Pope Francis Hornswoggles Nigerian Priests

Last summer, Pope Francis tried to bludgeon a group of Nigerian priests into obedience. Tired of their protests regarding an outside bishop his predecessor had imposed on them, Pope Francis issued an unprecedented threat to fire all of them if they did not declare their total obedience to him in writing. Not only the priests, but more importantly, their flock, refused to submit to the pope’s demands. Francis backed down, at least temporarily. The press, with the exception of CRUX, ignored this entire affair, which I’ve previously summarized (From Iron Fist to Limp Wrist - Pope Francis and Ahiara). There are new developments (here).

The pope had letters sent to each of the hundreds of priests of Ahiara. The priests were ordered to acknowledge receipt of the letter. But then the Vatican asserted that acknowledgment of receipt was equivalent to a submission of total obedience to the pope’s demands. CRUX interviewed one priest who had refused the pope’s demands but was told by the Vatican he had declared his obedience:


Father Ben Ogu from Ahiara shared both his letter of apology and the one he received from the Vatican with Crux.


“In my letter, supposedly written personally to the Pope, I expressed all my honest feelings of disgust about the imposed bishop and my inability to accept, cooperate and work with him in my Christian conscience,” he told Crux.


However, Ogu complained, his letter was taken as support for Okpaleke [the imposed bishop], and he complained that he’s now being “forced” to accept him. He said over the phone that the priests’ signatures to accept their letters has been taken as acceptance of its content, and that the bishops in Nigeria have now spread “propaganda that we have accepted him” and Okpaleke’s installation will take place soon.


“Others were even intimidated and warned never to put up any more opposition again, or else they will incur suspension a divinis,” he said.


The suspension, which is a censure intended for the clergy, prohibits the celebration of the sacraments in public unless it’s to attend to the needs of faithful in danger of death. In his original threat, Francis had warned the priests that a lack of cooperation would trigger such a suspension.


In virtually every country of the world, the pope’s behavior would violate the law. But the Holy See is a sovereign country, where the pope reigns supreme, and his word IS law. This misrepresentation of a letter of receipt is both disgraceful and immoral. Note too that the threatened "suspension a divinis" is a harsher punishment than that given to priests who were serial child rapists -  an indication of the Church's moral priorities. But both the mainstream media and the religious media remain silent about this travesty.


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