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Respected Liberian Catholic Bishop Andrew Jagaye Karnley Issued Statement

LAGOS, Nigeria – The bishop of the Catholic diocese of Cape Palmas, Bishop Andrew Jagaye Karnley, issued his first official statement this week regarding an allegation that investigators and many Liberians as well as people acquainted with the work and characters of both Bishop Karnley and Archbishop Lewis Ziegler of the Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia termed as a dubious and desperate attempt to smear the reputation of the Catholic Church of Liberia by some individuals. said to be using Father Gabriel Sawyer.

In recent months, a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Monrovia, Father Gabriel Sawyer, said he got married to protect himself from being sexually abused by the bishop of Cape Palmas and the archbishop of Monrovia.

Father Sawyer, according to sources, has since traveled to the United States in a bid to seek political asylum in the State of North Dakota for he and his newly wedded Liberian wife to live in the U.S. on the basis of those allegations.  

Father Sawyer’s accusations have been rebuffed by almost all of the Catholic priests in Liberia, many terming it as “false, malicious and baseless.”

However, Father Sawyer who is officially still a Catholic priest, although married, maintained that his allegations are true.  He wrote the Vatican regarding the issue and the Vatican has since launched an investigation into the matter which preliminary inquiry suggests has no indication of truth.

What many believe is doubtful about the married priest’s allegation is that he has not proven or said that he was abused by any of the Catholic leaders.  He only seems to argue that it was a possibility that he could have gotten abused as a young priest and that he had been ill-treated during his active priestly vocation by both leaders because of that.

Some members of the Catholic faith in Liberia and supporters of Father Sawyer want him to return to Liberia so that his allegation can be investigated by the Church and possibly by the Liberian authorities rather than applying for political asylum in the United States on an unproven claim at the detriment of the Church’s reputation.

Some say perhaps Father Sawyer came up with such narrative because of the wave of sex abuse cases in Europe and the United States, hoping that such allegation would grant he and his wife residency in the United States.

Father Sawyer and his wife

A STATEMENT BY MOST REV. ANDREW JAGAYE KARNLEY BISHOP OF CAPE PALMAS

I, Most Reverend Andrew Jagaye Karnley, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Cape Palmas, by this statement wish to respond to news stories published in the Frontpageafrica newspaper and other media outlets in which Fr. Gabriel M. M. K. Sawyer, an estranged priest of the Catholic

Church and particularly the Archdiocese of Monrovia, accused me of sexual harassment and abuse of power. Despite my denying and challenging the accusation when contacted by its reporter on Monday, May 5,2019, Frontpageafrica first published the accusation in its Friday, May 10, 2019 edition and in subsequent editions.

This statement is made now rather than earlier because of reason of travel out of Liberia to Burkina Faso for the Third Plenary Assembly of Catholic Bishops in West Africa. Having prayerfully reflected, I deem it expedient to make a statement now rather than remain silent to defend my reputation and the image of the Church.

It is without a shadow of doubt that I term the accusation as a blatant lie and malicious falsehood. There is absolutely no iota of truth in it. It is an invention of the mind of Fr. Sawyer and a calculated move by him to assassinate my character and tarnish the image of the Catholic Church in Liberia. At no time or in any place have I ever sexually harassed and abused him.

NEVER EVER! I categorically deny and challenge the accusation.

Let it be known that Fr. Sawyer’s life has never been under threat in the Catholic Church as he claims to be the reason for his arbitrary abandonment of his priestly life and discipline. This claim is a falsehood with an ulterior motive and should be called into question and investigated.

It is my daily prayer that God will expose and bring into the light of day this lie and falsehood against me. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a renowned Spanish writer, said that “truth will rise above falsehood as oil above water”.

And I wish to sincerely thank all those who have been supporting me and the Church with their prayers and wise counsel. I find deep solace in the words of Christ that even the gates of hell will never prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18).

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.

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