AHIARA DIOCESE AND VATICAN ULTIMATUM: AN OPEN LETTER TO CARDINAL ONAIYEKAN (CONCLUSION)

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Evidence of Conflict in the Vatican

The present situation shows evidence of conflict in the Vatican. The first hint at this is the two communiqués released after Pope Francis received a delegation of some Nigerian bishops in Rome. The one published on June 7, 2017 was humane, indicating the Pope Francis wing, while the controversial one of June 8, 2017 was very harsh and uncompromising quite in consonance with Cardinal Filoni’s letter in 2013 and 2014 published above.

This is from the Cardinals Bertone, Arinze, Filoni and Onaiyekan’s wing of the Vatican. Hence, it is not difficult to see this crack. Otherwise, why has the Pope not officially adopted the document by putting his signature on it? The two conflicting documents of 2017 show tension existing in the Vatican. The Pope has been forced to tolerate this message for fear of reenacting Pope Benedict’s divided Vatican. Hence, Pope Francis has not personally embraced this letter.

“The People of God are Scandalized”

The directive in the Agenzia Fides said: “This seems very hard, but why must the Pope do this? Because the people of God are scandalized. Jesus reminds us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences.” Who is “the people of God” mentioned here? The people who were out en masse on July 1 at the Cathedral of Ahiara Diocese, chanting in Igbo, anyi achoghi Okpaleke, that is, we don’t want Okpaleke, or who else? There is nothing scandalous in demanding for justice in the Church of God. But now let us point out the real scandals that have scandalized us.

Ø The real scandal in the world right now is in the Vatican involving George Cardinal Pell of Australia who has been indicted by the Australian courts as a pedophile Cardinal. Pope Francis was warned not to make him the Prefect of the Economy, none the less, he went ahead. Now, Cardinal Pell is the biggest scandal facing the Vatican. How is this scandal to compare to the peasants of Ahiara Diocese demanding for justice?

Ø The real scandal is Cardinal Filoni who is still living under the shadow of the accusation leveled against him that he misused Propaganda fide funds.

Ø The real scandal is the Vatileaks, neatly covered by the Vatican, believed to have led to the resignation Pope Benedict XVI in 2013.

Ø The real scandal is about the “gay lobby” in the Vatican.

Ø The real scandal for generations has been the Vatican bank and money laundering accusations. For instance, in 2013, the Italian police arrested a prelate and two others on corruption charges, saying that the priest plotted to help wealthy friends sneak money, the equivalent of about $26 million, into Italy while evading financial controls” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/ 06/29/world/europe/cleric-and- 2-others-arrested-in-vatican- bank-investigation.html).

Ø The real scandal is the way Archbishop Vigano was moved out of the Vatican because he was acting like a “whistle blower.”

Ø In Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise, the real scandal is the heartless and wickedness that has kept deacons frustrated and waiting for priestly ordination for four years. Is this not scandalous enough? And what of the candidates for confirmation who have been waiting endlessly to be confirmed? Using the sacrament as a weapon of punishment is scandalous.

Ø The real scandal is the lies told by Your Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan. Do you know now in Mbaise that when some tells lies and you remind him that he is lying, he would respond, saying: Do I tell lies more than Cardinal Onaiyekan? Your Eminence, when the air is fouled on top, the flies below get confused. Your lies have confused many Christians and they are scandalized.

Ø The real scandal is praising Bishop Okpaleke, who has divided Mbaise; divided the priests; divided the Igbo provinces; divided the Bishops of Nigeria; and has divided the Vatican.

Ø The real scandal is that your so-called vicar, Ebi, has been living with pedophile priests. The first was the one you posted to St. Patrick’s Ekwerazu, Mbaise. When it blew on your face, you visited the parish in the company of Archbishop Obinna, who later played a fraudulent part to save Your Eminence. Archbishop Obinna, YOU KNOW WHAT AM TALKING ABOUT, Don’t you? That was a cover up..

Ø The second real scandal here is that your vicar, Ebi, is living with another pedophile priest, Fr. Cyprian Nwachukwu. This priest is a serial pedophile offender and Cardinal Onaiyekan knows about this and turns a blind eye to this. In this place, I am publicly handing this matter over to the President of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Kaigama to investigate this further. This is the real scandalperpetuated by Cardinal Onaiyekan, Bishop Okpaleke and his supporters.

