Pope To Priests: Obey Or Be Suspended…

Pope Francis has warned the Nigerian Diocese of Ahiara that if they do not accept their bishop, they will be suspended a divinis.
The Holy Father stressed this during his audience with members of the diocese in the Vatican on June 8.

When Pope Benedict XVI appointed Msgr. Peter Ebere Okpaleke as the diocese’ bishop in 2012, lay people and priests of the diocese rejected their new bishop because, unlike his predecessor, Msgr. Victor Chikwe, part of the Mbaise ethnic group, which makes up the majority of the diocese, he comes from the Ibero ethnic group, which makes up the majority in southeast Nigeria. In 2013, Cardinal Onaiyekan was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara.

In Pope Francis’ remarks, he noted that their meeting together was “a consolation” because he is “deeply saddened by the events of the Church in Ahiara.”

“I know very well the events that have been dragging on for years,” he said, stressing, “and I am thankful for the attitude of great patience of the Bishop, indeed the holy patience demonstrated by him.

“I listened and reflected much, even about the possibility of suppressing the diocese, but then I thought that the Church is a mother and cannot abandon her many children.”

Then the Holy Father made a request.

“Therefore,” he said, “I ask that every priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and personally. We all must share this common sorrow.”

“In the letter, one must clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope, and whoever writes must be willing to accept the Bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed.”

The letter, Francis explained, must be sent within 30 days, from today to July 9th, 2017.

“Whoever does not do this,” the Pope warned, “will be ipso facto suspended a divinis and will lose his current office.”

“This seems very hard, but why must the Pope do this? Because the people of God are scandalized,” the Pope said[emphasis added]       Source – Zenit

Comment:

Well, call me inattentive if you like, but this is one “scandal” that has passed me by, big time.  So, my attention has been well and truly grabbed, in the realisation that an entire diocese of priests is threatened with suspension under the above circumstances.  Whatever happened to management skills?  Other priests – causing all sorts of appalling scandals – are left to get on with scandalising us to death, without any hint of a rebuke, let alone suspension.  

I must hastily add that I know nothing of African Church politics or ethnic sensitivities, but on the surface – in light of the clergy scandals afflicting the Church here -in the UK,  it seems a tad over the top to demand total obedience to the Pope (i.e. accept your bishop unquestioningly) or be suspended from exercising your ministry while we have clergy living in openly scandalous circumstances, or which at least appear to be so (see front page of our January edition for a recent example) who suffer no disciplinary consequences whatsoever. 

Help me out here. What is going on?  

30 responses

  1. I was a little confused (say nothing, Editor) about who exactly is the current bishop until I looked up this Diocese. Apparently the Msgr. appointed by Pope Benedict in December 2012 and ordained (?) (that’s how Catholic-Hierarchy.org puts it) in May 2013 by Pope Francis is in fact the bishop in question. I also wonder whether there is more to this ethnic dispute than meets the eye. For example, is this Ibero ethnic group from which the bishop hails predominantly Muslim?

    That said, it seems not to have occurred to Francis that there is a glaring contradiction between “the Church is a mother and cannot abandon her many children” and his dictatorial threat to suspend every single priest who does not eat crow in a letter.

    Further evidence that this Pope is drunk with power, and drunk with hubris.

    • RCA Victor,

      Yes, this report does underline the Pope’s dictatorial character – no pope is due “total obedience”. A reader keeps telling me that Pope Benedict pledged “unconditional obedience” to Pope Francis on his election, but I’ve never been able to find a link to such a report online. Whether or not that is true, however, Pope Benedict had no business making such a promise. Only cults pledge unconditional obedience; there are clear limits to papal authority and so we are NOT bound to “total obedience”. Our first obedience is to the Faith and if and where any pope breaches that obedience, we are not bound to obey him in those matters.

