January 27, 2022

“THE FORBIDDEN TRUTH AND THE CLOUD OF WITNESS”

This is the title of the latest book by Rev. Fr. Dr. John Odey, with the subtitle: How Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obuna Ruled and Crippled Abakaliki Diocese. Anyone who understands the structure and administrative mechanism of the Roman Catholic church will instantly sense that something is wrong somewhere. It is either that the author, who is a priest of the diocese has lost his mind, or he has finally decided to walk away and leave the priesthood. In the Catholic Church what Fr. Odey did with the publication of this book is indubitably forbidden, and it is a transgression that amounted to a cardinal sin. It will be surprising if this will not end in ex-communication. Fr. Odey understood well that many who had confronted authority with the truth often don’t survive the consequences. But it is ironic that the Church which claims to be the vanguard of truth doesn’t want to have anything to do with it, and will unleash every arsenal against any truth-sayer to make sure he is permanently hushed.

The pages of history are smeared with the blood of gadflies, courageous men who dared authority and indelibly etched their names in our hearts. Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, the Apostles, and some disciples of Jesus were all victims of authorities that were allergic to truth. Thomas Moore, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Dele Giwa, Ken Saro Wiwa, and countless others were crushed by the authorities. If there is one thing most earthly authorities fear and detest with a passion, it is truth and the voice from where it comes. They are frightened by it because it is what can easily end their reign. They are given to misunderstanding truth almost always as a pitch against their power and incitement of the people to undermine their positions. But rather than embracing the truth, the authorities seek out the easy solution to the annoyance which is always handy: extermination.

This is not a fable; it is the way of the world, the way of thinking that even Rome is not immune to it. What concerns every keen observer and keeps us wondering is Church’s relationship with the truth. What is even the Church without truth and justice? What are the Church without love, care, and brotherhood? It will be disingenuous to deny the barrage of accusations Fr. Odey made against Bishop Okoro (Emeritus) and Fr. Obuna and their intention to make his path difficult, for yours sincerely once equally noticed heavy hands of the duo in the administration of Abakaliki diocese. The question is: does Fr. Odey has any right to complain when upon his ordination he pledged obedience to the Bishop? According to his argument, he insisted that the pledge of obedience doesn’t mean silence in the face of injustice. But that is technically what the Church intended when she craftily demanded an oath of obedience as a passage to ordination.

No priest in the Abakaliki diocese can in every honesty approve of Bishop Okoro and his secretary, Fr. Obuna’s symbiotic administrative style. But the approval is inconsequential; you only need to live by it since you freely choose to join the presbyterium through the gate of obedience. When a Bishop is caged by a monstrous secretary who practically usurped his power, it is difficult to be quiet. Still, nothing is required of you but to be quiet. In reality, about three to four decades Abakaliki diocese was ruled by two Bishops: Bishop Micheal Okoro (legitimate) and Bishop Fr. Obuna (Illegitimate). The illegitimate Bishop is the most powerful. This fact was what some priests couldn’t come to the realization. Hence, their brush with authority plunged them into unending troubles and suffering.

The problem of Fr. Odey started when he sees Fr. Obuna as a fellow priest. Imagine what his attitude could have been if he had seen Fr. Obuna as illegitimate Bishop of Abakaliki diocese. Even if he doesn’t want to entertain the concept of Bishop with Obuna, having seen the power he wielded, he shouldn’t have made any mental distinction between Bishop Okoro and Bishop Fr. Obuna. The two are the same. Intelligence is not wisdom and can’t substitute for it. There are two things Fr. Odey could have done in the face of the daunting challenges to better manage the debacle. Firstly, to see the reality of Obuna’s position as I just painted above. Secondly, to disrobe and leave the priesthood. This counsel may sound harsh but it is the best in the situation of incapacitation and helplessness. You can’t serve God only as a man of clothing; there are other ways to serve him and still be rewarded with the result: heaven.

Sadly, religion and Church that propagate love and justice are in some cases stale and cold. They do the opposite of what they purport to represent, and thereby, leave us wondering whose servants they are? For instance, it is unconscionable to excuse pure hatred and deliberate measures to destroy a brother who offended you as human weakness. It is even scandalous when this detraction and vindictiveness come from the hierarchy of the Church, who claimed to be the cicerone of the marching pilgrims and custodians of the gate of heaven. Even in the offense of mutiny love overcomes every odd. Although Fr. Odey had his issues, “Bishop” Fr. Obuna took advantage of his position and became an unequal detractor, a terror, and a monster. The wise counsel to a leader is not to please anyone, but to be just and fair to all.

Some of us will like to know what is my interest in the Church business. I don’t have any business at all except where it concerns injustice and a cry for help. Injustice to one is an injustice to all, for we share in the same humanity. We are all affected by individual actions, for ‘the man dies in the face of tyranny and hatred’. Neither Bishop Okoro/ “Bishop” Fr. Obuna nor Fr. Odey can be exonerated from culpability in the conflict. Going by Fr. Odey’s narration, I believe the actions of both parties are typically unchristian. Bishop Okoro and ‘Bishop’ Fr. Obuna were unkind and vindictive, and Fr. Odey is wrong to publish this book to tell the whole world how evil his brothers are. Where are the love and forgiveness these folks preach? Until we learn to love and forgive one another, even if you are a Pope, you are not a Christian. You are a weed that will be cast into the lake of fire on the day of reckoning. Unfortunately, we are standing on the threshold of that day!

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