During my recent return visit to South Africa, I came across the following,which appeared on the front page of the Catholic paper. I have paraphrased it to avoid infringing copyright.
Catholic experts have warned that witchcraft is real, and it is destroying the Church in Africa.Scholars from the Catholic University of East Africa, in Nairobi, have warned that the Church, in continuing to dismiss the dark arts as mere superstition, is helping to advance the reign of Satan.
Many Catholics who suffer because of witchcraft, because they are dismissed by their priests and pastoral agencies, are seeking the help of witchdoctors, or turning to the evangelical denominations who provide exorcism and deliverance. In addition, many African priests fear witchcraft or are ignorant of their own power to confront the devil.
Catholics also visit diviners and magicians to find practical solutions which their church is unable to offer.
Dr M Katola, a lecturer in pastoral theology, says Africans have the perception that the Church is failing them. While the Church criticises traditional experts,such as sangomas, it does not offer any alternative.So catholics got to the sangoma when they face a problem or want to start a new project. He maintains that Africans are not more superstitious than other people,but the Church has not come to terms with the African worldview which accepts the existence of evil powers. It disregards the fears of the people and the reality of witchcraft.
Thus it is that droves of Catholics are moving over to those movements which offer deliverance,healing and exorcism because priests are unaware that they have redemptive powers.
Doctor Katola maintains that the responsiblity of fighting witchcraft lies with the clergy who need to admit the reality of the phenomenon…“If we do not admit the reality of witchcraft,the reality of satanism,then we cannot deal with it.”
Sister Munini maintains that Catholics go to the sangoma because the Church has not paid attention to integral healing. The traditional healer is much valued in Africa, but has no equivalent in the Church.
Malawian academic Father Majawa believes that the influence of witchcraft has has lead to superficiality of faith and morals in Africa and needs a serious effort. He lists 14 types of witchcraft prevalent in Africa and says the Church’s denial of their existence only escalates the problem.
Two areas are contributing to the problem: ignorance among Catholics from hierarchy to ordinary parishioners;and lack of depth in the faith held by many.
The real question is; what can be done to tackle this problem?
if it is not tackled,if the ostrich mentality continues, the Church may be lost in Africa.