July 12, 1997 made my date with the Catholic Priesthood. July 12, 2014 saw me step into the 17th year as a priest.
The motivation I have for doing this review is two-dimensional; authenticity of faith and responsible citizenship as the only mutually inclusive factors that can guarantee the Church’s position in the evolving new world order and the only resources that can serve the ever growing need for peace and security in the global community.
And while I subscribe to and make my own the experience of veteran journalist John L. Allen Jnr. (formerly of the National Catholic Reporter but now working with the Boston Globe Newspaper) regarding his Catholic faith, my vocation as a priest and a theologian in communion with the Church surely has something different to say about method and the goals I have set out to achieve.
I therefore presume permission to reproduce here some texts from two books by authors whose conviction about method, not ideas, won my attention in a very strong and irresistible manner.
..but I feel compelled to offer some explanation of the dynamics that led me to write…. One might wonder why a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter, with its reputation as a progressive critic of the Catholic establishment, would choose to write about the Chief doctrinal conservative of our time. Or, one might assume that I chose Ratzinger in order to smear him, gambling that the cardinal has enough enemies to guarantee sales of a few books. My hope here is to present my interest in Ratzinger from the inside out, so that it might appear, as it does to me, neither enigmatic nor mean-spirited but a sincere attempt at understanding.
I am a child of Vatican II. I mean that not just spiritually or ideologically, but chronologically.
Michael Harrington once wrote a book on poverty called The Other American, and his idea of two nations sharing the same geography but inhabiting separate spheres of existence stuck with me. Later I found that this concept also captured my sensation of growing up in one kind of Catholic Church, then finding another ensconced in Rome when I began my work as a church affairs writer. I am the product of what I can only call “the other Catholicism.” In short, I had a thoroughly-even pervasively-Catholic upbringing.
But that upbringing was of the post-Vatican II sort. Hence I never worried about non-Catholics going to hell… I never learned to think of priest as light out of the community, set apart in some mysterious sense. The value of “full, active, and conscious” participation in the Mass by laity seemed intuitively obvious. It would have struck me as fantastic had anyone suggested that just three decades later advocating any of these ideas in the public conversation of the Catholic church would stamp someone as a “radical”.
I also imbibed in my parish and in my school that being Catholic meant being concerned for justice. I remember clearly the day Father Chuck, one of the many Capuchin Franciscans who were my teachers, spoke to my freshman religion class about how Catholic doctrine had led him to oppose the war in Vietnam. I began making the connections between Jesus, the church, and social activism, and as the United States cranked up its military activities in Latin America under Reagan during my high school years, I was ready with a moral critique that led me by a short path into political activities. I still think the single best piece of writing I did for my high school newspaper was an editorial defending, on the basis of Catholic “just war” principles, college students who refused to register for the draft.
I came to believe that being Catholic means caring about the world and about other people, and it means finding God in the midst of those concerns.
As I look back now, I realize that my experience wasn’t this univocal. I know there were people, even in my little hometown in Western Kansas, who had vastly different visions of church, who were greatly pained by what they saw happening in my classrooms and in my parish.
This still describes the vast majority of the adult Catholic with whom I work, worship and socialize. Polls show that my friends and colleagues reflect where a solid majority of Catholics in the Western world are on those issues. Because these are the people with whom I share my life, these positions seem natural and almost inevitable to me. It was not until I began writing professionally on Catholicism in the church early 1990s that I realized how many powerful figures within the church regard this brand of Catholicism as a mistake. They see it as a product of the turbulence that always follows an ecumenical council, and they are determined to bring it back under control.
Of course, I always had the sense that the pope and the Vatican were “more conservative” than most people I knew. I was unprepared, however, for the vastness of the gulf that seemed to separate the Catholicism with which I had grown up from the statements and policies flowing from Rome. The turning point for me was December, 1997, five months after I had started work at the National Catholic Reporter, when I was assigned to do a story about a new Vatican pronouncement on lay ministry. In technical parlance this was an “Interdicasterial” document, meaning it was issued by several Vatican offices at once, and its general thrust was to reassert a sharp distinction between laity and the ordained priesthood. The authors believed that a softening of that distinction, in which priests had come to be seen as members of the community distinguished by function rather than essence, was one of the major problems facing the church. It was then I realized that I didn’t understand what the church must look like to those who author such documents. I didn’t understand the needs they perceive or the dangers they obviously see.
