EDITORIAL: How N300 million Nsukka Catholic Bishop’s installation betrays Pope Francis’ humility

Pope Francis

 

On its face value, the upcoming installation of a local Bishop of Nsukka Diocese on July 4, 2013, seems to be merely another pageantry. But for the average people of Nsukka, the pinch is stinging deep from the heavy burden of Church taxation for the ceremony. The people’s expression over the heavy levy for the occasion is like a Greek tragedy and their agonizing commentaries are sad tales. Yet, church officials and some Nigerians have passed this event as “ordinary” or “normal”, projecting it as purely celebratory.

For a perceptive observer however, the “celebration” rekindles the spirit of the medieval monarchy and the divine rights of kings. At Nsukka, sycophants are everywhere rehashing the praises of the new bishop. Listening to the adulation, one wonders if there are spoils to be shared or what favours are to be curried.  Perhaps for a temporal King in the medieval times, this would have been appropriate since the people should after all be subject to the desires and wishes of the king. Nsukka diocese however is not installing a king; they are consecrating a bishop, a function that can be performed ordinarily without any burden on the poor.  As history has shown, many of the early missionaries who became bishops in Nigeria were ordained in mud and thatched houses, never losing sight of what it means to be a priest. The question then becomes why the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, arguably the poorest part of Enugu State, is spending 335 million naira for the installation of a local Bishop and retirement home for the old one?

When this news first broke, the director of social communication of Nsukka diocese angrily reacted to the report by insisting that it is only 300 million and not 335 million naira: “The newspaper reporter exaggerated the figures announced at the media briefing,” he said. “The figures used at the said media briefing are: 300million naira. The reporter maliciously exaggerated the figures, and lacked the integrity and kindness.” He went on to claim that the sum was for a 5-year development plan of the diocese and completion of the old Cathedral.

The obvious weak defence of the priest in charge of communication merely generated a few other puzzling questions: The first is the significant difference between 335 million and 300 million. Does it really make a difference for a poor city like Nsukka where majority of the populace live on less than 70 naira a day?  Second, why are these poor people being forced to pay for a 5-year development project at once? Third, why would the installation of a bishop, a deeply religious function become a commercial bazaar? Fourth, why are they building a completely new residential building for the new Bishop? What is wrong with living in the old apartment recently vacated by the old bishop? Why does the old Bishop need to retire into a palace instead of a normal parish house like other priests? Does a priest even need all these trappings of worldly royalty? And finally, what is the reason for the rush to finish a Cathedral that has been in progress for the past 20 years?

Answers to these questions merely reveal a disturbing parallel with the installation of a medieval king. The difference between 300 and 335 million is merely an “academic” difference and bereft of any persuasive logic. New palaces, new courts, new cathedrals, are all trappings of medieval royalty, conflating a spiritual and political space for domination. This should not be the case with priesthood. The rudimentary definition of a Roman Catholic Priest is alter Christus,  (another Christ) – where Christ remains the ultimate high priest. The priest is a servant of the people of God. When a priest is elevated to the rank of a Bishop, it means to acquiesce to self-martyrdom or otherwise, kenosis, self-emptying as servants of the people of God. And as we learn from Hebrews 4:14, Jesus is the Great High priest of God. So, what would Jesus as a priest do in a situation like Nsukka Diocese? Isaiah 54:4-5 gives a befitting response on the quality of Jesus’ priesthood:

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Nsukka is characteristically a subsistence farming community. Although it boasts a federal university, many of the people are extremely impoverished. Typical of Catholicism in this part of Nigeria, church duty is mandatory. It is an abusive religious obligation which demands that being a member of the Church also means the ability to pay such dues as, and when due. Failure to do so means the refusal of sacramental obligations by the Church: you may not wed, you may not get baptized; and if you die, a priest will not administer any last rites. In some cases, you might be excommunicated through public snubbing (no priest will ever visit your home if you are poor) or other forms of religious sanction.  Through this platform, the church has been able to exercise maximum control and domination over the people. Yet, we know that this is not in the spirit or teaching of Roman Catholicism, upon which reason we begin to wonder whether the corruption in the Nigerian society has rubbed off on the Church to lose her moral compass and subjectively defined mandate as the body of Christ.

