By Sunday July 9th, Catholic faithfuls in Ahiara diocese and of course the whole world will know who remains among the rebelling priests in the Church and who leaves. By that date, the one month ultimatum the Holy Father, Pope Francis gave these rebelling priests to write personal letters of apology, pledging loyalty to the Pope and accepting Bishop Peter Ebele Okpalaeke as their bishop, will lapse. There are, as at date, 206 incardinated priests in the diocese (don’t mind the egregious claim of 750 or 1,000 priests from the dissidents). It is for this number that the apology is prescribed, both those in Nigeria and abroad.
For some exasperated Catholics, especially my fellow Catholics of Ahiara diocese especially those who remain loyal and faithful to the Church, the Church needs to bring to a closure an embarrassing, revolt hatched by dissident priests, in cahoots with diverse lay interests that share deep passion for the destruction of the Church in the diocese on the vacuous, very leaky and tendentious reason that she did not appoint a son of the soil as bishop. The Pope alluded to this devilish design in his stern address to a delegation from Ahiara loyal priests and laity, top officials of the Roman Curia and the leaders of the Nigerian Church in his June 8th audience to address the lingering crisis. Indeed, the Pope aptly likened the revolt and the rejection of a duly appointed Bishop by a section of the church in Ahiara to the wicked tenants in the Bible who seized and killed the heirs and servants of the landlord so as to take possession of his estate. He minced no words in describing the unseemly actions of the dissidents in Ahiara as a mortal sin and as a way of scandalizing the Church.
For many observes of what has become a disgraceful rebellion, the Pope’s verdict is long in coming but that is the Catholic Church for you. She is a patient, methodical mother who acts when she had exhausted all avenues for amendment. Yes, it took a whole five years for the Pope, the final authority in the Catholic Church to act but before then, the Pope had used all known conflict resolution means known to the Church to bring this man-made problem to an end. Since the three politician-priests that provoked and launched this rebellion and sowed this seed of rebellion, went to work, the Church has used various means to deal with the issue. As it is in every other diocese or part of the church where similar issues had arisen, the matter would have long been put to rest if indeed the intent of the rebellion was not to exert maximum disgrace on the Church and finally pull it down. Since the crisis was launched, the Church in Nigeria and its various hierarchies have weighed in and pleaded and cautioned but the kingpins of this rebellion have a clear mission that neither tolerates common sense nor was interested in any other result than the destruction of the Church, if she doesn’t meet their nepotic demand.
The crisis in Ahiara diocese is a vicious provocative assault on the belief, teaching and practice of the Catholic Church. It is a virulent attack on the age old practice of the Catholic Church. It is a vicious tackle against the universally accepted norm of Catholicism. Equally it is a sly attack on the bond of brotherhood that binds not only Catholics together but also Igbo as a race. It not only is a bad advertisement to Catholics, it is a serious dent on Igbo and a shameful rebuke to the race. Most importantly it is colossal damage to the image of Mbaise as a people and it was obvious that the provocateurs and fanners of this senseless war never cared as they thrust bloody knives into the hearts of the Church and the Igbo race. What more, the rebellious actions provoked deep anger, pain, shame and embarrassment on the Pope and the universal Church.
Ahiara diocesan crisis is all about nepotism. It is all about bigotry which found expression in a flagrant display of outright disobedience to the Church for not pandering to the clannish and restricted tribal interests of a local cabal that wants to seize the Church in Ahiara and impose its self-serving idiosyncrasies on it. It is an overplay of primitive ego and unexplainable clannish hubris even in matters of spiritualism. This carnal quest to take over a Church founded historically on universalism has bred a rash of demonic manifestations and it finds expression in baleful fabrication of horrific lies, serialization of heretic forgeries and outright enslavement of impressionable minds by a demonic cartel that seeks inordinate lordship over the local Church as ways of deepening hitherto unknown carnal desires. What more, there is nothing spiritual or godly in the demands and acerbic actions of the shibboleths that provoked and fed the tongs of this crisis.