I also realized that my ignorance was interfering with my work as a reporter. I could do no more than caricature views for which I had no understanding. I needed to break through to the other side of my own perceptions, and in the end that meant wrestling with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. More than any other figure in contemporary Catholicism, more so even than the pope, he embodies the hospitality to the “other Catholicism” I have described.
I am, by the way, assuming that the concerns expressed in that document on lay ministry, and scores of Vatican pronouncements like it, are genuine. I do not subscribe to the theory that curial officials such as Ratzinger make policy solely in order to secure their own power, though I would not deny that such considerations play their own, often unconscious, role in shaping decisions. I believe Ratzinger’s theological arguments are more than ex post facto rationalization for exercise of authority. I believe his analysis of church and world is sincere, and I wanted to understand it -and, where necessary, be challenged by it. If conversation within the church is ever to move forward, it seems to me, Catholics need to do more than impugn one another’s motives. They need to understand one another’s concerns and make some effort to speak the same language.
I knew the official catechetical rationale for the positions Ratzinger takes, but I needed more. I needed to understand how any religious leader in the modern world could believe that silencings and condemnations and banning books accomplish anything other than inflamed resistance and public incredulity. I needed to know how positions that seemed so obviously detrimental to women, to the intellectual life, to the cause of social justice, all of which the church cares a great deal about, could be so deeply entrenched and so vigorously defended by the best and brightest of Catholic officialdom.
(John Allen jnr: Pope Benedict XVI A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger; London; Concilium; 2005. Pp vii-ix)
From another angle, Hans Kuhnl writes thus:
Throughout my life, there is also a thread of militancy, which is not to be confused with quarrelsomeness. I have been involved in many controversies, most of which I have neither sought nor avoided, but none of them have been about incidental matters which I could easily have ignored. They have been about a great cause in which I believe. The struggle for this cause has been worthwhile, and in these memories I hope that it will come through as clearly as the person who seeks to serve it.
... I certainly do not share the view of Oscar Wilde that while everyone has disciples, it is usually the Judas who writes the biography- after all, the author can also be the beloved disciple John. (But), I would like as far as I can to prevent the formation of legends, whether malicious or well-meaning.
(Hans Kuhn: My Struggle For Freedom; (transl. by John Bowden); London; Concilium, 2004. P.1).
In this regard, therefore, anybody who gets genuinely hurt by me in the course of doing my work rightly deserves some apology. Likewise all those, especially friends, colleagues and fans, who are truly offended, misled or deceived as a result of communication-gaps occasioned by my resolute disposition and commitment to duty – gaps that seemed quite unavoidable. But any personality- high or low, cooperate or individual - and achievements which impugn, manipulate, vandalize, prevent, subvert and finally invert the nature and goals of a system erected to serve the GOOD, whether this personality or system is spiritual or secular, is highly quixotic and needlessly exasperating and so much so also do it’s victims stand in need of rescue and rehabilitation. Put directly, the identity, goals and behaviors of some people, cooperations, institutions, organizations and nations are a big contradiction to what they portray or claim to serve and seek to inculcate into the larger society.
Between commitment to the faith and an honest subscription to responsible citizenship, between dissenting or rioting theological voices and disintegrating or vandalized magisterial fortresses, a virtuous Christian woman spoke up against the totalitarian pretensions of church leaders, the dictatorship of relativism and the approaching arsenals of global Satanism.
She gave a detailed report that was yet subject to wider interpretation, explanation and application. That virtuous woman is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Our Lady of Fatima.
One could point to a deliberate attempt to lower, downplay and finally disable the urgency, force and power the 3rd message of Fatima carried. Today in Nigeria, the issue has proved more disturbing than the Boko Haram menace. It is not probable, but rather the case, that a cabal emerged in the Roman Curia and constituted itself into and usurped the place occupied by God in the church to subtly but heavily undermines the noble efforts of Pope John Paul II and his team. Thus, in a venture dictated by worldly diplomacy and totalitarian pretensions that stifled the voice of reason, murdered the conscience of the church and suppressed viable alternatives that generously donated themselves in the form of reforms, transparency and commitment to the gospel ideals, a cabal in the Roman curia went out of the way of the church to negotiate its personal security, career and ambition with freemason - the real but hidden face of the enemy and it’s unseen hands.
The fearless commitment of Benedict XVI to the faith through the Fatima message pursuant to the reform of the Roman Curia, enthronement of transparency and recovery of the original missionary spirit of the church is legendary in sustaining the horizon of hope and keeping the tiny thread of faith alive that have seen to the emergency of Pope Francis. Indeed, the church is alive. One only hopes Pope Francis will sustain the tempo and imbibe the radical disposition that moves with the speed of an underwater current instead of the many publicity bubbles –as healthy and well deserved as these may be that greet him everywhere he goes.
Quite Frankly, Pope Francis is proving to be the hidden and unknown side of ex-pontiff Benedict XVI- that radically decisive revolutionary force which was at work before and during the Second Vatican Council but which was silently used to infiltrate and recover the Roman curia and the entire machinery of the Holy See from magisterial malcontents and satanic marabouts that “played God in the human flesh.”
The recovery of the church is not only about the emergence of Pope Francis. The church must resuscitate efforts, take resolute and proactive steps and be clad in the ash-garments that will prepare and dispose her to a meeting with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother God (theotokos), Mother of the Church, Mediatrix of all Graces and the Our Lady of Fatima. This preparation must begin by confronting the Masonic alleys where the original power and appeal of the 3rd secret of Fatima message was thrown into and then going back into the archives to repair whatever damage that was done to the entire corpus of the message ever since it arrived the Vatican many decades ago.
If God lives among men in the human person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and if we cannot be Jesus Christ because he is God even though we can be another Christ -alter Christus- and if Jesus Christ is the symbol of perfect humanity who inspires us and to whom we aspire, and given the Masonic interpretation of the mystery of Incarnation as “man’s recorded successful attempt at becoming God while still in the human flesh” which, in real spiritual times, is another way of “becoming like unto God”, then the person and example of the Blessed Virgin Mary can be the only factor that defines and holds the very contents of authentic Christian discipleship today - the radically decisive affirmation and confirmation of the unity of God and the response it evokes in practical existential terms.
Christianity is that original form of discipleship ordained by God for the chosen people as the most real and authentic way of worshiping him and keeping his commandments but which was hijacked and hidden away from them by the deceptive arsenals of pharisaism. Or, to put it in ecumenical terms, Christianity is the most purest and authentic form of Judaism which came under strong illumination by the perfect witness of Jesus Christ to God in his life and ministry- an example he recommended to his disciples and all true believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That Jesus Christ is God has a decisive implication for this endorsement and recommendation. It goes to say that God intervened in a very personal and revolutionary way to defend his name and execute his will in the community of believers, and in this way rescued the chosen people from the rambling fingers of pharisaism and gave them over to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. And if as a human being Jesus Christ was the self-practicalizing teacher of this renewed and re-vitalized religious sensitivity, the Blessed Virgin Mary was its self-practicalizing follower, and the best ever to attain maturity in that faith. Her presence in the community of believers must have taught the church some practical lessons which the Pentecost experience did not contradict but rather re-affirmed and confirmed.
Jesus Christ did not found a new religion different to and opposed to Judaism. In this context, it is therefore natural to argue that if Jesus Christ practiced Judaism, to hold the view that he is the founder of the Christian religion has far reaching implications. It goes to admit in a very helpless and defenseless manner that Jesus Christ was schismatic. And this brings us to a conclusion that is as certain as it is scandalous. The Jewish law prescribes death-sentence for such a one. Therefore, Christians are the rebels. This is true if it is still worth arguing that the separated churches have some trappings of rebellion. But rebellion is not a character of the Christian religion and cannot be.
If revelation is still an event and a source despite the fact that everything that needs to be said has been said and that nothing new can be said, and if there exists necessarily the need to be concerned or worried about the events and situation at the world scene, then the 3rd secret of the message of Fatima – not human sacrifices reminiscent of the type crude practices that usually obtain in pre-historic African societies - holds the missing bricks and promises to supply the cement that are urgently needed at the construction site of the pyramid of faith in the 21st century Church especially in Africa.
No adequate theology can afford the luxury of neglecting the Fatima message or trivialize its significance for the 21st century Catholicism without lapsing into a mere ideology or an intolerable messy opinion. And to contrive to lock it away in the archives is as weighty as locking up the fountain of knowledge, truth and life against the 1.2 billion catholic population across the globe.
With the clampdown on the power and urgency of the third message of Fatima and the idolatrous recourse made to Freemason, the many different routes to genocide, terrorism, corruption and Satanism have been grafted unto the very imposing trunk of church life and ministry. Those responsible for this clampdown must be made to take responsibility for their actions, or rather helped to appreciate the level of their culpability in the sponsorship, advertisement and enthronement of corruption, terrorism, insecurity and Satanism that have gripped the world.
And by a continuous deliberate neglect, by the church, to re-invent and acquiesce to the demands of the 3rd message of Fatima, and confronted by the invading arsenals of global Satanism, Vatican bureaucracy runs the risk of being reduced to an imposing ideological cult. Again, the umbilical cord which unites Christianity with Judaism will be further threatened by the violent disposition of Islam towards the State of Israel in the sense that there is no way the church can pretend to be fighting corruption and terrorism on the world scale while she herself is also at the same time a major beneficiary, with Islam, of the powers that shore up global terrorism.
Anti-Semitism holds no attractions for the Christian spirit because it neglects the lofty implications of Divine Mercy and the providence of God for fallen humanity and goes ahead to hold the chosen people of God up in Judgment forgetting that any day the Jews become aware of the abiding presence of God in Jesus Christ, Judaism will be upgraded to its original status which is Christianity, and the Christian believers will be contented to re-connect with their natural ancestry.
Witnessing to the gospel and queuing for global power and influence before global Satanic dictatorship are not mutually inclusive functions of the Roman Curia. They are mutually opposed. Steps in this direction must be retraced whether here in Nigeria or in the larger Church affairs.
By and large, the person and example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Fatima presents a contrast to the many unhealthy divisions between that which is sacred and that which is mundane, and at the same time constitutes a very strong rebuke against every attempt at confusing them. In other words, while her life of witnessing to God was highly distanced from fundamentalistic and syncretic pre-occupations, the pretensions of careerism and ambitions that color most feminist agitations today, she is the model of unity between the sacred and the secular, and the most foremost agitator for the liberation of womanhood.
In respect of the 3rd message of Fatima, the contents of Mary’s struggles are one of the issues and events that are locked away in the Vatican archives. Yet the church is poised for a showdown with LCWR. From Rome to USA, from the far East to emerging democracies in modern Africa, such pockets of ecclesiastical prison yards are becoming increasingly obsolete and disgusting as instruments of coercion or control in the midst of noble alternatives.
Therefore the very contents of my struggles and concern for the past few years present a complex picture, giving many a cause to believe that someone is out to experiment on the issue of theological impunity. But the difficulty of the question is not on excuse for avoiding it.
The situation in Nigeria presents the real face of the challenge and urgency which this question posits for the church today.
In my meeting, or rather discussions with Nigeria’s Cardinal John Onaikan shortly before his elevation to the Cardinalate, he said they (that is, the bishops of Nigeria) knew what they were doing and went ahead to berate and even warned that our brand of activism- in manifest reference to my person, and at a different level, Fr. Ejike Mbaka, Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN)- is creating unnecessary and unhealthy enemies for the church. He maintained this view unequivocally even against all threads of evidence and abundance of facts I laid at his disposal to prove the opposite.
In my letter to Cardinal Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith through General Muhammadu Buhari, and having as its subject Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to the Vatican, I wrote:
As a priest who is very well aware of the significance of and unreservedly subscribed to legitimately constituted authorities (both ecclesiastical and civil), my part in this theater of absurdity is becoming vey tetchy to me personally but the imperiling questions have refused to go away, (because) I am ordained for these people, to work for their well being and salvation. Is it possible that the Vatican, under any kind of Treaty whatsoever, can give an overt or even tacit approval to genocide?
Whichever way, and notwithstanding the murderous intents of the murderers and terrorists that still hang around our ecclesiastical courtyards I am all the more resolved to stand with God who is love and the Father of the Our Lord Jesus Christ through witnessing to Christ the the Prince of Peace with and serving the needs of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Fatima and Queen/Patroness of Nigeria for the poor and oppressed.