courageous and best-known voices of opposition to Mugabe. In the longer term, the controversy will inevitably raise questions about the gap between how prelates in Rome believe the faithful in Africa should behave, and the reality on the ground.
It is no great secret among those who live in Africa that Roman Catholic priests on that continent often honour the vow of celibacy as much in the breach as in the practice. Some priests have children, while others listen to the quiet advice of their bishops to practice birth control. Roman Catholic nuns sometimes defy papal doctrine and freely distribute condoms to their flocks to help counter the HIV/Aids pandemic, which is cutting a swathe through Africa. Many Zimbabweans and other Africans are likely to see as disproportionate the Vatican smothering of a powerful focus of opposition to Mugabe on account of an all too human failing – one that the Zimbabwe regime was bound to spot and exploit.
The question for me is why Africans continue to so slavishly hold on to imported dogmas they clearly have large areas of disagreement with. If you agree to be a Catholic or whatever other flavour of religion, you either accept its rules or work to change them from within. If you can’t, why is it so important to still hold on to the self-identity of “Catholic” (or whatever) when doing so means living a lie or a contradiction? There is increasing discussion the world over about the Catholic injunction of priestly celibacy, but if one does not agree with it, one is not forced to be a Catholic priest!
I have long respected Ncube for his outspokenness against the depredations of Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe. The truth of Ncube’s message against Mugabe is not in any way lessened by Ncube’s philandering, even if his moral image is severely dented. As the article points out, Mugabe, who also tightly holds on to the self-identity of a Catholic, is not qualified to point moral fingers at anybody on the basis of sexual indiscretion!
But the idea that Ncube is so chastened and faithful to a Catholicism that we now clearly know he does not strictly adhere to that he would accept to be “silenced” by The Vatican to me is alienating. Why not consider the period of having been a Catholic priest as just a phase of his life, quit and move on to doing something else, including continuing to speak out against Mugabe and fostering healing in the post-Mugabe era. He could do all this just as effectively once freed from the clutches of the Church of Rome, perhaps even much more so.
And he would be able to openly and honestly indulge his very natural sex drive, though hopefully not with married women! For me what was so much more of a pity was that he had to have furtive sex with married members of his flock, not the fact that he broke silly medieval church vows that long ago needed to be discarded. Quit the Catholic church, get a girlfriend and continue with your important work of speaking out against Mugabe’s political repression.
It is time for Africa to not feel beholden to swallowing whole philosophies, rituals and dogmas that are products of particular periods in Western history. The time when how “civilised” we were considered to be depended on how faithfully we copied and regurgitated what we have absorbed from Western culture should be behind us now. What Africa needs are people who can help us fashion a new, more functional and relevant-to-us synthesis of the new/imported and the old/indigenous.
Priests who are dressed up in elaborate garb, mouthing obscure European liturgies, observing quaint old European religious rituals and pretending to believe in strange, dysfunctional customs like priestly celibacy are simply an embarrassment to the new Africa we should be trying to build. Africa should now be at a level of self-confidence where it does not feel the need to force itself into these bizarre, outsider-imposed and now African self-imposed strait jackets.
The article based on the “secret” interview appeared in the Scottish Sunday Herald .