Paedophile priest and the Catholics’ 17-year cover-up in October, William Segodisho went public with the story of how he had been raped and sexually abused in the 1980s by Father William MacCurtain, a Jesuit priest then based at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Doornfontein, Johannesburg.
Segodisho said he decided to speak out because the church had blocked his attempts over the past 17 years to get the priest reported to the police and have him extradited to South Africa from the UK to stand trial for his crimes.
Segodisho’s renewed fight for justice was inspired by reports on the “Sidney Frankel Eight” case – first revealed in Noseweek (nose180). The case of the victims of paedophile stockbroker Sidney Frankel – who are by now all middle-aged – was taken on by Sandton attorney Ian Levitt, a longtime Noseweek subscriber. Levitt shepherded their case all the way to the Constitutional Court.
In June this year the court ruled that the law which imposed a 20-year limit on prosecution for sexual assault was unconstitutional. The court also changed the definition of rape to include men as possible rape victims.
|Rape victim William Segodisho|
Earlier this year Levitt agreed to take on Segodisho’s case as well.
Segodisho tells his story in an affi.davit filed at the Hillbrow police station in February this year.
A primary school classmate of Julius Malema, Segodisho fled as a 13-year.old from Limpopo to Johannesburg in 1986 after he was involved in violent protests against apartheid-era police. The abuse‚ which is said to have happened between 1986 and 1989‚ occurred after the priest befriended Segodisho while he was living at a street shelter for children in Hillbrow‚ Johannesburg.
“Streetwise enrolled me in an informal school and a shelter. Through Streetwise I met a priest by the name of William MacCurtain, known to me as Father Bill. I could see I had made an impression on him. I thought this was due to my academic promise.
“Father Bill convinced me to go stay with him at the Christ King Cathedral at 186 Nugget Street, Doornfontein in a dormitory for priests. I shared a room with Father Bill.
“Shortly after I moved into his room, Father Bill started to molest me sexu.ally by fondling my private parts, kissing me on the mouth and putting his penis between my thighs. Father Bill made it clear to me that if I did not co-operate with him in this regard he would stop taking care of me.”
In 1986 Segodisho went to boarding school. “Father Bill made me an altar boy so that I could spend my weekends with him. He would often give me whiskey before molesting me.
“During 1986 he took me to a place called Big Fisherman in KwaZulu-Natal. This was the first time I was penetrated in my anus. I don’t remember much of that night. I woke up and something was not right. It was so painful.
“I said: ‘Father Bill I know what you did to me last night’.
“He said: ‘It’ll never happen again, I don’t know what got into me’ and he apologised.
It didn’t stop.
|Paedophile priest Father William MacCurtain|
“One weekend after mass I approached the only black priest in church. I didn’t trust the other white priests, I thought they were all like Father Bill.
“The black priest was Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa [Mkhatshwa was a prominent cleric in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. Later he became an MP, a deputy Minister of Education and Mayor of the Tshwane. He has been awarded The Order of Luthuli in Silver. He currently heads the Moral Rejuvenation Movement.]
“I said to Father Smangaliso: ‘There’s something I want to tell you about Father Bill’. I got him as he was coming out of the reception. ‘I want you to please help me’, I said.
“The father looked at me and said: ‘I think I know what you’re going to tell me and I would rather not be involved. Go to the Superior and tell him’.
“I suspect the other priests also knew.
“I didn’t know, but Father Bill had seen me talking to Father Smangaliso. ‘What did you say to Father Smangaliso?’, he asked me. I lied and told him that Father Smangaliso ‘knows everything’. ‘But how could you? After all I have done for you?’
“I was happy because after that he kept his distance. Less than six months later he came and said he is leaving for England and he is never coming back. Which he did.”
Commented Rees Mann‚ executive director of South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse: “Instead of helping Segodisho‚ when he first reported the priest to the South African Catholic church authorities‚ the church’s officials simply transferred him back to the UK.
“Who knows what he did when he returned to the UK.”
In a statement, Father Thabo Motshegwa‚ chairperson of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg’s Professional Conduct Committee‚ said the church took all cases of child abuse seriously. “The first we heard about this case was in February. It was never formally [and informally?] reported to the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg or any of its professional conduct committees.
“The Catholic Church‚ is serious in addressing this issue and has special dedicated local and national professional conduct committees which investigate every reported case.”
He said the committees liaised directly with the victims‚ police‚ schools and the National Prosecuting Authority on reported cases.
“According to South African law‚ criminal charges have to be laid first and the legal process has to take its Rape victim William Segodisho (above) and paedophile priest Father William MacCurtain course before the Catholic Church can intervene.
“When the case was reported in 2001‚ the priest had already returned to the UK in 1990. He was informed of the allegations by the British Provincial and withdrawn from all active ministry. He has never ministered in public again.”
Motshegwa said an investigation was carried out by the British Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order) because he was a member and they had jurisdiction over him.
“A local lawyer met with Segodisho and his lawyers at the time in Johannesburg. The Diocesan authorities were verbally notified of the case. It was agreed that those responsible for him must deal with the case.”
So how did they deal with the case? Noseweek is now in a position to answer that question. On July 2, 2003 the Society of Jesus in South Africa, “a religious organisation practising as such under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church” agreed in a formal document to pay (“donate”) R25,000 to Segodisho in exchange for his “perpetual silence”.
Significantly – because it implies that such cases are not infrequent in the Catholic church – the document begins with a statement that “the Donor was involved in investigating a sexual abuse claim by the Recipient against one of the priests in the Roman Catholic Church in terms of the Protocol for Church Personnel in regard to the Sexual Abuse of Children.”
Later it records that: “The Donor has decided, despite the allegations by the Recipient not being confirmed, to assist the Recipient […] with an ex gratia payment with the aim of assisting the Recipient and his family with their financial needs.”
It goes on to make clear that “the ex-gratia payment is in no way an admission of liability arising from the allegations of the recipient”.
But it wasn’t all generosity. There was a quid-pro-quo required: “The donor requires that the ex-gratia payment be kept confidential in order to protect its interest and to prevent the public obtaining and exploiting such information to the detriment of both parties.”
Segodisho was required to undertake to “treat the Confidential Information as strictly confidential; not to disclose, whether for financial gain or otherwise, to any person any of the confidential information.”
The “Confidential Information” was defined as: “all information relating to the allegations made by the recipient, the information relating to the ex-gratia payment made by the Donor, and documentation related to the assessment and investigation of the allegations, including all correspondences exchanged between the parties.”
Father MacCurtain returned to the UK in 1990. Now 84 and frail, he has been living in a Jesuit nursing facility in England for the past eight years. On 10 October he said the following in a statement issued in response to questions put to him by BBC TV South: “I recognise that my behaviour towards Mr Segodisho in the 1980s violated the trust he had put in me as a Catholic priest. “I deeply regret the pain that I have caused him and would wish to apologise to him unreservedly. I realise, though, that such an apology cannot right the wrongs done to him at that time, or the suffering he has endured since.”
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