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Sex, lies and the Internet: priests and pornography caught on the Web

Saturday June 20 2009

By GITAU WARIGI, [email protected]

Perverts have had a bad time this past week, which is just as well. They are a creeping menace. I am told they are considered the lowest of the low by even hardcore convicts. They are terribly humiliated by fellow inmates when they are sent to Kamiti or Shimo la Tewa prisons.

One of them was arrested recently when he foolishly presented himself at a Nairobi studio to collect photographs from a film he had sent to be developed. It contained pictures of naked women and – hello – children. I am on the prudish side, but I know very well that there is a thriving underground market for such pornographic enterprise in this country and beyond; it is something akin to the market for hard drugs.

No question about it: the Internet has been a revolutionary purveyor of every bit of information one can think of. This also means it can be used to transmit every kind of smut imaginable.

The pornographers post such photos on the Internet, and fellow perverts download them and get their kicks. For now, the Internet pornography business is hampered in this county because of limited credit card availability, which is the main way through which a purveyor makes money.

Actually, most of the pornography you find in Kenya is on DVDs, which have become a roaring underground business in Nairobi. That is where the lewd money is.

In Europe and America, enforcement of anti-Internet child pornography legislation is growing. If found guilty, the suspects face long prison sentences. But perverts are like drug peddlers.


They now prefer communicating through little countries like Kenya with loosely regulated Internet traffic. What the Kenya police who were tipped off about the guy at the photo studio need to do-if they can--is investigate what kind of messages – and pictures – he has been sending and to whom. This is assuming he has been was operating online.

The august institution called the Catholic Church has been caught up in this messy mix. The allegations affect a missionary and former columnist for this newspaper, Fr Renato Kizito. Simultaneously, the controversy over priests who have chosen to break with the church because of mandatory celibacy rules has been getting wide play.

As far as I know, a Catholic priest takes certain vows, one of which is celibacy. Nobody drags him into it. If along the way he loses the vision, it is quite hilarious to blame the church.

It didn’t force him to it. Every organisation has its rules. And when you find you like sex more than grubby parish work, say so without lambasting the organisation.

Between you and me, I know one or two ex-priests who failed to abide by their celibacy vows -- as well as others. Yet they never cared to start a rival church. Neither they nor I ever imagined they represent the Catholic Church as the institutional force it is. More to the point, they never dare to fight it.

Whenever you ask why they left the seminary, you are vaguely told about “certain problems”. These are never made specific, but anybody who went to a proper boarding school and knew so-and-so’s bearing would have a fairly good idea of what this is about.

The argument that being unmarried is “abnormal” is a bit silly. The church makes allowances, and they are called “dispensation”. That is how George Muhoho, the chief executive of the Kenya Airports Authority, left the priesthood and married and entered ordinary life; there are many like him.

A loaded barb, which I happened to hear elsewhere, is that would-be celibate priests who turn lustful have a different problem aside that with the Catholic Church. I agreed with that. If, the argument goes, they had been secretly living non-celibate lives while being priests, what’s the guarantee they will not cheat on their new wives?

That brings me to Fr Kizito. The authorities of the church have stated that te accusations against him remain allegations. The matter, as far as I know, is now in the hands of the police.

Numerous cases of priestly molestation of minors have been established from the United States to Ireland to Australia. It would be unrealistic to cite Kenya as an exception.

Judgement on Fr Kizito will be rendered if the courts determine he has a case to answer. But it will not, by any measure, be a judgement on the Catholic Church.

Throughout its long history, the Catholic Church has had its villains. But now and again it offers up real gems, like Mother Teresa.