Accused Catholic Priest Back in Ministry; SNAP Calls Out the Diocese
For immediate release: December 13, 2021
Fr. Wilbroad Mwape was preaching again at St. Anthony of Padua in Greenville, South Carolina, on December 11, 2021, just four months after he was placed on temporary leave following an accusation of sexual exploitation by one of his parishioners. A civil lawsuit was filed on August 4, 2021, and the complaint said that this priest abused his position of power beginning while he was at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Orangeburg, and continuing when he was relocated to Greenville.
SNAP is calling out the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, for putting this clergyman back into a position where he may again abuse those seeking help and trusting in their spiritual “leader.” It is incredulous to us that just six months after Pope Francis changed Catholic Church law to criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests, this accused cleric is back in the pulpit, apparently without any announcement or explanation from the Diocese.
The new Vatican law, which became effective on December 8, 2021, also removes much of the discretion that long allowed bishops and religious superiors to ignore or cover up abuse, making clear those in positions of authority will be held responsible if they fail to properly investigate or sanction perpetrators.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have criminal laws supporting the prosecution of clergy who engage in sexual misconduct with adults. Adult abuse is recognized as a heinous act of betrayal of trust. The psychological grooming, along with the deep trust we hold for our spiritual “leaders” make it difficult to see this type of abuse until the damage is done. There can be no true consent when a priest engages in sexual activity with his parishioners.
By putting Fr. Mwape back in a position of power at St. Anthony of Padua, the Diocese of Charleston is not only putting others at risk, but also re-traumatizing the survivor who filed the lawsuit, as well as any other victims who may not yet be able to speak out about their abuse. SNAP is supporting the brave survivor who has come forward, because we know that false allegations of sexual abuse are extremely rare. As victims struggle to heal from the trauma of the abuse, they are damaged again when their once trusted faith family tries to shame and silence them.
SNAP provides peer support to survivors of clergy sexual abuse, including those who were abused as adults. If you or anyone you know has been harmed by Fr. Mwape, we recommend that you go to law enforcement first to report your abuse.
CONTACTS: Mike McDonnell, Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) MJ Briggs-Austin, South Carolina SNAP Leader ([email protected], 803-537-1234)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)