Archbishop Pius Ncube

The Herald (July 17 and for days afterwards) gives extensive coverage to an alleged affair between Archbishop Pius Ncube and Mrs Rosemary Sibanda. The report brings a sense of shock and sadness to Zimbabweans and particularly to Catholics. For any public figure to be seen to break the trust of the p

eople who look up to him or her is bad enough. But for a religious leader, whose very role is to foster the intimate bond between God and his people, it is doubly painful. The Catholic Church has developed a practice of celibacy for her clergy and members of religious communities over the centuries. It is a practice she has stuck to despite its rejection by the Reformed Churches and those that came after them. The practice is directly related to the service of God and his people.
Anyone who tries to live this life will tell you it is a struggle. Just because you embrace a life of celibacy does not mean that you become any different from other people of flesh and blood. You still feel all the yearnings of being human. Yet if God calls you to this way of life you believe that he does it for a purpose and will give what it takes to live it.
And if, on top of such a struggle, a person walks a lonely road of speaking out against injustice, when most people keep quite, the burden and the struggle can become too much to bear. The article on the middle page of The Herald carries a vehement attack on the archbishop, not because of his alleged affair of which the writer seems unaware, but because of his struggle for justice. He has taken a big risk to speak out the way he has and his message has been heard. We know that because, far from being ignored, he has been roundly condemned on several occasions in the media for his stand.
If the allegation is true it will do great damage to him and to the church and indeed to the country. Yet the media seems to relish his humiliation. Shakespeare says somewhere ‘you rub the sore where you should bring the plaster.’ If these sad events are true it is a time for compassion, prayer and rebuilding. It is not a time for gloating and ‘I told you so.’ If a great man stumbles he does not cease to be a great man. Perhaps he has paid a heavy price for the very things that made him so admired. Perhaps the personal cost was just too much.
Whatever is the truth about this matter one thing is for certain: Archbishop Pius Ncube is now entering a period of much suffering. He deserves all the support and understanding we can give him. When Paul was boasting about all that he had endured in his mission he went on to say that ‘to stop me getting too proud I was given a thorn in the flesh. … I pleaded with the Lord … and he said “my grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness”‘ (2 Cor. 12:7). Experiencing weakness can be a step towards deep conversion – both for individuals and for the church and indeed for the country.

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