Rather there is everything about clannishness, primitive arrogance and unrefined pride in all the arguments and actions advanced by those that play deaf to the history, procedures and precedents of the Church in deciding who leads a diocese. This devilish desire, while reduced to a one-line war cry; ‘demand for Mbaise bishop’ is none other than a frantically procured tribal mandate that finds no place in the Catholic Church. Since that divisive war was declared, with the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpalaeke, every vile means has been thrown into the fray by those who have not only arrogated to themselves the duty of appointing a bishop for the Catholic Church but sound emptily arrogant on issues that are settled and well known to the entire world. The whole crisis is am instigated effort to destroy the Church using the appointment of a Bishop as a cover and the Holy Father has clearly identified this.
As the politician priests, having fully inhaled the smoke of Satan, went on their nocturnal rounds among the Ahiara priests like the snake to Eve in the garden of Eden, meeting and seducing priests to sign on to their ethnic war against the appointment of a bishop of Anambra origin, there was no doubt that they were bent on inflicting maximum damage on the Church for not doing their self serving desires. They quickly formed a deadly alliance with the willing basket of deplorable, the isi anyi kuwasawas, made up of nominal Catholics, those with questionable Catholic callings, those that have left the Catholic Church, those that have one grudge or the other against the Catholic Church, the political way farers who lost their deposit in the political space and who saw a renewed prospect in tapping into the cheap ethnic promises of fighting for an Mbaise bishop, non Catholics, animists, pagans, etc who now formed the alluring bandwagon. They armed this deadly mob with one clear mission statement; ‘Mbaise Bishop or we pull down the Church’. Possessed by a queer idol of tribe, they levied a son of Igboland a ‘foreigner who neither hears our language nor understand our culture’-can you imagine that? Quickly erasing their religious callings and clearly denying the universality of the Church, the priests shed their priestly calling and played along and mischief assumed a full life of its own. They tried to couch their quaint mission under the dubious demand for ‘justice’ which is none other than an effort to sew a fraudulent cloth for their nefarious interest.
Having formed the irrational mob, the next step was to search and find for themselves some supposedly knowledgeable impostors, some Goebbels of sorts, brimming full with residual bitterness and thinly disguised mischief against the church and frustration with the society. These are glorified buffoons that arrogate themselves reverse knowledge of the issue in question and who are so attracted to the nectars of clannish support for their challenged personas. These became the Okoko Ndems and propagandists who self-conferred themselves with dubious expertise in Canon Law, which they quote copiously but obtusely from their bedrooms to satisfy their predetermined goals. These were charged with forging and producing tons of baloneys, filled with lies, forgeries, hate, heresies and blasphemies against the Church and her leaders both within and without Nigeria. Being pathological anti socials, these characters became sources of prurient bitter hogwash, often laced with a generous but dubious allusion to the Canon Law with which they not only duped and misled the simple minded, the unsuspecting and the uneducated but set them on an irreversible path of murderous vengeance against the Church. From their small dingy corners, they smiled as Mark Anthony did after turning the Roman mob against the conspirators who killed Julius Caesar and exclaimed; ‘mischief, thou art afoot’. Yes their mischief is afoot in Ahiara diocese and they are drawing raucous applause from the plebian for their destructive values to the Church.
These contrived messengers of Lucifer were let loose like unbridled loose cannons on every Church leader in Nigeria and they smeared, blackmailed, abused, denigrated, scandalized and besmirched everybody and everything revered and held sacred in the Nigerian Catholic Church and infact, the universal Catholic Church. In this mad sequel, Cardinal Arinze, globally-respected leader of the Church has been practically lynched with all manners of allegations, insults, tirades and curses. Cardinal Onaiyekan, who was appointed to administer the diocese and solve the crisis, has equally been lynched with every manner of lies, allegations and abuses. Archbishop Anthony Obinna, indeed, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the Nuncio (Pope’s Ambassador) were all tied on the stake and murdered by the bizarre lies and murderous venom of the lynch mob. Even the Late Bishop Mark Unegbu, the first indigenous Bishop of Owerri was literally exhumed and killed again in a horrific effort to completely rubbish the Church and ensure it never survives the bile of those that purport to want a Bishop from their tribe at all costs. It was certain that if God comes down to earth to speak against their wanton conduct, they would have subjected him to scurrilous insults for not acceding to their desires. No sacred teaching of the church, no sacred institution in the Catholic Church has been spared from mutilation, trampling and violation from those crusading for a bishop for me.