      As I said in my introduction, I have no knowledge of local African politics, so I don’t know anything about this bishop’s Catholic credentials but, for some vague reason of uneasiness, I can’t help wondering if he’s more modernist than traditional in his “orientation” 😀

      If anyone else can dig out this information, there will be a larger than usual Christmas bonus in their pay cheque/check this year!

      • Editor,

        Looks like the author of this article got his Nigerian ethnic groups completely wrong. There is no listing for an ethnic group named Ibero (from which the current bishop hails), nor is there a listing for an ethnic group named Mbaise, from which his predecessor hailed.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Ethnic_groups_in_Nigeria

        Aside from all that, this scandal not only boils down to false obedience, but also runs directly against the progressivist current of “collegiality” which is one of the main planks of the Vat. II revolution. I’d say Francis has taken false obedience to new heights….or was that depths….

        Also, did you see this? https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/06/vatican-police-state-pope-wants-to-know.html

        • RCA Victor,

          I’m not sure it would bother me that the Pope wants to know if his cardinals who are resident in Rome are going to be away from Rome and for how long – that doesn’t seem unreasonable.
          Am I getting soft in my old age?

          Of course, the counter argument might be that in this age of mobile phones, he can contact them if and when necessary, at all times, so I’m prepared to be shouted down on this, my first attempt, to (albeit weakly) defend Papa Francis from the rabid traditionalists, if we must use labels, who frequent this blog… 😀

      • Editor, Re. “I’ve never been able to find a link to such a report online…”

        On 28 February 2013, Pope Benedict pledged “unconditional reverence and respect” ( incondizionata reverenza ed obbedienza) to his successor as he took his leave of the Cardinals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3tlu3a4luU

        Always glad to help, editor!

        • Perplexed,

          Thank you! You are a star!

          But don’t stay away so long – I’ve missed you! I really hoped you’d book for our final conference, but no, you let me down there. So, make up for it now and stick around to help us help YOU to be less “perplexed”… Only because, less is more, so to speak (nonsense!)

    • Bishop was rejected by the people because he is of Ibo ethnicity which is strong in the S.E. of Nigeria and the nearby state of Ambria … which is where Cardinal Francis Arinze comes from. (prefect ’emeritus’ of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments)

      I had looked this up last night but still don’t ‘get it all’ and surely can’t put it all together.

      Ahiara is a part of Biafra. The Biafrin struggle was a resistance to the Arab muslim.
      A famous declaration was written – The Ahiara Declaration – http://www.newenglishreview.org Islam in Africa by Hugh Fitzgerald 2009

      The poor priests have gone to the Governor for help. Gov. Okpalaeke

      Pope says the “rebelliouus priests are being manipulated by outside sources”

      Hmmm.
      There is definately more here than meets the eye. AND POPE knows what it is!!!

      The harshness of the Pope reminds me of his treatment of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. Could it be that the new Bishop is modernistic and the priests are not?

      I submit what little I could find and hope that someone can get to the bottom of it. I do not like this at all!!

      Last but not least … WHY doesn’t the outsider Bishop bow out in order to save a whole town from losing their faith? I

      • MarySong,

        “The harshness of the Pope reminds me of his treatment of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.”

        I think that is what raised our suspicions in the first place – the Pope seems to reserve his harshest words and actions for the orthodox / traditionalist religious, clergy and laity.

        However, having read the links posted by RCA Victor below, it seems to be the case that the issue is one of ethnicity. And certainly, on the face of it, the bishop humbly bowing out might seem the obvious thing to do – but for the fact that Christian charity prohibits such prejudice. They should accept the appointed bishop because – to paraphrase St Paul – in Christ there is no such ethnicity!

  2. On assuming public Office all clergy promise:

    “With Christian obedience I shall follow what the Bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish.”

    The Pope has supreme authority over the Universal Church. He clearly has the right to make the request, and all Office Holders have promised to respect all lawful authority.