The claim made by the Church authorities of Nsukka Diocese is that public donors comprising mostly of public servants, politicians and some state governors are financing half of the installation expenses. In a sane society where accountability is an immutable pre-requisite of leadership, such state governors or public servants that volunteer the resources of the state for such private functions would have been immediately sanctioned or they would have freely resigned albeit in a very disgraceful manner. Yet, typical of Nigeria, no questions are asked and the task of accountability is almost a gregarious administrative error. Since our society is not given to probity, it appears, the funds provided by state governors are typically drawn from funds meant for public good; funds that would have been used for our perennial dilapidated roads; to pay teacher’s salaries; to renovate crumbling educational infrastructures; to build hospitals; to hire workers among others. By this action, it stands to reason that the Roman Church has not only lost her authority as a moral compass of the society, she is actively complicit in these crimes against hapless Nigerians. Nigeria today has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. And according to a recent UN report, Nigeria is the worst place to be born today. It is not that Nigeria is poor; it is rather that public wealth is privatized and doled out as gifts in matters like this as benevolent acts of charity. No one will ever ask any question.  In this case, the Catholic Church has given endorsement to political vested interests and willingly indulged in the ultimate betrayal of her own teaching on social justice.

We at PREMIUM TIMES see the attitude of Roman Catholic Church of Nsukka as characteristically contradictory to that of Pope Francis who refers to himself as a simple priest. Shunning all the trappings and glamour of the papacy, this new leader of the Catholic Church still lives as a guest in a hotel instead of the fancy papal apartments. But his story is not new. As a Cardinal (the highest office in the Roman Catholic Church before one is appointed a pope), he is said to have travelled using public transportation, cooked his own meals and lived in a small apartment. He understood what it means to be a priest, for which reason he chose the name Francis after his election as Pope. And in his first address to the College of Cardinals after his election, he tapped into the deep recess of his liberal theology, “remember the poor”. What would it cost the new and old Bishops of Nsukka to “remember the poor” and shun the trappings of excessive luxury? Would the exaggerated expenses for the installation add any spiritual value to the position of a Bishop? If not, why punish the poorest of the poor with nonessential expenses?  Why would the Church, this body of Christ, the church of the poor admit an avowal of such stench of medieval kingship and its trappings of human abuses, exploitation and oppression?

In the gospel of John 21: 15-17, Jesus asks Peter that if he loves him, he should “Feed his sheep”. Observe that Jesus did not say, “Feed on my sheep”.  Why would the Vicar of Christ “feed on the Sheep” instead of “feeding the sheep”? Why would a priest live like a King? What is the portion of the poor in the 335 million naira? What would Jesus do? As Pope Francis has repeatedly taught, the priest is a servant of the people of God just as Jesus offered his life in service of the people of God. Not so with the current event in Nsukka Diocese where priests live like King and the poor taxed to the maximum so that these priests would live like earthly princes, drive SUVs, build expensive homes, and embark on expensive holidays – all on the back of the suffering poor. We also know that these actions contradict both the bible and the Church tradition. The exemplary life of the Church Fathers bears testimony to this. The simple and humble life of the current pontiff, Pope Francis, is a story worth being retold several times.

History is about repeating itself. The Church has always been the last bastion of hope for the oppressed. And when the Church corruptively engages with temporal power, she loses any moral right and authority as the body of Christ on earth. The new Cathedrals, these expensive cars  the priests drive are certainly not by their labour; in fact, as they come and go in their expensive SUVs, we know that they are riding on the sweat and tears of the poor, who starve to death so that the Church authorities might live like princes.

PREMIUM TIMES strongly believes that collecting money from politicians destroys the credibility of the Church because it is an action that does harm to the public good. It will reecho in the hearts and minds of many Nigerians as they die for lack of adequate health care or as they perish in the many road accidents that occur for lack of good roads or even those denied honest wages because of the same politicians who privatize public wealth as personal resources.

Not so different from the abuses of the Church of pre-reformation which Martin Luther protested. PREMIUM TIMES believe this is a betrayal of the Church, a betrayal of Pope Francis’ effort towards the poor. Indeed, this lifestyle has nothing “Roman Catholic” about it except power and domination by those who claim to be another Christ.

We ask the Nsukka Catholic Diocese to do the right thing and cancel all levies and follow in the footsteps of Pope Francis, the simple bishop of Rome.

 

 


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  • Ifeoma

    very good and thank you Premium Times to having the courage and boldness to speak what is in the minds of many.

    • FELIXZITTO

      RUMORS ARE SPREAD BY ENEMIES, ACCEPTED BY FOOLS AND SPREAD BY IGNORANTS. You are also free to accept and spread the rumors like the so called Premium Times.

      • Citizen

        @ Felixzitto, is like you have a mental problem the way and manner you are reacting to people’s comment.

  • Doncor

    Laughable. So Premium times has finished all it needs to do in the editorial. If the Church is launching for their own good let them do. We also need to know how much levy the people of Nsukka, “the very poorest” you are talking about are paying for the ordination. You should separate facts from fancy. Sensational writing is fast becoming the hallmark of Premium Times. I see why in spite of the vigour it came out with it has not been able to break out in the market.

  • Benedicta

    hahahaha. It will be difficult showing the appropriateness or otherwise of why churches spend money on unnecessary things. This maybe the way the catholics like to impoverish the people. Let them be. Its the same argument for and against why general overseers buy jets. If the poor church people can’t see it then don’t bother. Let them celebrate in their ignorance abegi. No be their pockets?