While this murderous character assassination was going on, the procured intelligentsia of the lynch mob was busy, twisting every message from the Church and Nigerian church authority, obfuscating such messages and directives and forging them out of context to deceive and keep their unthinking mob on the streets and under their guile wraps. Every directive from the Church was bastardized and twisted to suit the fixated primitive desires of the lynch mob who were induced to stage regular protests, lock down Churches and indulge in arrays of unseemly, uncatholic and detestable acts to drive home their demand. Ensuring that every directive of the Church was mutilated and colored as ‘forgeries’ from Arinze, Onaiyekan, Obinna or the CBCN, the leaders of this mad rebellion ensured their victims, firmly trapped in their mischievous cages, never escaped to source out reason or the real facts of the teachings of the Catholic Church on the contentious issue.
They would rather their victims were quartered in a closet where they would be fed regular diets of lies, slanderous fabrications and raw forgeries so as to fully harvest their nuisance values. What better way to work the rabble to full destructive value than couching raw fabrications and lies in ethnic and clannish foils, play up the victimhood card and appeal to cheap sentiments? These kingpins have so brainwashed their victims with enough lies to last them several generations by those who swear they will rather pull down the Church than have an Anambra bishop. Curiously some of the leaders of these mob, who generously feed them with a cocktail of lies double in same capacity as loud proponents of the Biafran actualization and you imagine what it will be in their Biafra where an Anambra man would be seen by an Mbaise man as a foreigner who neither hears our language or understands our culture.
What baffled was that the provocateurs and participant in this feast of cannibalism were not moved that no respectable sane Leader of the Church both in Nigeria and the world shared their weird demand that clearly violates the belief and practice of the Catholic Church. It never mattered to these people that no known law; Canon or otherwise, supports their weird desire to have a son of the soil as bishop at all costs. It never mattered to them that the strange, devilish teachings and philosophies, wild and baseless lies and allegations they ventilated against respected leaders of the Church and the Church herself, was shared by no one but them. Of course, they created a convenient caveat for this huge deficit by appealing to vague victimhood. On yea, every person hates and is working against the Mbaise interest! What a tragedy!
Meanwhile, the arrowheads of this devilish rebellion have been promising their victims, the unthinking mob every six months since 2012 that Rome will appoint one of them as Bishop and ditch Okpalaeke. They have been telling their brainwashed victims that Bishop Okpalaeke was not appointed by the Pope but by Cardinal Arinze. They have virtually handed the Catholic Church to Cardinal Arinze in a bizarre and confounding desperation to work the mob to a deadly frenzy. Yes, Arinze practically controls the Vatican, and even the Pope! They have told their unthinking victims whom they want to use to destroy the Church that they know so well of the Vatican and Canon Law to conclude that Bishop Okpalaeke was not properly appointed. Yet, when the Pope invited them to come to Rome and advance all the hogwash they have been feeding themselves and their victims for five years, all of them developed running stomach knowing the worthless value of the nonsensical arguments and spurious lies they have been hawking all these years, they wholly declined to honour the Pope’s summon and rather engaged in another round of tirade to denigrate the summon. Even their hidden lay backers and sustainers declined. They all knew they have been marketing spurious lies that will not survive any scrutiny at the Vatican.