    • Martin,

      Nobody promises to UNCONDITIONALLY obey anyone, bishop or pope, in the Catholic Church – that’s a given. Where a pope or bishop commands or instructs in line with Catholic Tradition. we obey, accept his teaching. In all other cases, we are duty bound to discern any threat to the Faith and resist if necessary. Total obedience? Nope.

  3. This is from the preface to John Salza/Robert Siscoe’s book “True or False Pope”: “Through unwitting obedience to recent Popes, these now profess and practice a faith unrecognizable to our forefathers.”

    I think that sums it up well – we definitely can’t give “total” or “unconditional” obedience to any churchman, not even a pope. It that wasn’t obvious before the crisis in the Church set in, it is very obvious now, IMHO.

  4. It is clear to me that Pope cannot command absolute obedience in the sense that he cannot command what is contrary to the Deposit of Faith which is entrusted to the Successors of Peter and the Bishops in Communion with him.

    Thomas Aquinas makes it clear, in fact, that if a Pope teaches heresy, ipso facto he ceases to be Pope. (This is the real reason why Francis will not respond to the now famous dubia).

    Vatican I, although it is often presented as the Council of excessive papal power in that it is the Council which defined the dogma of papal infallibility, is actually very limiting of the papal office. The question here, as it often is in matters relating to the Pope or to Bishops in general, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Unless the Church finds itself in the face of manifest heresy, who, above the Pope, is to say what is heretical and what is orthodox?

    In the case in hand, I must say that I side with Francis. It must never be forgotten that Christianity, by its universal nature, trumps race or ethnic origin. A bishop can never be refused on the grounds of his race or ethnic origin.

    That having been said, I go back to my opening point. The Pope is the Servant of the Deposit of Faith. He is himself at all times subject to Magisterium of his predecessors. Does this mean that doctrine cannot develop? No. Doctrine will always develop because it is the expression of the living Word of God in the Church.

    That doctrine develops is demonstrated, inter alia, by the Marian dogmas and by the doctrine of papal infallibility itself. We would be foolish to see these dogmas as having their origins, respectively, in 1854, 1950 and 1870. They each of them derive from centuries of reflection on the Christian mystery by both the Magisterium and by individual theologians.

    • Prognosticum,

      Is it definitely the case that the bishop is being rejected on ethnic grounds? I wonder about that. How do we know he is not a liberal/modernist?

    • Prognosticum,

      Good to see you back on the blog! Just to clarify: you agree with Francis’ threat to suspend the disobedient priests, but you disagree with the wording of his letter demanding “total obedience”?

      • It must never be forgotten that, as Vatican I teaches, the Pope has a truly episcopal jurisdiction over every diocese. It is therefore right in a case like this, which sees the local clergy at odds with their bishop, that the Roman Bishop intervene.

        The word ‘total’ I take to mean ‘unreserved’. But this must be seen against the background of the Papal function which is primarily the defence of the depositum fidei and its unadulterated transmission in the Church to future generations.

        The Pope is not an absolute. His function is actually rather limited. We are, lest it not be forgotten, in the Holy Catholic Church of Christ, not in North Korea. Our leader is very dear to us, but only when he is in full obedience to Christ and to the Tradition which begins with the Apostles.

        • Prognosticum,

          Thank you for each of your recent/current posts – all very interesting and informative.

          Your reminder that the papal function is “actually rather limited” is welcome – this is something that most Catholics fail to grasp. The majority, it seems, DO think that the Pope is owed total, unreserved, unconditional obedience. Incredible.

          It is, in fact, that misunderstanding/misrepresentation of the papal office which has kept the majority from recognising the crisis in the Church and its causes.

          Here, at Catholic Truth, we are engaging what passes for our brains, in an effort to try to work out how best to correct this prevailing error.

          All ideas welcome, folks!

      • RAC Victor,

        Your reply set me thinking.

        I am more and more convinced that in large part of our present predicament has to do with the reforms of Paul VI, which went far wider than the liturgy. Take, for example, the College of Cardinals. Prior to Paul’s reforms, a Cardinal once created was for life. The Pope could only create more when a sufficient number had died. The Cardinals were by statute and effectively the Pope’s Senate, and a pretty efficient brake on his power. Now, with Cardinals losing the right to vote in Conclave at eighty, the turnover rate gives too much power to the reigning Pope.