Ø The real scandal is the philosopher-king, Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nsukka Diocese, who in his interview in Vanguard in 2015 said: “How is it possible that you accept that a man pours water on you and mumbles some words and you become transformed and your sins are washed away and you become son of God? That a man picks a piece of bread and mumblessome words and that piece of bread changes and becomes the body and blood of Christ, who is God and man? And the man imposes hands on you and says something and you are transformed from that village criminal that you were to a man, who calls God down from heaven?(http://www.vanguardngr.com/ 2015/12/why-would-some- leaders-choose-bishops-for- the-church-bishop-onah/). This is “Onahism” the new Sacramental theology from Nsukka. Till today, Bishop Onah was never castigated for uttering this scandalous nonsense.

Ø The real scandal is that Italy has 45 cardinals, when Nigeria has only three. What a just Church? This is a great scandal. One sees why Cardinal Filoni does not see that there is a problem with this lobsidedness in the Mbaise situation.

Ø The real scandal is that Cardinal Bertone (aka, Vice Pope) appointed about 50 bishops just from his own congregation alone when he was the Vatican Secretary State under Pope Benedict XVI. During Bertone’s reign Vatican offices were shared out like a personal estate. This is scandalous.

Ø The real scandal is that the doctrine of salus animarumor salvation of souls is now dead. What happened to those Catholics who died without the sacrament of confirmation or is this no more needed? Instead of salus animarum, it is now “Okpalekeology.” This is a travesty.

Mbaise, Canon 382 and Disobedience

Since the Agenzia Fides’ publication there has been a rush to judgment in the world by some people that Mbaise is disobeying the Pope, even though we are only disagreeing. However, no one has judged us based on the canonical evidence. The whole question of canonical possession, which is now the fulcrum of the Okpaleke crisis, is contained in Canon 382, which some church authorities seem to have forgotten. This has been Okpaleke’s nemesis. Initially, Your Eminence, you thought that you could have ignored it. You thought that it was something that you could have unilaterally overcome. Consequently, this became too muddy for the tires of injustice to drive through.

The question of disobedience and Canon 382 arises here because you are working with stones and apples. You don’t seem to understand that the relevant canon to the impasse in Mbaise is Canon 382, which has nothing to do with disobedience in the Church. In view of this, the first thing to be pointed out here is that Canon 382 has nothing to do with disobedience in the Church. It is administrative and not doctrinal. Let us reproduce this canon once more.

Can. 382 §1. One promoted as bishop cannot assume the exercise of the office entrusted to him before he has taken canonical possession of the diocese. Nevertheless, he is able to exercise offices which he already had in the same diocese at the time of promotion, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒can. 409, §2.

  • 2. Unless he is prevented by a legitimate impediment, one promoted to the office of diocesan bishop must take canonical possession of his diocese within four months of receipt of the apostolic letter if he has not already been consecrated a bishop; if he has already been consecrated, within two months from receipt of this letter.
  • 3. A bishop takes canonical possession of a diocese when he personally or through a proxy has shown the apostolic letter in the same diocese to the college of consultors in the presence of the chancellor of the curia, who records the event. In newly erected dioceses, he takes canonical possession when he has seen to the communication of the same letter to the clergy and people present in the cathedral church, with the senior presbyter among those present recording the event.
  • 4. It is strongly recommended that the taking of canonical possession be done within a liturgical act in the cathedral church with the clergy and people gathered together.

This canon is procedural and not doctrinal. It has nothing to do with disobedience to the Pope. It describes a process. The first paragraph prohibits the bishop elect from taking office in the vacant diocese without the process described in §3 called canonical possession. In §2 above, the Code shows that canonical possession is time sensitive and sets the limit of FOUR MONTHS. This Canon does not say what happens if there is a deadlock, even though §2 recognizes that there could be an impediment. This is why the Code made provision for an impeded see in Canons 412-415. Ahiara Diocese falls under this canonical provision. In other words, Mbaise did what the Code anticipated could happen. And now Your Eminence! Do you now mean to tell us that the Code provided for disobedience by making provisions for the impeded see? You can see that you are using a reverse gear in driving the “Canonical train.” Hence, you are moving backwards, instead of forward.

Indeed, there is nothing in Canon 382 that creates even the semblance of disobedience for anybody. Hence, there is no sanction and no punishment is implied in the Canon. And most importantly, there is nothing obliging those mentioned in §3 to be present for the canonical possession. The Canon simply describes how the canonical possession is to take place and left open whether those mentioned must be present or not. As we can see, the diocese is not even mentioned. The onus or burden of proof is on the bishop elect and not on the diocese. Now, since the center of gravity is Canon 382,  how does its provisions rise to the level disobedience to the Pope? Is there any action of the Mbaise people arising from this Canon that contravenes any of the provisions of Lumen Gentium #25 on obedience in the Church? With this in mind, let us tell you what obedience and disobedience in the Church is all about. This is contained in the following Notificationesof Lumen Gentium. The text says:

Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare to be binding. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth, inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church’s supreme magisterium, ought to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ’s faithful according to the mind of the sacred Council. The mind of the Council becomes known either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation”(‘Notificationes’ Given by the Secretary General of the Council at the 123rd General Congregation, November 16, 1964).