  • Santus Eze

    This country Nigeria is in deep trouble. If a national daily like premium times can focus her editorial on a matter she is not conversant with, willfully refusing to investigate properly, and only to feed people with half truths, then we are heading to doom. For goodness sake, I am not a Catholic but I am from Nsukka. After reading this editorial, I was embittered and decided to ask questions. I discovered that there is no levy on any Catholic in Nsukka. I am appalled by the brazenness with which the Premium times peddle lies against a Sacred Institution like the Catholic Church. I equally discovered that the issue of 300,000,000 naira was just an envelope budget which was to help them aim very high as they raise fund for the Diocese. If a people want to raise fund for their projects, what wrong have they done? For me, presenting sweet logic like the premium times editorial without clear facts, which subsequently leads to misrepresentation and misinterpretation, is the hallmark of a mischievous scholarship. Those who misinform people and incite them to be restive against a Sacred institution shall suffer for it. Those who have Satan as their God, will always have Lucifer around them. I see why premium times will never skyrocket to greatness. Let God be your judge.

  • shorebattery

    There are some elements of sensationalism in the Premium Times writeup. Somebody must have fed the newspaper half-truths, corrupted facts or both, in order to spite the Catholic Church. If you read carefully, you can see where the writer focuses on the Nsukka diocese of the Church but surreptitiously refers to the Roman Catholic Church, even though he used Pope Francis as cover or shield to disguise his obvious invective. With respect to the denials made against Catholic members who do don’t pay their dues, one wonders where he got such information from. To put the record straight, it is true that members are required to pay dues in support of the Church, for this is one of the Commandments of the Church, but the Church WOULD NOT deny services to a genuinely poor member who has found it difficult to pay such dues! And the services we are talking about here are those related to the member’s spiritual life for which the Catholic Church holds sacrosanct. No Catholic diocese would deny a poor deceased person, or a sick poor person Catholic spiritual services just because he is poor and has been unable to pay his dues. The Catholic Church even visits prisons, hospitals and minister to these persons’ spiritual needs without asking for any dues! Dues are more of temporal matters but when it comes to a member’s spirituality, the Catholic Church does not play with such for that is why Jesus Christ came to the world and delegated the Catholic Church to continue.

    • FELIXZITTO

      THANK YOU MY BROTHER!

  • Maduka Asuehi

    Nigerians are hilarious persons. This write up exposes the deep seated corruption that is now part of Nigeria. Why should church leaders not be held accountable. @shorebattery what do you guys use to measure “the genuinely poor”? Or do you mean that those who are not genuinely poor should be battered? What about our money Wey de politicians dey carry give una? If your free will donation is not levy then what is it?

  • Justin

    Mr. Santus Eze my guess is that you are probably one of them although you claim not to be a Catholic. I am Catholic too and I am from Nsukka too and we have been bombarded with second collection ever since. And every Catholic knows that if you owe a kobo in the Church what happens on your wedding day or if you are to bury somebody close to you. I know how much I have to pay on my wedding day even though I lived in Lagos and fully participated in all activities at St. Dominics. It was almost like my participation in Lagos did not count. It is not me alone, it has happened to almost everyone. They will resuscitate all dues you ever owe when you have a need for priest and unless you give cash envelopes when you come home, they will not even care about you.

    • FELIXZITTO

      CAN YOU TELL A CHURCH THAT NEVER HAD THE OFFERING TIME OR CALL IT SECOND COLLECTIONS? BY THE WAY HAVE EVER BEEN FORCED TO DONATE DURING SECOND COLLECTION. SORRY IF YOU ARE ONE OF THOSE WHO GO TO CHURCH EVERY SUNDAY JUST BECAUSE OTHERS ARE GOING.

    • Santus

      Mr Justin, can you just sit and calculate the total amount of money you spend annually on airtime, drinks & food, then compare it with that your envelop money. Do you love God at all? do you count how many times, you bought gift for your wife when you were dating her, or count the different location were you dispatched the gift, you don’t because you want to show how much you love her . Because you give money to your parish in Lagos, it becomes abomination to do so at home. But it’s not bad for you to eat food in Lagos and at home. Why don’t you walk into a store at home and demand for drink and food then tell them that you use to pay in Lagos when you buy, after all it is the same Star beer. Pray for Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and clear the mist. You are lamenting on the amount you pay on your wedding, you didn’t ask how it accumulated because you do not know that a drop of water can make an ocean. Did you ask where your marriage banns and certificate came form or you think that you parish has publishing company. You need clear knowledge of the faith you are professing, carry your cross daily and follow Him who saved you.

  • FELIXZITTO

    THIS IS HIGHLY BIASED REPORT.

