Catholic priest, 84, apologises after three decades to man who shared sexual abuse story

2018-10-12 07:24
The inside of a South African Catholic Church is photographed. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

The inside of a South African Catholic Church is photographed. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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An 84-year-old Catholic priest broke his silence after three decades to apologise to Limpopo-born William Segodisho, who recently shared his story about the sexual abuse he suffered while in his teens.

Segodisho, 46, told the media at a briefing on Wednesday how father Adam O'Connor* sexually groomed him from 1985 to 1989.

The two had met at a children's shelter in Hillbrow.

News24 reported that Segodisho had allegedly been sexually groomed, molested and raped.

READ: 46-year-old man describes how a Catholic priest groomed, then molested and raped him when he was a teen

O'Connor, who is apparently suffering from chronic medical conditions while in a UK nursing home, issued an apology later the same day.

"I recognise that my behaviour towards Mr Segudisho (sic) in the 1980s violated the trust he had put in me as a Catholic priest. I deeply regret the pain that I have caused Mr Segodisho, and would wish to apologise to him unreservedly," he said in a statement.

"I realise, though, that such an apology cannot right the wrongs done to him at that time, or the suffering that he has endured since."

Better late than never

The apology was forwarded to Women and Men against Child Abuse (WMACA), who organised the media briefing for Segodisho with South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse in Johannesburg.

News24 has seen email correspondence between WMACA and Father Paul Nicholson of the Jesuit Order in London, in which he confirms the apology comes from O'Connor and was issued without a letterhead because it is a personal statement.

Reacting to the apology as unexpected but better late than never, Segodisho said in an emotional statement: "For 27 long years I have yearned and begged and cried for just these; the three words... 'I am sorry'. It has been a painful and a traumatic struggle that has poisoned the peace every human soul needs to thrive."

He added: "The deliberate absence of the acknowledgement of my pain and this apology, has damaged me beyond recovery. I shall take it to my grave. Having said that, I am relieved that my struggle was not in vain. I welcome that finally, my truth has been acknowledged and it is now officially affirmed that I am not the [liar] I was made out to be for almost three decades. His apology, late as it comes, gives me the peace my soul has been crying out for all along."

WMACA director Miranda Jordan said she was extremely pleased that Segodisho had won his fight to be believed and acknowledged.

Rees Mann, director of South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (Samsosa), said the apology would not give Segodisho's childhood back and that he would have to live with the trauma for the rest of his life.

Mann insisted that local and UK authorities get O'Connor's records to investigate the possibility of more victims where he had served.

Both organisations said they would continue to put pressure on the church to acknowledge abuse committed under protection of the cloth.

Withdrawn from active ministry

In a letter dated October 8, 2018, the church's UK headquarters said it was aware of the case involving O'Connor and the allegations levelled against him.

The letter stated that O'Connor was informed of the allegations and was withdrawn from all active ministry.

"He has never ministered again. We have taken steps to ensure that there is no safeguarding risk to children," the letter read.

Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini has confirmed that Segodisho opened a case of sexual assault. "The case is still under investigation," he said. 

O'Connor said he could not comment on the question of possible extradition as it was a "legal one".

*Not his real name

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Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  johannesburg  |  religion  |  child abuse

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