By Isidore Emeka Uzoatu
That Reverend Father CamilusMbaka of the Adoration Ministries Enugu Nigeria (AMEN) is on the trend again is no longer news. What with its grist being that he has been ordered to proceed to a monastery for prayers by his bishop. This comes in a swift follow-up to the reopening of the hitherto shut assembly of the faithful. Already, a new priest has been appointed to hold a brief for him.
The only news to break then will be that, quite unlike his old self, Mbaka has since acquiesced to the bishop’s recommendation. Urging his restive-prone disciples to keep the peace, he pleaded that they sheath their swords so as not to jeopardise his vocation. A plea that aptly served to soothe their frayed nerves.
To many, this is a most welcome development. For Mbaka and his acolytes on one hand, and the universal church, on the other. Like is well known to all students of the Church, it’s just the only way there is to go. No one can deny the beneficial impact AMEN had, has and will have on the Catholic Church and Christianity in the Southeast region – and beyond.
However, not many have been comfortable with the permutation of clashes Mbaka’s often acerbic proclamations have often engendered. Mostly made about the political front, they have often deviated from the peace the church is about. The more so when he has often made predictions that jar the bones of the populace. Like when he vowed to defrock himself if a former governor of Enugu State wins reelection. Only to renege when the prediction failed.
After all, over time, church history is replete with sundry rebel priests who have challenged the authority of their bishops to no avail. In truth, most of these have come to naught not because the priests are wrong. But given that priests, on their ordination day are sworn to oaths of chastity, obedience and poverty, it matters that Mbaka has occasionally been seen unabashedly goading politicians to donate money to his causes.
True most of these funds are redirected to benevolent ventures, the undue emphasis accorded it appears to end up beclouding its real intentions. Making it appear as though man can live by bread alone. When, as written in the books, the right hand shouldn’t know what the alter ego is giving. Let alone, proclaiming it from the rooftop.
Locally, there is the glaring example of Father Peter Anozia (1940-20005) whose charismatic healing ministry ultimately had him leaving the church. Though urged along by a rabble of followers, the truth remains that his movement never remained the same following his excommunication. And despite the effort of revisionists, he is mostly remembered for the wrong, rather the right reasons.
In the African continent, the glowing example of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo (1930-2021) still resonates. Ordained a priest at age 28, and Archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia at 39, he had to step down in 1983 due to faith healing practices unapproved by Rome. Removed from his bishopric, he was posted to other cures. Till the waters of his often nefarious activities, some bordering on exorcism overflowed the stern.
By 2001, he took a wife and in 2006 established Married Priests Now! Though reduced to a lay state in 2009, he later reconciled with the church but by then a lot of water had passed under the bridge of the relationship. Unfortunately, he kicked the bucket in 2021 and today he is mostly remembered for his few atrocities rather than his many achievements.
Overseas, the starkest example remains Father Leonardo Boff of Brazil. Following his 1981 book, Church: Charism and Power: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church, he ran into trouble with Rome. His argument with his cohorts of the need for a theology of the poor was accused of being too close to Marxism for their liking.
The misunderstanding notwithstanding, Boff and his group insisted that the gospel and the character of Jesus are in solidarity with the poor. It reached an apogee in 1992 when he was prevented from participating in the ECO-92 Rio Earth Summit. He had subsequently left his beloved Franciscan Order and resettled into lay life, teaching and lecturing in schools.
So far, so good, what is left for Father Mbaka, therefore, is a clear rethink of the past and a clear recharting of the way forward. Which is why priesthood is a vocation. Yes for unless one is called to it, in vain does one labour to make its grade. Like in the other cases, the sooner the protagonist comes to his senses, the better.
So, first and foremost, Mbaka should make up his mind whether he wants to remain in the fold or not. If yes, then loyalty to his bishop is inevitable. This will make this trial period one that’ll be a stepping stone to a renaissance of his career. One that he’ll return from well fortified to weather whatever odds he’ll surmount further ahead.
Contrariwise, if the other way round, then the case-study cases cited above will come handy. Before attracting himself excommunication, he can even take a wife and raise children for God. In which case, it’ll turn out a due comeuppance for all the ‘transgressions’ his bishop is accusing him of. Hopefully then, time will either vindicate or rope him in the more.
Anyway, intents and purposes supervening, the time he’ll spend in the monastery will prove very handy indeed. Much like the Man of God he professes to be, it’ll be apt for him to seek His face so as to arrive at the best possible decision. Especially as he will be removed from some of the more fanatical members of his congregation who, sometimes, are not even Catholics in the first place.
Perhaps, too, taken away from his many other pastimes, he could find time to put his thoughts down in a book. After all, more than the trending audios and videos of his sermons and songs, nothing else will preserve his theology for posterity than the ageless book format. And coming from a peculiar horse’s mouth, as were, it’ll surely make some reading.
Penultimately, it’ll do to quote a scene from the 1983 Brian De Palma film Scarface starring Al Pacino. As the protagonist and deutrogenist, Cuban immigrants, Tony Montana and Manny Ray got an opportunity to join the big league, the latter told the former: ‘It’s either we are made or we are marred men.’
Same applies for Father Mbaka. His sojourn in the monastery, perforce, has all the propensities to make or mar him. However, I’m more than convinced that he’ll come out stronger. After all, in the words of the German philosopher Freiderich Nietzsche, what doesn’t kill you, strengthens you.
*Uzoatu writes from Onitsha, Anambra State.