Now, Your Eminence, how is the action of the Mbaise people in rejecting a bishop elect a contravention of this ecclesiological provision of Lumen Gentium? Or have you forgotten your ecclesiology? You see that you don’t know what you are talking about, when you accuse us of disobedience. Besides, disagreement is not disobedience. How can you call a child protesting that he should be given his fair share of the father’s inheritance disobedient? And how could you call a child who has appealed to the father to reconsider his decision as disobedient? You are only trying to plant indictable evidence, where there is none.

Whereas you cannot charge us on the basis of Notificationes above, yet we can charge you since morality is involved in our own charges against you. First of all, the pedophile appointment you made in Mbaise is immoral. Archbishop Obinna is aware of this despicable act, which he helped you to cover up. He followed you to Ekwerazu, where the appointment was made to listen to the people who rejected your unholy appointment. Secondly, the simony charge against Okpalaeke is immoral. Cardinal Onaiyekan, you are aware of this. And thirdly, the mago-mago template used by the Nuncio and Arinze is immoral. Archbishop Obinna knows this, though they tied his hands. What then is your moral charge against us in respect of our rejection of Bishop Okpalaeke as the Bishop of Ahiara Diocese? Your Agenzia Fides’ propaganda is nothing but calumny. “Chai” you have raped the Mbaise nation.

Oh Bishops of our Land!

This is a nation in distress. You are watching the rape of the nation of Mbaise with heads buried in the sand. You are like a father watching with interest the rape of her daughter. And this makes you people winners and conquerors? Now we see that cowardice is the name of the game. Some of you are confused, bemused, and even dazed. What is happening in Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise, is showcasing your impotency before the world. It shows your helplessness and ineptitude. The world is now asking: how is it that you left a simple, local problem to assume an international dimension? You have left a bad taste in the mouth of the world. You have been made to have eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear. You have shown yourselves as a Bishops’ conference without initiatives. And like Sony Okosun, the Nigerian artist of late memory, we continue to ask: Which way Nigeria? The present problem in Ahiara Diocese shows a colossal failure of leadership on your own part. It shows a lackluster leadership with unbelievable poor sight. This is the verdict of time for the Nigerian Bishops, who are now looking like ovuru ike agbaghi mkpuru, a big fruit without seeds. Now we have evidence of catastrophic failure in leadership. Oh bishops, you have ecclesiastical cataracts in your eyes and the Vatican has decided to perform an optical operation to attempt a restoration of your leadership poor sight. Right now, YOU ARE A COLLECTIVE failure in our nation. You have woefully failed the litmus test of leadership. At the end of the day, Okpaleke will never be allowed to be the bishop of Ahiara Diocese.

And now we ask: where is your courage? Where is your heroism? And WHERE IS YOUR CONSCIENCE as individual bishops? Have you forgotten these words by Mahatma Gandhi that “there is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.” And what of this other quote by Saint Pope John Paul II: “When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.” Is this not why you are turning against the Mbaise Nation on this worldwide campaign against the Mbaise people? On account of the fierce urgency of now, we have decided to bring Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, into the witness box. Please, listen to him: “Every judgment of conscience, be it right or wrong, be it about things evil in themselves or morally indifferent, is obligatory, in such wise that he who acts against his conscience always sins.” As we have reminded you in the past, remember that the measure of a man is where he stands in terms of crisis and not where he stands in his place of comfort. Consequently, oh bishops! Taking a cowardly stand is not the hallmark of heroism.

And in this place, we remember our world-celebrated “social prophet without social prophecy,” Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto Diocese. You have been under the radar for sometime now with the loose comments you have been making about Ahiara Diocese, parading yourself as the heir apparent of the Archdiocese of Abuja, where you have been quietly working hard to succeed Archbishop Onaiyekan in 19 months, on January 29, 2019. You have flatly maintained that the Ahiara problem is an Igbo problem, that they should solve it over there. Hence, Bishop Kukah, you were one of those who changed the problem of injustice to an ethnic problem of the Igbos. You have emphatically maintained that you, the bishops, are hemorrhaging Ahiara Diocese, very ominous indeed. And now, in your homily at Gwagwalada on June 20, 2017 you said that “in Ahiara, the devil has had his day” for which Fr. Ted Onumaegbu has given an impressive response. The devil has had his day in your bed or where? When this devil came to Ahiara, did he have his day with how many Reverend Sisters? And how many other beautiful women were in his entourage? “Chai” Bishop Kukah! Have you forgotten your years as the secretary general of the Catholic Secretariat, then in Lagos? “Mhhhhh,” Bishop Kukah, be careful! Our opposition research department is thrilled to have you jump into the ring uninvited. Think of George Cardinal Pell. Your Pandora’s Box does not have a statute of limitation. And by the way, is there no devil in Sokoto Diocese? All of us have fallen short of the glory of God.