    THE REPORTER IS RATHER CRITICIZING THE CURRENT PROGRESS BEING WITNESSED IN NSUKKA DIOCESE, PERHAP OUT OF JEALOUSY.

    TO START WITH, YOUR TITLE “…. Catholic Bishop’s installation betrays Pope Francis’ humility …” IS FAR MISLEADING.

    THE REPORTER SHOULD BE ABLE TO IDENTIFY AND TELL US HOW MANY PEOPLE THAT HAS BEEN “TASKED” AND HOW THEY WERE COMPELLED TO PAY THE 5 YEAR DEVELOPMENT LEVY.

    WHO TOLD YOU THE BISHOPS REQUESTED FOR NEW LUXURIOUS APARTMENTS? TELL US BETTER INVESTIGATED STORIES IF YOU HAVE ANY. STOP MISLEADING PEOPLE LIKE YOU. DON’T BE TOO SENTIMENTAL IN YOUR REPORTS.
    I AM A CATHOLIC FAITHFUL IN NSUKKA. NO ONE HAS EVER COMPELLED ME TO PAY ANY LEVY FOR ANY BISHOP.

  • FELIXZITTO

    WITH THIS KIND OF REPORT, I DON’T THIN PREMIUM TIMES CAN EVER MAKE IT. THEY CAN NEVER COMPETE WITH OTHER NEWSPAPERS WITH SUCH SENTIMENTALITY. PREMIUM …. NDONU….SORRY!

  • Casmir Nnadike

    I am a catholic; I hail from Nsukka; my desire is to uphold profound respect and honour for all existing authorities established for the purpose of carrying out respective functions in the church.
    However, I find the issues raised in this write-up as extremely pertinent, rich in its contents and logic and deserve serious attentions. Those who ought to handle this matter are should not ignore same; kindly see the points raised by this author from the objective view point. I am convinced the write made some crucial points, not in any targeted towards attacking the church or by any stretch of interpretations playing anti-Christ.
    Finally, may I heartily congratulate our new bishop once again. CASMIR NNADIKE commenting from The United Kingdom.

    • Emeka living at Ekiti state

      God bless you dear. At least I have seen someone responding objectively to this issue without playing religious sycophancy! Thank you dear

  • Chux

    this editorial sounds like Judas Iscariot complaining about the opportunity cost of the oil used to anoint Jesus (John12:11-11). Obviously the authors are not Catholics or are lapsed Catholics.
    Does budget translate to actual expenditure?
    The diocese of Nsukka is going to build a house for the retiring bishop, this is the standard practice. It is done in diocese’s where the house for the retired bishop does not exist? In older dioceses eg Lagos, Onitsha, Enugu the structures are already there. In Nsukka Bishop Okobo was the founding bishop. It would have been improper for him to build a retirement home for himself, so he left it for the new bishop.

    Decades ago, this was not done because the retiring bishop, who was usually a white man, would simply return to Europe.
    Bishop Okobo is not retiring into luxury, a Catholic bishop retires at 75 and at this age they have health challenges that are expensive to manage.

    Do not forget a monastery was renovated for the retiring Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI.

  • Justice

    THIS REPORT IS NOTHING BUT WORK OF THE DEVIL FROM THE PIT OF HELL. Premium didn’t report on many church overseers in Nigeria that use church money to build universities where members can’t afford to train their children, churches where members are brainwashed to believe that God blessing & miracles is based on the amount of money you give to the church, your problem is just Catholic. You know absolutely nothing about catholic contribution, you just want to make name, sorry you have stepped on a bad soil. you cited church evil that led to Luther’s reformation, the evil that the reformed churches are committing now is from where premium times? Please leave catholic church alone. Beside, from time immemorial, Catholic is used to persecution of this kind, but CHRIST word abide ” THAT GATE OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST HIS CHURCH” please do not insult Christ”s Bride. Remember God will judge you according to your words, deed and thought, do not be carried away by desire for popularity & fame then damage your soul. Go back to those people you claimed that fed you with your info and ask them the total amount each catholic pay as church annual fund, till today not more than N100 for married men and less for their female counterpart and lesser for the youths and nothing for non communicant children and less privileged that can’t afford it. Let me ask you Premium, is there any Nigerian that can’t afford N100 form Jan-Dec. yet the Priest play the fool to believe that some can’t afford that. In my home parish we have people that are under this condition. Go back to History and see what Solomon spent in building house for God and read the action of God on the dedication of that beautiful temple. like it or not The Priest of Most high God deserve the best because their Master owns the land. whatever we have is given to us by God and when we give back to him, we do that with joy and happiness, please do not poison the heart of some Catholics, we are just being generous to our God and we don’t need Premium Times to teach us how to do that. GO AND TELL THOSE THAT SEND YOU THAT YOU DIDN’T SEE CATHOLIC CHURCH. I am a catholic, will live and die a Catholic.