5 Holy Spirit priests barred from church rituals for disobeying Bishop of Anambra – The Sun Nigeria

By David Onwuchekwa Nnewi

The Bishop of Nnewi Diocese in Anambra State, Jonas Benson Okoye has called on five Spiritan priests from St. Martin of Tours to step down for an alleged act of insubordination.

The priests concerned reportedly had problems with Bishop Okoye because of their residence in the parish.

It was understood that the bishop, for reasons of creating a new parish, had told the Spiritan priests to leave the presbytery of the church for administrative reasons.

Based on claims that the organization to which the Spiritan priests belong has occupied the parish in question for more than a century, they allegedly refused the bishop’s instruction to make way for a new group of priests to come and take in charge of the administration of the church there.

Following the stalemate, the Director of Communications and currently Episcopal Vicar for the Ozubulu Region, the Most Reverend Father Hygenus Aghaulor revealed that the Bishop must remove the authorities from priests to perform church rituals known as canonical faculty name in Catholic doctrine.

Fr Aghaulor, however, described it as a normal evolution for priests to be deployed and redeployed in the Catholic Church as befits the bishop.

He insisted that it was not tolerated in the Catholic Church for a priest to disobey the bishop’s order. He said the matter had been reported to the Superior General whose duty he believed was to oversee Spiritan priests.

“The bishop removed the faculty of five priests of the Holy Spirit. Withdrawing from the faculty meant that priests would not be able to hold office within the diocese, and even if they did, those offices would be considered illicit.

“If they baptize someone, organize a marriage, the marriage and the baptism will not hold. They cannot even celebrate the mass because their faculty has been taken away from them by the bishop. The priests have not been sacked, as it is implied, but they were simply redeployed. In canon law, which the Church applies, the bishop has the power to redeploy priests, and that is what he has done,” explained Father Aghaulor.

He revealed that the Spiritans had made it difficult for the bishop to establish a new parish in Ihiala. He also disclosed that the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi currently has 413 priests, which he said made it imperative to establish new parishes.

“The bishop created a new parish and deployed some of our priests there and transferred the Spiritans to the juniorate but they refused to leave, trying to thwart the real efforts of the bishop.

“The Spiritans claim that Archbishop Heerey gave them the parish in 1967. This was under the 1917 code, but canon 6 of the 1983 code repealed the 1917 code unless these matters are renewed in the 1983 code, but there is no evidence that this happened. Third, the 1983 Code abolished the transformation of a legal person into a pastor. Now to be appointed as a pastor, the person must be a natural person and be in the priesthood,” he further explained.

Fr. Aghaulor said the 1983 Code grants discretion and the right of free attribution to diocesan bishops and their equivalents in law in accordance with canons 368 and 381, in the spiritual task of appointing pastors.

“Thus, the diocesan bishop can freely appoint and dismiss freely. He can freely create and freely suppress parishes without resorting to existing customs, donations and legacies and centenary or immemorial donations.

“That clerics be appointed as pastors is a concession, a privilege and at the discretion of the bishop due to the shortage of secular clergy and missionary cooperation and therefore should not be subject to claims.

“Even when they are given a parish, a written agreement must stipulate the particular personnel and the confirmation of the proper pastor by the bishop of the diocese. Religious institutes do not appoint pastors but only present to the bishop and are subject to ratification and confirmation by the diocesan bishop.

“Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye is the successor to Bishop Heerey and therefore has the power to interpret or modify the perpetuity clause in such a convention because the salvation of souls is the supreme law.

“That part of the people of God within the parish jurisdiction of St. Martin Ihiala is a bona fide part of the Diocese of Nnewi under the pastoral care of Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye and therefore possesses immediate, full and proper power of order and jurisdiction over it (can. 129) without prejudice to applicable laws or conventions,” he concluded.

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