December 1, 2022

PERSECUTION OF A PRIEST AND THE SILENT COLLEAGUES!

In my last write-up, I strongly condemned the publication of the book “FORBIDDEN TRUTH AND THE CLOUD OF WITNESS,” with the subtitle: How Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obuna Ruled And Crippled Abakaliki Diocese. I stated clearly that the publication is unchristian because it contravenes the Christian principle of forgiveness. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us” are the watchwords for Christians. If the author Rev. Fr. John Odey had published this book and circulated it amongst the priests and principal participants in the stalemate, it would be more reasonable and appropriate and less condemnable before the laws of God. But if one has not read this book, one will never know why Fr. Odey decided to go public. What prompted this write-up is to state the reasons why Fr. Odey published this explosive book. Nevertheless, my intention is not to commend the publication for being made public, but to show the need why no one should allow wrongdoing, lies, injustice, and wickedness to fester among us and worst, when they come from a quarter where they are least expected. Injustice done to one is an injustice done to all. When injustice is continuously being done to Fr. Odey, the question is: where are his colleagues?

Rev. Fr. Odey is a priest with a difference. He majored in moral theology in his doctorate and didn’t wish to leave his conviction in a bound thesis paper on a university shelf in Rome.  Unlike some of us, he wanted to live it out as well as use it to change society. For those who don’t know him, he is a prolific writer with 46 books, who wrote on social and political issues that advocate for good governance, politics of conscience, and inclusion against the exclusion of the common man. He denounces injustice, corruption, lies, and criminality at all levels of the government. He is a gadfly and a moral conscience of the authorities who dread him like leprosy for his unflinching posture on issues that enthrone sanity in the polity, irrespective of who is in power.

To remain effective in his advocacy, Rev. Fr. Odey remained incorruptible, hardworking, and obedient to his Bishop. He has no friend amongst corrupt politicians nor dines with the oppressors of the poor. He does not receive or hanker for stolen money politicians give to priests to buy their conscience and seal their lips. He speaks his mind and bears his convictions fearlessly. But his stance on social issues and denunciation of ills in the society does not sit well with his superiors, Bishop Okoro and  Fr. Obuna and they were out to get him. The duo lay in wait for their prey who will soon take a look at their corrupt system that serves as the perfect bait for his attack which he will soon roar his disaffection and denunciation.

They were very correct because it is out of this conviction to fight the injustice that Fr. Odey could no longer stand the oppression of his fellow diocesan priests by Fr. Obuna. He is not given to sycophancy that had become a tradition in the Abakaliki diocese where priests are trained in fear, ordained in fear, and live in fear; they groan and grumble about Fr. Obuna’s highhandedness and smirk and smile in his presence. He couldn’t understand why a Bishop would allow a fellow priest to treat the rest of the priests in the diocese like naughty boys. In a diocese of about 114 priests that climbed to 203 priests, Fr. Obuna is allowed to hold 15 sensitive posts. He insults and bullies the rest to extent that everyone recoils in his shells because as the Bishop warned that whoever disobeys or insults Fr. Obuna, disobeys and insults him. Hence this terrible situation of things became Fr. Odey’s Albatross.

In his bid to restore normalcy and rescue his fellow priests of Obuna’s suffocating knees on their knecks, like what played out last year in Minneapolis USA, with George Floyd, Fr. Odey spoke out. He expressed his discontent and danger of Fr. Obuna’s role in the diocese. He pleaded with the Bishop to relieve Obuna some of the posts and for him to understand that Fr. Obuna is not infallible. He tried to explain to the Bishop the ugly state of affairs in the Diocese in the hope of restoring health in the presbyterium and diocese at large. This honest and selfless plea became the catalyst that was the foundational pretext to destroy him.  But the major reason is his unrelenting criticism of the Ebonyi State government which has robbed Obuna and Bishop of the inflow of corrupt government loot.

To forestall Fr. Odey’s campaign against injustice and criticism of the government, a young and relatively, new priest Fr. Livinus Obijiofor was sent to take over the parish from Fr. Odey. His mission was not actually to take over as parish priest but to do the biddings of Fr. Obuna and the Bishop by tormenting his elder, Fr. Odey, who is older than him and equally 21 years senior in the priesthood. As the torments from this foolish henchman-priest became unbearable Fr. Odey, had to move away from the Father’s house to a new house he built.

Two years after he was removed from the parish priest of St. Patrick’s church Abakaliki, Fr. Odey was transferred to his hometown as a parish priest in the remote village where his annoying voice of citicism will be shut off from politicians who are willing to buy the conscience of the church with their corrupt loot from the public treasury. Meanwhile, as his persecution rages on Fr. Obuna went for the jugular with a deliberate aim at his integrity. Fr. Odey who spent more than 13 million nairas of his personal money to develop his parish and school and whose account in the inventory shows that the parish owes no one was accused of inheriting a buoyant parish and rendering it bankrupt by stealing 12 million nairas.

