By Mark C. Orgu
“It is instructive therefore that the Rev. Father lost the crowd and the crowd lost confidence in his order before vandalising the Bishop’s court”
I wonder the type of Christian values we practice today, whether it is pertinent or extraneous for worshippers to glory in human beings and then see the mortal instruments of God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent and Omniscience as mini-gods. This has created poverty of idea and knowledge about the living Yahweh by the so called worshippers. Whereas, the Holy Book of life has placed its rules on us: “Those who worship me, shall do so in truth and in Spirit” Therefore, the spirit of truth will certainly guide our part even when we try to go astray. The Spirit of God will not led us to destruction and commotion, never!
Bishop’s court vandalisation
I was worried about the sanctity and dignity of the world most populous church, the Roman Catholic ( where l am a member), known for her ancient moderation of religious activities, which most past Popes and present brought in some trends and development so as for the church to survive. Yes, the Church in her wisdom has a way of operation globally, generally acknowledged by her devotees for centuries.
Now, to understand the issue here, I decided to seek for clarification on the relationship between a Bishop and his priest. This was the response I got from Very Rev. Fr. Kingsley Onyekuru, CssR, Emeritus Redemptorist Superior of Nigeria, who clearly stated that priests share same dignity of Christ with the Bishop. “Priests share in the same Priesthood of Christ with his Bishop. He has become a “cooperator” with his Lordship in a unique way, unlike the lay faithful and even deacons” In the area of obedience to the Church authority, Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis underscores this aspect of obedience in this phrase: ‘This priestly obedience’. Fr. Onyekuru went further to say: “Canon 757, inspired by n. 7 of Presbyterorum ordinis, states that priests are cooperators with Bishops in the ministry of “proclaiming the gospel of God.” This sense of mutual cooperation in pastoral ministry naturally flows from the mutual respect. However, Diocesan Priests take that of celibacy and obedience to the Lordship. The aspect of poverty is very much for certain religious priests. Ire is toned down for the diocesan priests’. Vandalisation by Mbaka’s supporters
Asked whether in a situation where a priest seems to incite his followers against the Bishop, making reference to Fr. Mbaka’s situation that resulted to the vandalisation of the Bishop’s court, Onyekuru said: “The code of canon law deals with this question, Can. 1373, a person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties. Can. 1374, a person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict”
Certainly, I won’t join issues with people who may feel disappointed with my view about the gap in communication between Fr. Mbaka and his desperate supporters who defiled all entreaties to despoil the holy environmental court of his lordship, Most Rev. (Dr) Callistus Onaga, all because, the Bishop and the church authority felt embarrassed with Mbaka’s stylish political romance, and comments on critical national discourse. Let it be known that freedom is literally expensive, not on a weakness of the subject but a natural course that God himself gave to humanity.
When we look at the sequence that led to the suspension of Fr. Mbaka for 30 days to reflect thus on his religious life and political matters outburst, made in closet during his invite to the Bishop, which later became a public knowledge when he was allowed to go and address his followers who were on rampage. Ordinarily, Mbaka should have exhibited some level of diplomacy and keep some of the discussions he and the church hierarchy had rather than coming out at the Adoration ground to accuse the church of complicity.
This is not in the character of Catholic Church, because, it is a known fact that priests submit in obedience to the shepherd, the Bishop. Intrusively, there is no need to pretend about the great glory Rev. Fr. Ejike Camillus Mbaka, the pioneer of the Adoration Ministry Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN), who was ordained as priest on July 29, 1995 has brought to the catholic church But my concern here is this, should his followers become like fanatics and resist the church authority, secondly, can it be vividly confirm that those who truly went through the teaching of the Catholic church from baptism to confirmation can have the courage to go in search of a flock and desecrate Bishop’s court. Until we Catholics answer this question correctly, then, we can begin to draw conclusion. From what I know, the Bishop can fire any priest who deviate from his calling.
We saw the mammoth crowd of Mbaka’s followers, probably many of them may be ignorant of their action, otherwise, they would have exercise caution but they became like thugs by vandalizing properties. Too bad as I fear for the church’s future. In fact, some of the protesters who carried placard read: No Mbaka, no Bishop, Where is Mbaka, Bishop Umu nwa, Daddy where are you, we are missing you” Making the priest like a victorious warrior against the church.