Umu Mbaise: Our Nation is under Attack! No Surrender!

We will never surrender. Our “Mbaiseness is under attack. Our collective destiny as a nation is under attack. We are now being raped. And for how long shall we watch this rape continue? We have been castigated, chastised and publicly flogged before the world. They are forcing us to sit down on our “shit.” There is a door-to-door campaign going on. They have accused us of disobedience for refusing to accept injustice imposed on our land.

Hence, you can see, there is a concerted effort to tear us apart; to make us begin to doubt ourselves as a people and as a nation. But as Martin Luther King reminds us, “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” And in this boat we must all remain until we reach the land of justice and fairness. We will never sacrifice any nwa Mbaise in this struggle. If they want to punish, they must punish us all, or punish no one. We have no part with anybody who is supporting this injustice against us. So, our brotherhood and sisterhood in the Commonwealth of Mbaise must be radically held together and defended against any effort to destabilize us. Throughout this struggle, our unity has been our strength and this is the only weapon we have that has given us the mantle of “the indomitable lions and lionesses.” To lose our unity is to lose our essence and defining characteristic as Umu Mbaise. We are unbeaten because we are united. This is the only weapon system that we have in our “arsenal” that has continued to baffle our opponents. So hold onto these words of wisdom by Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Pessimism never won any battle.” So don’t be pessimistic. Be optimistic. See the bottle as half full and not half empty. They want us to begin to be pessimistic about ourselves and about our future. This will be fatal and it will be a defeatist template. And we reject it in Jesus’ name!

As Martin Luther King told the oppressed Negroes of America, “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” We have accepted the disappointment arising from the miscarriage of justice on December 7, 2012 for which our enemies have used the Agenzia Fides as an oppressive tool against us. However, we must never lose infinite hope that it would never be rectified. This struggle is about change. And as Martin Luther King also said, “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. Our struggle is in a pivotal moment. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.” Hence, we must stand together in the midst of this onslaught to force us to buckle under the weight of pressure brought on us by our opponents. We will not bend our back to give anybody the chance to ride it. This is why you have been magnificent in the way you handled the crisis provoked by Agenzia Fides. So, sons and daughters of Mbaise, as Elie Wiesel once pointed out, “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” This is what we are doing. And this is why the rally of the Mbaise laity council on July 1, 2017 was terrific. During that rally, we showcased our Mbaiseness to the world despite the efforts of opponents to stop it.

Indeed, Winston Churchill inspires us, when he said that “the empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” Hence, great sons and daughters of Mbaise, this struggle is not just about now, it is about the future of Mbaise. It is about our grandsons and daughters, born and unborn. It is about the now and later generations of Umu Mbaise. This struggle transcends religion. And this is what our Church hierarchy seems to be omitting. It is about our destiny as a people. It is about our “Mbaiseness.” With this in mind, Malcolm X reminds us that “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Consequently, we are fighting for our future and we are preparing for it today. We are struggling so that the future of Mbaise can belong to us. According to Martin Luther King, this means that “we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” It is important to remember that our oppressors want us to perish as fools. But shall we? As Martin Luther King once pointed out, “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Conclusion

It is now time to conclude. This “punish Mbaise slogan” has deep consequences for future Church history. At least, the Mbaise situation has moved from being local to being universalized. Hence, it has become part of universal Church history and historians will be scanning to collect everything written about this saga. Nonetheless, to punish an entire diocese for having no doctrinal or dogmatic issues will be unprecedented and this puts the Pope of Mercy in a quagmire. It calls into question, what mercy is. Does it mean that all these talks about mercy have been a mere modus loquendi, a manner of speech or even a Papal bumper sticker? And what if schism breaks out? The reason for this would be that you cannot sack the priests from Ahiara Diocese and expect Mbaise to fold her hands, sit like a wounded dog and lick her wounds. The world is hereby reminded that where there is no Plan A, there is a Plan B.

-CONCLUDED.

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