These lies from the Bishop and Fr. Obuna were typed and distributed to the entire priest of the diocese. Those who were present can tell better Fr. Odey’s reactions and a desperate attempt to clear his name but was denied the floor to speak. Our Igbo adage, says, ” mmeto onye ogaranya ka ogbugbo ya.” The soiling of someone’s name is worse than his death. Consequent upon this, Fr. Obuna and the Bishop concocted lies as a ground to render him vagus. In the spirit of obedience Fr. Odey was asked to render an apology to the Bishop which he did but Fr. Obuna and the Bishop rejected and wrote their apology and asked Fr. Odey to sign it. Sadly, all the Bishop outlined as Fr. Odey’s crimes were lies, yet they wanted him to accept what he didn’t do as a condition for forgiveness. Hereunder, are what a supposed religious prelate accused Fr. Odey:

1) Entering his private chapel on a Sunday morning and ordering the congregation gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist to go back to their parish–against Bishop’s explicit order.

2) Announcing the postponement of a funeral Mass which the Bishop had publicly arranged to celebrate in his Parish without first informing the Bishop.

3) Operating his parish finance on his own authority for a period of 6 years without obtaining the Bishop’s letter of authorization–contrary to the Bishop’s explicit directives to all the priests of the diocese.

4)Discarding Bishop’s accounting system which is followed by all the priests of the diocese and formulating his own private format which lumped together four separate accounts into one single page– making it impossible to ascertain its transparency and accountability.

5)Using abusive language on the local ordinary in front of the entire presbyterium of the diocese.–shouting and stabbing his finger in the Bishop’s face.

6) I, Fr.odey pledges not to write from now on, anything against the local ordinary or any priest of the diocese and distribute to the general public as I have done in the past 8 years.

The facts and figures that indicted Bishop Okoro (emeritus) and Fr. Obuna as lairs with the above accusation are clearly stated in the book. Anyone who questions this should pick up the book and see how everything unfolded. Even in No. 3 where Fr. Odey was accused of operating Parish finance without Bishop’s authorization, two letters of authorization were produced by Fr. Odey in respect to that. Yet, Bishop accused him of wrongdoing and compelled him to sign a document of lies as an apology to prove his veracity to the Vatican in the impasse. The worst is that 14 priests (peace committee) who knew that Bishop and Fr. Obuna lied, equally co-signed the document and thereby giving it legitimacy. Hence, they all bore false witness against their neighbor.

The questions that gnawed at the sense of justice and brotherhood to any reader are: When Fr. Odey was being persecuted what were his colleagues doing? Does it mean no priest is courageous enough to stand up for the truth even at the expense of being black-listed by the Bishop and Fr. Obuna? What is the gospel without truth? what do the priests call good news when truth, the only thing that can set man free is murdered in the presbyterium? One may argue that I write this way because I am not in the fray. Even if I am, and did nothing to stand up for the truth, it will not obliterate the fact that I am a coward and unworthy to be a bearer of the gospel.

This can only happen in a circle where egocentricity, selfishness, self-centeredness, and love of ease reign. Today, no one wants to share in the suffering and persecution of a brother for fear of incurring the wrath of a tyrant who for 33 years teamed up with a Psychopath, who once described Church to my hearing as what crushes you when you fall on it and pulverizes you if she falls on you. What a sociopathic description of the Church that ought to promote love, healing, solidarity, brotherhood, forgiveness, and guidance? This is what we get when Psychopath is allowed to ride roughshod over the rest of us. This is what we get when men fail to align with unpopular truth but choose the easy path in the name of obedience to the magisterium.

The colleagues of Fr. Odey that opted for silence knew that the wrong order does not require obedience. If no priest will set the congregation on fire if the Bishop orders, why would the same priest obey the Bishop to sign a document of lies which he (Bishop) forestalled the investigations for the fear of exposing his treachery and determination to destroy his priest for daring to stand up for crass impunity of Fr. Obuna? Obedience to God must come first before any local ordinary. There is no excuse for breaking the laws of God in a bid to placate the narcissism of a local ordinary. It is in crisis such as Fr. Odey stirred up that true faith amongst priests is tested.

This is why I maintain that a just and upright man will find it hard to survive where truth is covered, avoided, or murdered. I said in the last write-up that if Fr. Odey should publish this book, he has committed a cardinal sin of the Church because, given her Modu Operandi, truth-sayers are not welcomed. It is either he is excommunicated or he just wants to leave the priesthood. For now, he is rendered vagus, a canonical reclamation of faculties of a priest to carry out priestly functions. I was not against the publication because of the violation of the church’s law, but because it fell short in the principle of forgiveness. Though Rev. Fr. Odey was wrong, the presbyterium failed woefully at the most auspicious time it is needed to stand up for Christ. Until truth becomes the foundation of the Church more Fr. Odey will be roasted in the ovens of Obedience and egocentricity!

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