By Angela Agoawike
I was born into a Catholic family. In my adult life, I have remained a convinced Catholic. Notwithstanding, I am a critic of the Church when the need calls for it. I believe in individual choices just as I believe that when you as an adult decide to belong to, and stay in a group, you have signed on to letting yourself be bound and guided by the rules and regulations of that group. Those are the things that bound them together.
The priests, otherwise called Reverend Fathers are an integral part of the Catholic Church. They take vows on the day of their ordination to among others, be obedient to the institution of the Church and so doing, become High Priests in the footsteps of Melchizedek. They submit themselves to the authority of the Church and symbols of that authority.
That, however, does not mean they cannot leave the institution of the Church, oh sure they can: either as a punishment or at the individual priest’s own request for what is considered “grave personal reason”. Though as a Catholic, I would prefer that the priests do not leave the Church because as adults before ordination, they knew what they were signing up to, sometimes though, it is necessary/better that some of them decide to leave, rather than stay and rubbish the Church.
Which brings me to the matter of Rev Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka, a priest of the Enugu Diocese of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. He is supposedly, one of such ordained priests with special spiritual gifts bestowed on them by God. In my opinion, gifts of such nature should make the recipients humble and more dedicated to the service of God, through service to the flock. Acceptance of the virtue of service is akin to a priest being true to his vow of obedience.
From his utterances and behaviour, it does however seem that Rev. Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka has forgotten that he laid face down on the altar of God on the day of his ordination and signed on to the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty (I am not touching the last two – chastity and poverty at all!) and keeping to those vows are part of what gives them the moral high ground from which they speak even on national political issues, and by the nature of their calling, on behalf of the people. Which may explain the reason behind the Catholic Church’s accommodation of its priests who dedicate themselves to calling out injustice in their localities and in the world.
The Church in fact embraces it. It’s called ‘Liberation theology,’ described by Brittanica.com as “religious movement arising in late 20th-century Roman Catholicism and centred in Latin America. It sought to apply religious faith by aiding the poor and oppressed through involvement in political and civic affairs. It stressed both heightened awareness of the “sinful” socioeconomic structures that caused social inequities and active participation in changing those structures.”
Liberation theology is not partisan politics except on behalf of the poor. Unfortunately, Fr. Mbaka has been doing more of the later, using the morally and spiritually exalted priestly podium and the ‘special’ gift bestowed freely on him by God to dabble into active partisan politics on behalf of politicians rather than the poor. He has also run afoul of his vow of obedience by not submitting to the authority of the Church and his superiors.
One practical manifestation of his spiritual gift is his Adoration Ministry, where the line has blurred between the ministry as a spiritual venture and a business enterprise, which has netted ‘him’ enormous wealth. Such personal wealth, combined with the spiritual/moral authority of his calling as a priest and the universality of the Catholic Church seem to be powerful combination for anyone not ‘strong’ enough to withstand the temptation of misuse, which results to the creation of personality cult.
We witnessed the fall-out of that when Fr. Mbaka’s ‘followers’ trooped to the residence of the Bishop of the Enugu Diocese and engaged in a frenzied destruction of Church property, on the allegation that Fr. Mbaka was missing after responding to the summons of the Bishop, only for him to emerge from wherever he was for a victory lap with his followers hailing him as he snaked his way back to his Adoration Ministry premises, I suppose. Thereafter, it was announced that he had been suspended for one month, by the Dioceses, a development that was no doubt, meant to ensure that he took responsibility for the actions of his followers. I am however wondering on the state of the suspension; is it from his Priestly duties or from his Adoration Ministry business?
While the condition of the suspension has not been made clear, it would be good if Fr. Mbaka is made to use the period of the suspension (should be 3 months at the least) to enter into a monastery for reflection. Such a spiritual exercise will help him decide on what he genuinely wants to be – a Catholic Priest or a Church Entrepreneur (Pastorpreneur, right?).
The Catholic Bishops Conference and the Diocese of Enugu have indulged him enough for reasons best known to them. However, by doing that, they have allowed Fr. Mbaka to bring ridicule to the Catholic Church and it is time to bring him back to the fold or cut him loose. He is, I understand, using ‘his’ wealth in assisting the poor – that is good. The thing is he can do this on his own as some ‘renegade’ priests before him had done. So, if he decides to leave the Catholic Church and face ‘his church business’ he will not be the first and neither would he be the last.
- Agoawike, a globally respected journalist and diplomat, wrote in from Abuja.