A personal Open letter to my friend Fr Mmakwara of Ahiara diocese.
By Fr Francis Nwaiwu.
My dear Fr.
Greetings! Sorry This letter is so urgent that I don’t have time for pleasantries.
The die is cast and the zero hour has come
The ancient serpent is now moving around under the full noon day sun seeking whom to devour. Stand up to him strong in faith.
This debacle in your diocese has lingered for a long time. In your anger and bitterness, many printable and unprintable things have been said.
You know anger can be our worst enemy. In that anger, you have behaved as if you are no longer part of the universal church, denigrating our Church high officials whom we revere : Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, even the former Nuncio did not escape your heat-seeking missiles and vitriolics.
Unfortunately or fortunately depending on where you are standing, the Holy Father, Pope Francis intervened in a very direct , remarkable but in a very unusual way.
In this case, he did not speak through or any messenger, but he spoke to you directly in a way we have not seen before. Remember, he is the last court of appeal.He is the supreme Court as far as the Catholic Church is concerned.
My dear Fr, I write this with tears because we all belong to the priestly family or fraternity. You guys have made your point, the world has heard you. It is even in the EWTN and CNN etc. The Pope himself has heard your voice and complaints. Unfortunately in spite of all these, he took the decision that is before all of us.
I urge you now to reflect on our vocation as priests, lower your head in humble submission and sheath your sword and consider the battle over for the sake of the Church that you serve and for the sake of the priesthood.
When we were in the Seminary, one of our great and illustrious Professors Msgr. Theo Okere said something to us which I still hold dear : Never engage in a battle you cannot win. This is not the question of who will blink first. You know as well as I do that it is not in the usual character of Rome to rescind decisions.
This is not the time to theologize or philosophize or even logicize. It is past the time for the fallacy of argumentum ad misericordiae.
The Pope himself, the Vicar of Christ and head of the Church (do you still believe that), has spelt out definitively and in a very unambiguous language his decision. Anything short of obedience is from the evil one. No matter how unpalatable or how seemingly unfair, or insensitive the judgement is, is now beside the point. Remember the famous maxim: Roma locuta causa finita est.
My dear brother, step back a little and imagine the consequences if this dark ominous cloud hovering over Ahiara diocese and ofcourse the Nigerian church is allowed to fall. God forbid.
Don't allow the ego to play to the gallery. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience to the Pope will not in any way diminish your personality. Rather it will set you up on a higher moral, pastoral and dignified pedestal as priest who understands his priesthood
Obedience to the Pope does not mean that you have been humiliated and defeated. It rather means that you that you are a committed and loyal Catholic priest who understands his priesthood. Above all, the cause you are fighting for is not about you, or is it?
Step back again and imagine the specter of suspension which the Pope has threatened. Do you know what it means for a dedicated and happy priest
to be suspended?
I have been around for a while, and I know very well the agony of a dedicated and happy priest who is suspended. To put it n a very banal way; the suspended priest is forbidden to celebrate Mass and other Sacraments of the Church. The pain can be very excruciating. Is it the experience you want to deal with? We pray we don't come to that stage.
Ahiara diocese deserves better than that.
Your diocese is the centre of igbo Catholicism. It has a very large dedicated, proud and enlightened catholic population. It has one of the highest concentration of intellectuals in the academic and professional sectors; many top entrepreneurs and captains of businesses and companies. The diocese can boast of priestly and religious vocations and a very high number of very educated priests and religious all over the world. Your diocese should be a leading light in our province and even in the nation. Is this the way you want to do it?
Yes, you may say you were unjustly treated, that you were not given a fair hearing. Even Christ the good Shepherd was unfairly treated ; like a sheep, he openeth not his mouth. Why don't you dare obedience. Obedience is a priestly virtue.
Step back again and think of your minor and major seminarians; aspirants and novices in various religious houses who are looking up to you all. Most of you are their heroes and mentors. Some of you are teachers in the universities and formators in the seminaries.
What are you telling them by this action of yours.
In one of your latest writings I read in the social media where you spelt out in details, why you are convinced that Bishop Okpaleke is not qualified to be Bishop. I agree with you, but may ask , who is ever qualified or worthy to be a Priest or even a Bishop? Nobody. It is only God's choice that qualifies us. We as priests are chosen not because we are qualified or worthy. It is just God's mysterious choice., so dear Fr. I urge you do not go there.
I understand that you sent a delegation to the Governor of IMO state. Rochas. I don't know why you did that.Whatever it is; Don't you think you are stretching this too far? Don't you think that this kind of visit demeans the church?
Step back again and think.let me remind you in case it did not occur to you? If this dark cloud is allowed to fall, your lay faithful will undoubtedly be very sad but they may not lose out much. They will still attend Masses receive communion, go to confession; baptise their kids but not to you but to other parishes where a faithful Catholic priest is presiding or celebrating. But you a priest will not be permitted to celebrate Mass. Is it why you were ordained a priest?
So dear Bro. I plead with you in the name of God ; be priests of God, be priests of the Cath. Church.Stand up for the priesthood of Christ. The clock is ticking. Activate that priesthood in you by responding positively to the call of obedience.
I beg you, obedience as a priest will give you that joy, that peace and fulfilment that any Catholic priest enjoys.
May Mary the Mother of Priests intercede for all of us.
Fr Francis Nwaiwu.