September 22, 2006 Edition 1
Johannesburg: Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in his first authorised biography, says he was ashamed of his Anglican Church’s conservative position that rejected gay priests.
In the book, Rabble-rouser for Peace by his former press secretary John Allen, Tutu also criticised FW de Klerk for not accepting accountability for apartheid atrocities. He said the failure caused him to regret having nominated De Klerk, along with Nelson Mandela, for their 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
Excerpts from the book are to be released today and the biography in time for Tutu’s 75th birthday on October 7.
Tutu was critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for bowing to conservative elements, particularly African bishops on the gay priest issue, in the 77-million member Anglican Church that includes Episcopalians in the United States.
In a 1998 letter to Williams’s predecessor, Archbishop George Carey, Tutu wrote he that was “ashamed to be Anglican”.
This came after the Lambeth Conference of Bishops rejected the ordination of practising homosexuals saying their sexual relations were “incompatible with scripture”.
Tutu also said he was deeply saddened at the furore caused by the appointment of openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
“He found it little short of outrageous that church leaders should be obsessed with issues of sexuality in the face of the challenges of Aids and global poverty,” wrote Allen.
As archbishop, Tutu criticised but could not change a policy in South Africa that said gay priests would be tolerated as long as they remained celibate. He did approve church blessings for gay and lesbian relationships, without calling them “marriage”.
He also pushed for the ordination of women, and when it was approved, quickly appointed Rev Wilma Jakobsen as his chaplain.
Tutu’s criticism of De Klerk stems from when Tutu was chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which offered perpetrators of apartheid crimes amnesty if they told the truth about their activities.
During the hearings, Tutu sometimes wept with the victims of human rights abuses.
Allen wrote that the process left Tutu disappointed with some political leaders, particularly de Klerk, who he believed had not accepted accountability for apartheid atrocities.
De Klerk was not directly implicated in state-sponsored violence, Allen wrote, but had been aware of “mayhem” as a result of activity by the security forces.
In an interview with the author, De Klerk acknowledged he failed to follow up suspicions security forces were committing human rights abuses.
“Where maybe I failed was not asking more questions, not going on a crusade about things … following up on slight uncomfortableness you feel here and there,” said de Klerk.
In response to a request for his reaction to the book, De Klerk said Allen had tried to be fair in reporting on the tensions between him and Tutu, recording the steps taken to address the violence and saying no evidence implicated the president in the violence.
“Significantly, he (Allen) confirms the shocking suspicion that the TRC had an agenda to incriminate me,” the former president said, noting the author wrote about the frustrations of failing to pin responsibility for the human rights abuses on De Klerk.
De Klerk said he regrets the antipathy that Tutu subsequently developed for him and that their relationship has mellowed with time.
But he said the TRC imposed the “struggle” version the truth on the other parties and seriously undermined prospects for reconciliation.
De Klerk’s admission was “not a new position”, his spokesman Dave Steward said yesterday.
Steward said De Klerk was of the opinion Allen had been “very fair” in the biography. “At the end of the day it is a fair book.”
The biography, published by Rider (Random House), will be available from September 28.