Like Fr. Mbaka said that if the Bishop had listened to his advise, things wouldn’t have generated the way it went and blamed his lordship for the uprising. Guardian Newspaper had quoted the fiery priest in his defence when he addressed a jubilant crowd of supporters in Enugu after is reappearance:
“If the bishop had listened to my pleas that they should allow him to go back to the adoration ground to attend a scheduled programme and then use the opportunity to inform the worshippers that he would be holding house prayers for 30 days, the destruction done to the property would not have happened.” “I appreciate your patience, endurance, incomparable love, unquestionable solidarity and unique identification and commitment to God in this ministry. “God will keep you, bless you and it shall be well with you. You people have been looking for me, look at me here,”
“I wasn’t with my phone because I decided to go in to pray to avoid dissonance at that time. “The miracle is that at the time I was with my phone calls were coming from here and there that you people were heading to Bishop’s court and Cathedral. Immediately I asked the group that I spoke with to ask you to go back. They insisted that they must see me otherwise they will not go. I spoke with them on video call but never knew they are over 47 groups. “I thought that having blessed the first group that they have gone. It was at that moment that I started receiving calls. I told them I cannot go anywhere unless I hear from my Bishop. “I thank God you have never attacked the wrong people. The DSS was not involved in what happened. But the Bishop gave an order that I should not come here from today. I should leave adoration house, parish house, that there will be no programme here for 30 days and I should stay silence for 30 days. So, I am telling you the truth of what happened. “When Bishop asked me to go and take you people back to Adoration, I asked him what happened now because you told me that I am going to stay away and silence for 30 days? Then, he said I should go first and tell you people to go because things are getting worst (sic). “This is why people should understand how God works. I never disobeyed the church. People are busy misquoting me doing everything to close this ministry but by the grace of God they cannot do anything”
Again, the question before us is, why did the priest supporters failed to listen to their master, their semi shepherd, because, Mbaka is assumed as the good shepherd who shepherds the people as his flocks on behalf of the bishop. Why didn’t the people listen to him when he became aware of the impending danger? Was Mbaka’s followers aware of the position and authority of the Bishop? John 10: 14-15-16 tells us that, Christ is the good shepherd. “As the father knows me and I know the father, in the same way, I know my sheep and they know me. And I am willing to die for them. There are other sheep which belong to me that are not in this sheepfold, I must bring them too, they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”
It is instructive here, therefore, that the Rev. Father lost the crowd and the crowd lost confidence in his order. The shepherd could no long control his flock and the flock went on rampage. Very bad. The Catholic Bishops in Nigeria must rise up against this act of priests’ rascality and build institution that should monitor and moderate certain activities and sermonisation so as to save the church from further embarrassment.
To end this commentary, I leave you with the conversation I had with a priest, who wants his identity unknown on this issue: ( partly edited)
No matter how popular a priest becomes, he can never be above his Bishop or bigger than church, he must obey instructions. Those comments Fr. Mbaka made, I think they are not proper because he created this situation whereby people began to think that the church leaders are now causing confusion, and division. I don’t think that is proper because you have to remember that it is an obligation that you accepted to be a priest, including its implications. The priest on his part must always follow the directive of the Bishop. The Bishop can recall or suspend a priest if there’s a problem, he can suspend the priest, he can even tell the priest from henceforth you are not to celebrate mass pending his decision to revert. Though, it is difficult sometimes, especially when you are a very popular priest, and you may not want to take that but when the Bishop says stop, the priest based on his commitment should stop. The basic truth is that, a priest is under the authority of the Bishop and a priest does not become autonomous no matter how popular he thinks he may be.
Politics and religion
I think part of the problem is that the whole issues became politicized and had caused division and the Bishop won’t take such. This is not the first time, his Lordship would be asking Fr. Mbaka to leave, without dust being raised. And then the purported allegation against him-asking for a contract from the presidency. Politicians are dangerous people, and you deal with them carefully otherwise they will dent your image.
Now, on the desecration of the Bishop’s court, one can easily ask this question, people who went there, are they just people who go to adoration ground only or not, because when you see what they did at the Bishop’s house, alleging that the Bishop and others were trying to silent a voice of the prophet or trying to stop the priest from championing a political course of the people. These are the questions that need to be asked because Mbaka himself knows very well that he is under the Bishop. It is sad that, Mbaka’s supporters were not sensitive enough to know that, the Bishop is the captain and controls the church. I believe also that my fellow priest should be worried about what happened at the Bishop’s house. So there’s nothing under any such circumstances that can be justified, even though the Bishop was wrong, you can never justify his restriction order that is fighting against the core of what we do in the Catholic Church. It is not even something that anybody should think about whether it’s okay or not.
Orgu, a public and social affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos