Dear Cardinal Onaiyekan,
I write this open letter to you on the basis of the Christian faith. There is an inviolable mission which underscores our Christian faith. The Catholic faith has carried this Christian mission to its greatest height. That mission is the social and moral teaching of our faith. This defines the incorruptible Body Of Christ. This mission also puts all Christians in permanent, eternal service to the poor, the weak in body and soul, the socially and economically neglected and marginalized, the ignored, the most vulnerable in our societies.
Dear Cardinal, that mission which moved our Lord Jesus Christ to drive out the corrupt, the thieves and corrupt tax collectors from our Father’s house (Mark Chapter 11, Verse 15-17, Mathew 21, Verse 12) is at great risk in your recent statement that Reverend Father Mbaka should be sanctioned for carrying out that same mission which moved Jesus Christ and which our Pope, Pope Francis has witnessed in his now eternal and divine statement in acknowledgement of our Saint St Francis of Assisi during his assumption of the papacy that “How I wish the church is a poor church … how I wish that Church serves the poor….”
Dear Cardinal Onaiyekan, if there is one thing that summons some of us back to a social and moral duty at this point in our age, it is that eternal and divine service to the poor, the most vulnerable, the socially and economically ignored by the insane corruption in the land in our country today under the rulership of President Jonathan.
But kindly let me re-center the issue so that you see why your call that Rev Father Mbaka be sanctioned is problematic and may not be consistent with Pope Francis’s call that we Christians go among the poor, make the Church a poor church for the poor and serve and proclaim the gospel with joy.
Sir, on new year day, Rev Father Mbaka saw the light and proclaimed in service of the Nigerian poor that President Jonathan does not deserve a second term. These are Father Mbaka’s words “I love President Goodluck Jonathan and I used to be his ardent fan, but I want good for my people and that’s why I want Nigerians to vote out Goodluck Jonathan and vote General Muhammad Buhari. I don’t care if Buhari is a Muslim and from the North; all I care about is that Buhari can save Nigeria.” Given that President Jonathan’s government stands in fundamental contradiction to the social and spiritual needs of the Nigerian poor, we in defense of the vulnerable and the poor in our society believe that Rev Mbaka is right that President Jonathan does not deserve to be re-elected.
In the Catholic Church we recognize some core vows. I know these vows intimately and spiritually for my wife and I have always consistently been emotionally, spiritually, physically and reverentially present all the time some of our intimate friends who were going into the priesthood in Nigeria took their vows decades ago. They are the vows of sanctity, of celibacy, of obedience to authority and of poverty.
Since Father Mbaka’s statement my wife and I have scrutinized these vows to see where Father Mbaka may be in violation of our faith in his sermon. With due respect to you we do not see one violation. In other words if we were in Reverend Father Mbaka’s shoes my wife and I think that we would make the same statement in service of the Nigerian poor Father Mbaka made, and thereafter commit our souls to our God for eternal judgment.
Sir I have never met you and I do not need to. But sir, you took a different view on Rev Mbaka. You disagreed with Rev Mbaka. With due respect to your anointed call which I have had good reason to defend behind you these are your words:
“Mbaka will take responsibilities for his own actions. I do not believe in my mind that the way things are in Nigeria, any Catholic priest has the mandate to decide which of the political contestants should be voted for…What most of us will do is to tell people to vote according to their conscience and then, we tell the authorities to allow people to vote freely and fairly. …Like I said, Mbaka is a priest of his own type. If he was in my archdioceses, I would have sanctioned him long ago for the kind of things and utterances that he makes….But, he is not under my diocese; he has a bishop to handle that if there is any need. I hope that people are not thinking that we are sending Mbaka to talk rubbish…If you want to hear anything even not official but at least, authoritative, then, you listen to the bishops. Rather than him and I don’t see any bishop talking that way…”
Dear Cardinal, let me inform on why many of us are uncomfortable with your position. First, before Rev Father Mbaka saw the light, he had earlier openly shown support for President Jonathan. Then you kept mute, you did not talk about procedure in the Catholic Church. But when Father Mbaka got transformed like Paul in the Bible, you evoked procedure. Sir as a Catholic such inconsistency is spiritually depressing to us. My Catholicism enjoins me to be consistent and unwavering even in the face of death. That is our faith.
Second, you called Rev Mbaka’s defense of the Nigerian poor “rubbish”! That hit a spiritually depressing chord in our family. We take our faith seriously. My family, especially our children take Pope Francis’ call that we should serve the poor seriously. Pope Francis is our children’s darling Pope for Pope Francis is always able to access the hearts of youths of the world with divine and blessed ease.
I serve a living God in a family ministry, and not his Shepherds, hence I hurriedly clutched to my faith in a living God on reading your statement that the defense of Nigerian poor by an ordained Catholic priest-Rev Mbaka- is in your words “rubbish”. Dear Cardinal your words “rubbish” used to describe a Father’s service to the poor are scary; they have affected us, but NOT our faith.
Sir with honest respect to your ministry, it is spiritually painful for me to say with agony that I do not see this consistency in your position on Rev Mbaka. You have given some people reason (I disagree with these people) to say you were moved politically by the insanely corrupt rulership of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan to say what you said about Rev Mbaka. As a Catholic this is spiritually grim for me.
Third, though we Nigerian Catholics are temporarily outside the Christian Association of Nigeria, you will however know that Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the president of CAN has turned CAN into an uncanny campaign organization for President Jonathan. By this act, the Nigerian state under President Jonathan is in complicit with the Christian Association of Nigeria in violating your words ‘to allow people to vote freely and fairly-sic”.
Therefore, Nigerian Christians –especially the YOUNG CHURCH have asked why you have not been critical of this subversion of our ecumenical faith by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor in turning a Christian association of ALL Nigerian Christians to a campaign office of President Jonathan in violation of your own words “to allow people to vote freely and fairly…”(sic).
This is more serious given that President Jonathan watches over the most insane corrupt system ever in the history of our unfortunate country-Nigeria. In other words a Pastor-Mr. Ayo Oritsejafor turned a Christian Association of ALL Nigerian Christians to serve the most insane corrupt system ever in Nigeria, to serve the electoral interest of a President, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan who looked Nigerians straight in the face and said stealing of government resources and treasury is not corruption, and you, Cardinal Onaiyekan did not talk.
You may argue that the fact that we Catholics suspended our membership of the uncanny CAN under Mr. Ayo Oritsejafor is sufficient indictment and indication of our disagreement with Ayo Oritsejafor for turning CAN to a campaign office for President Jonathan, but it is sufficient to note that you kept quiet on this. This is the voice of the faithful from the Nigerian streets. It is the laity who are talking. Sir, you have the faith obligation to hearken to our voice.
Finally, I agree with you that the Catholic Church both local and Universal has a procedure. As a member of the laity, I wish to say sir, that Rev Mbaka spoke for us, he spoke for the Nigerian poor in putting the two main issues of the election on the agenda-ETHICS and SECURITY-. In doing this, he did not violate any procedure. I have gone back to check our social and moral teachings.
I wish to say that on authority of those teachings, Father Mbaka’s two-theme definition of the issues around the election is validly, soundly and legitimately and faithfully derived from the moral and social teaching of the Catholic Church. I ask every Catholic to go back to that document and check. We are called to serve the poor. And that is exactly what Rev Mbaka has done.
In closing I wish to put it on record for proper documentation. If the Nigerian Catholic Church should carry out your advice and sanction Rev Father Mbaka, we the laity, the flock , the sheep will have no option but to move and act in peaceful and spiritual defense of Rev Mbaka.
Sir, we will follow laid down procedure (we will not go outside of it for we will remain in the Mother Church) of our Church, the Catholic Church and take this matter to the Pope-Pope Francis. Given the insane corruption under President Jonathan which has turned the Nigerian poor to manipulate-able articles and tools of evil humiliation and degradation called Stomach Infrastructure, we will document the grand theft of $20b under the watch of President Jonathan and Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, the petroleum minister which is a mere tip in the iceberg of a grand public larceny and pillaging of common resources that have sunk the hopes of the children of the Nigerian poor from ever rising.
We will document the open rape of the economy under the watch of President Jonathan and we will ask the Pope to exercise his anointed authority and inform us how else to serve the poor, how to turn the Church to a poor Church in service of the poor different from what Rev Mbaka has correctly done; how else do you serve the poor when the poor are pauperized, intimidated and humiliated through open pillaging of the public treasury by the Nigerian state under the watch of President Jonathan. We Nigerian Catholics, the YOUNG CHURCH will then show how Rev Mbaka has carried out this teaching in his homely.
Sir, I say with genuine reverence and respect for your anointed authority but without reservation that this is the voice from the street reflecting grim street conditions of the Nigerian poor, this is the voice of THE YOUNG CHURCH as we say in the Catholic Church and you have the faith obligation to hearken to us as one of our leading and shining Shepherds upon whose shoulders we lean and rest.
But I know the matter needs not get to that point of going beyond Nigerian shores because we know a local re-visit of your statement is appropriate and will be sufficient, and we know that you will do this, for we know and we do not have any doubt that you are fully committed to serve the Nigerian poor properly, dutifully and faithfully as enjoined by our Pope-Pope Francis, the divinely blessed Pope of the Young Church.
Thank you Cardinal and God abundantly Bless you, your divine call and your ministry.
Adeolu Ademoyo firstname.lastname@example.org African Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.