Time for reform in wake of sex abuse crimes

“There must be no illusions here because, even though the Church is holy in its foundation, since it is Christ himself who is the founder, it remains sinful through its members.
Hence, the need for a continual questioning and conversion: semper reformanda (ever reforming) as the old adage says.”
– Father Donald Zagoré, SMA, Ivory Coast

Editor’s Note: In this article, first published in La Croix International on February 22, 2019, Fr. Donald Zagoré, SMA, working in the Ivory Coast, argues that the Church needs ‘serious reform’ in the wake of the global Tsunami of sexual abuse crimes perpetrated at all levels within the institutional Church.

“Being the guardian of what is holiest,” Fr. Zagoré writes, “does not necessarily prevent people from misunderstanding and even abusing these things.” Consequently, he argues, “… the Church needs serious reform,” including the rethinking of its “ecclesial structure”.


Over the course of history, it has been forced on many occasions to bow its head by taking on itself the sins of its sons and daughters.

In light of the multitude of sex abuse crises that have emerged in recent decades, it is essential to question and rethink ecclesial structures with a view to restoring the Church to its true place in the history of the salvation of peoples.

In fact, even though no one can deny the decisive role that the Church has played and continues to play, it is more than ever necessary to take a critical look at its mode of operation in order to initiate a genuine process of self-criticism.

Founded on a primary concern for constant renewal, the aim of this self-criticism must be to enable the Church to always prophetically answer the questions and meet the challenges that it faces.

There must be no illusions here because, even though the Church is holy in its foundation, since it is Christ himself who is the founder, it remains sinful through its members.
Hence, the need for a continual questioning and conversion: semper reformanda (ever reforming) as the old adage says.

Challenging itself today, as it has already done several times over the course of history, is a purely and essentially religious process for the Church.

It presupposes that people recognize themselves before God as sinners. This way of thinking implies that sin is not just an occasional event but a permanent temptation for humanity.

In human affairs, while the worst is not necessarily certain to occur, it is nevertheless highly probable.

Being the guardian of what is holiest does not necessarily prevent people from misunderstanding and even abusing these things. Now, the Church needs serious reform.
Over the course of history, it has been forced on many occasions to bow its head by taking on itself the sins of its sons and daughters.

Nevertheless, through its spouse, Jesus Christ, it has always been and still remains a necessary note in the complete symphony of salvation.

As the Apostle said: “Where sin abounds, the grace of God superabounds.” (Romans 5: 20)

Father Donald Zagoré is priest of the Society of African Missions