They tell their bemused and impressionable victims that the Canon Law states that they will be parts of the appointment process of a bishop, who must wily nily come from their land or else heavens will be made to fall. They have hewed for themselves their own sets of laws and beliefs such that they are ever ready to put a spin to everything from the Vatican, which they easily dismiss as a forgery from either Cardinal Arinze or Cardinal Onaiyekan or the Nuncio. It was this horrible and the unquestioning mob, stripped of their reasoning, submitted themselves to be duped by these slave traders. As they churned their detestable jeremiad, the rainbow coalition of ndi nkuwasa was worked to a murderous rage. Periodic lockdown of the Cathedral in the name of protests became the norm and the hauling of curses and abuses against the Church and its hierarchy became a regular norm in the pulpits. Generous ventilation of insults and unruly conducts were promoted in strange efforts to bring the Catholic Church to its knees except she gives in to their demand. They worked themselves and their victims to the apogee of vain pride from where they found so hard to descend when it was obvious that they cannot con the Church with their poorly assembled baloney. At a time, the most difficult task for them was how to do the tower of Babel they have constructed and that is where they are stranded today as the deadline for the apology closes in.
But it bears mention that these murderous mob were not real Catholics. As I have said earlier it was a rainbow coalition of those with one axe or the other to grind with the Church; the nominal Catholics who just affix Catholicism to their creed, those who have left the Church, non Catholics, pagans, etc. No real catholic who faithfully belongs to the Church will speak condescendingly on the leaders of the Church talk not of abusing and lying against them. No convinced Catholic will insist on the Church to either do his selfish will or get destroyed. No real Catholic will willingly scandalize, lie and smear the Church to achieve ill-defined interests, especially when such interest has no grounds on the practice and rules of Catholicism. No real Catholic will spit such fire and brimstone that we have seen spewed in Ahiara in the past five years just because the Church refuses to appoint a son of the soil as bishop. No real Catholic will subject revered Church leaders to scurrilous and vicious attack, insult and abuse based solely on contrived lies, specious and outlandish allegations. No real Catholic should openly and callously disobey the Church in such manner that those that provoked and fed the Ahiara diocesan crisis have done in the past five years. No real Catholic will indulge in the devilish art of mutilating, obfuscating and manipulating the teachings of Christ and the Church so as to achieve inordinate interests. No real will form an unholy alliance with non Catholics to fight the Church. The real Catholics in Ahiara refused to fight but prayed that God will handle the matter in His own ways. He has no reason to indulge in several desperate means to force the hands of God because his belief in God and His capacities to deal with any issue, is total, unlike the mercenaries, not sure of his ways and means, indulge in every desperate means to force God to do their will.
However the visage of Catholic priests running, tail behind their backs, to Governor Okorocha, whom they had treated to their well known insult at the earlier stages of this rebellion for telling them to obey the Church and the Pope and now begging him to intervene in the suspension threat from the Pope is humiliating enough to whoever calls himself a priest. More humiliating was the same Governor Okorocha lecturing priests on obedience to the Church and the Pope, like a school teacher does to his pupils. As laudable as the Governor’s efforts are, it is a humiliation too many that men that went through the thorough process of priestly formation should voluntarily drag themselves so low because they vitiated their priestly calling through incredible show of shameful obduracy and demeaning clannishness.
That priests should even tarry to obey the Pope or pretend not to discern the ways of the Church, is a generational embarrassment that will certainly outlast their generations. That priests should indulge in denigrating the hierarchy of the Church, trade lies, blackmail, and insults on venerable leaders of the Church both within and without Nigeria is a huge dent on their callings and marks a remarkable process in self-demarketing which has dragged them down their high horses. Ahiara priests have caused huge embarrassment to themselves, the Church and the Mbaise nation by their unbelievable acts of disobedience and even writing the apology, voluntarily or grudgingly will not wipe away the massive embarrassment splurged on the faces of Mbaise, Imo State and the Catholic Church worldwide by the disappointing acts of the priests. I hope the Church seriously reviews the process of priestly formation in Ahiara diocese after this madness has ebbed to avoid such embarrassing and shameful occurrence in the future. But it must be stated that it will take ages for the negative fruits of the seed of rebellion sowed in Ahiara to peter out, even after the resolution of this crisis and every Mbaise Catholic, and even non Catholics will partake in the unsavory effects of this wild seed.
Peter Claver Oparah
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