        And what about the sidelining of doctrine? Paul VI began this when, conscious that the venerable old Holy Office would have made some of his reforms difficult, he simply transformed it into another Vatican Congregation among the many as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Incidentally, I am of the view that, no matter how paradoxical it may seem, it was Pope Benedict XVI who took this sidelining of doctrine to a new level, first with his appointment of the, to put it politely, mediocre and very liberal Archbishop Levada as his successor, and secondly by failing to appoint Levada’s successor, Bishop Gerhard Mueller, as a Cardinal before his resignation.

        But the underlying problem in all of this is that since Vatican II there has been too much Pope. The Papacy is important, but only in the context of the Catholic Church. It is the obscuration of the Church by the Pope which allows Francis to effectively get away with murder. But I would go further. Not only does Francis get away with murder because the Church has been forgotten, but he uses the world (for what are the mass media if not an extension of the world) as a club with which to beat the Church into submission to his doctrinal novelties. This, to my mind, is the most serious aspect of his transgressions since it is such a theological enormity.

        • Prognosticum,

          It seems highly ironic that one result of Vat. II’s “collegiality,” which was designed to weaken the Papacy, has been both an increase in papolatry among the laity, and an increased tendency toward unilateral despotism on the part of the Conciliar Popes – said despotic tendency now having reached its peak in the Franciscan Pontificate.

          (I must say, though, that among the talking head Novus Ordo papal apologists such as EWTN and Phil Lawler, there has been a rather drastic awakening, thanks to Francis and his scandals du jour.)

    • RCA Victor,

      Thank you for those links. I’ve read them and it does seem to be a local ethnic issue, in which case, we have to (gulp) side with the Pope. Unless there’s something we’re not being told, or something we’re not fully grasping, then, as Prognosticum says above: ” It must never be forgotten that Christianity, by its universal nature, trumps race or ethnic origin. A bishop can never be refused on the grounds of his race or ethnic origin.”

      As you say, neither article suggests that the bishop’s orthodoxy is being called into question and so – unless there’s something pertinent that we’re missing/not being told – the clergy and faithful should accept their appointed bishop. No question about it.

  5. CARDINAL LEHMANN’S SECRET SCROLL

    A high-ranking personality of the church, reflecting the above truth in 2013, asked the Nigerian bishops a fundamental question “But how did the name of Peter Okpaleke ever enter the secret list of bishopric enquiry of Ahiara diocese?”

    The question remains unanswered except by the hackers of the list. The answer was left arguably in the realm of an incontrovertible high probability of arbitrary manipulation and force until the recent revelation of the certainty of stealing was made by Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Germany in 2016.

    Lehmann is a Cardinal of Mainz in Germany and once a participator in the Papal conclave, the selection of Popes and an insider in the Vatican happenings before his retirement. He revealed and asserted that “names of candidates submitted to the Vatican as potential bishops are being vetoed by “unauthorized people.” He adds more elaborately that, “in recent years, the official list of names has been crossed out and a new list sent from Rome”… “This represents a burdensome, intolerable disrespect for the church in a given country.”

    The Cardinal’s revelation of manipulation of list vindicated the people of Ahiara diocese that a strange priest was arbitrarily and fraudulently grafted into Ahiara list by, according to Cardinal Lehmann, those who have “knowledge of how things work in Rome.” Therefore Ahiara Mbaise did not arbitrarily and only speculatively award the certificate of the treachery and infraction to the proficiency and influence of Okpaleke’s brother Cardinal and his intimate friends who all have “knowledge of how things work in Rome.” Through this privilege, they have also made multiple bishops for their kinsmen, province, and diocese where almost every town have an indigenous bishop and like Oliver Twist, still, want more and want to be everywhere.

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