Bishop Hilary OkekeBishop Hilary Okeke
by Mel Igbokwe
An open letter in response to The Most Reverend Hilary Paul Odili Okeke - Bishop of Nnewi on Peter Okpalaeke - The Titular Bishop of Ulakwo, Owerri Imo State.
Dear Bishop Okeke,
Where have you been all this time? As a ploy, you deliberately captioned your college essay “THE PARABLE OF PETER” - to broaden your readers’ expectation about whom he currently is, but your article is a hit-and-run journalism with busy a biblical undertone. As a matter of fact, parables don't contain contradictory truth and are not conjured stories which contain unattainable truths (Luke 16: 19- 31). In this case, because I have nothing to hide, I resist boring my readers with all the references in the Bible.
You started your analysis from the middle of the story which in itself “vituperations,” if I may quote you. You also write: “The particular Churches and the universal Church form one ecclesiastical reality under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff. Every member of this universal communion is a citizen of the Church and no one is a stranger in the Church seen as the Family of God.” That is just another winged presumption, without a clear path, product of a fractional listener, too busy, and not interested to pay attention to the basic elements surrounding your “PARABLE OF PETER.” Be honest, where have you been, Most Rev? It would have been good if you had spared some time for a trip to Mbaise to find out for yourself during this trying period what the facts are. If you did, you would have done a better job in presenting the issue in its un-borrowed color. You would have found out that the Church in Mbaise is apprehensive of the danger to its survival, rather than painting a picture of “a few disenchanted priests or individuals cashing into the situation for their own personal agenda.” Do you realize that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re apparently part of the problem?
Before I go further to demystify your prose in this saga, would any of you as it’s done traditionally remotely take an oath in good conscience (we don’t need to witness it) with the same Bible you reference to suit your purpose that your understanding of universality in our church is a one-way traffic? Your gospel, we understand is what's good for the goose is no longer good for the gander. If you think your entire audiences are kids, think again. Being so passionately positioned in your so called universal communion, would you point to the world a date, a day or a time you made a universal effort to appeal to the quarrelling priest to love one another and work together as God’s children so that the powers that be in the Vatican would not punish them with Okpalaeke for quarrelling?
Again, where were you when your ruthless religious gangs went to ask for Nigerian military forces to suppress the will of a people? I didn’t read that in your parable. You flanked it to blindfold the uninformed audience. Why don’t you tell the story, the whole story and nothing but the truth? Where did you reference the use of armed forces in the Bible as simulation of Christ evangelization on earth? Didn’t the religious hierarchy who allocates bishops through family ties hear about it and what did he do thereafter? It’s a miracle, someone in Rome woke up from his sleep and out of his dependable maneuvers makes good on what he had privately promised Peter Okpalaeke at least one year before it was announced to your universal communion, including the angels and saints in the Vatican. We followed what happened, no matter how you try to cover-up the fraud, we heard of the promise of a bishop, here in the US not through the telephone, newspaper, nor email, but Telewoman. Ordinarily, if the State of Florida wins the Powerball lottery many times than other states and cities and the winners have close ties with the officer in charge, suspicion mounts. We got the second-hand news; what we didn’t know was that Okpalaeke was being brewed to be catapulted to Mbaise. Then the nuncio was pressured to act. He made calls to Arch Bishop Obinna concerning Okpalaeke. He too wouldn’t deny that. His phone call to situate Okpalaeke in Mbaise was revealed. December 7, 2012 became latter-day news. Fraud! Most Rev., is that what you are defending to be an act of God and oneness in Catholicism? Only in Nigeria!
Earlier, I introduced taking an oath. You may be willing to take a risk of the oath, not because it’s safe or you’re certain, but because you are willing to airbrush the scandal by getting your voice out there to the community that lack scientific methods of investigation, that is all. Records of phone calls made, what was said, to whom, when, and where would be used for evidence if our society were civilized. Records of trips to and from a given destination and videos would provide clues beyond reasonable doubts. How lucky you are in a country still in its cradle of technology. Would you at this point swear anyone’s innocence in this matter that is as clear as the desert sky? Of course, I know you won’t and for that we would be compelled to think that the communion empire you cling to, unlike any other in the history of religion has been built primarily through manipulation, dishonesty and con.
A broad-daylight-fraud, faulting Mbaise priests for reasons of misunderstanding and petition; that was a perfect circumstance you ceased to catapult yet another favorite for bishop. You may write all you want, the Telewoman - the fastest media broadcast is what you cannot cover-up with any creed from now to the end of the world. You want to write more? Religiously speaking, if you shrink people's trust, you cause them pain. Incidentally, some of you don't care about the exodus in our Catholic faith. There’s one reason; another, you are individually and acquisitively secured. That is a cold, hard fact. Should you not engage in a more efficient process to eliminate fraud than write to convince the uninformed? If there is this kind of scandal in America you mentioned, people would be called to testify what they saw, heard or felt.
Who sees anything wrong about vying for promotions, either at work, classroom etc? We shouldn’t have problem with a given authority who promotes a particular group of students, priest or workers time and again, leaving the rest behind, not once, but year after year and then turns around to claim the practice is divine. If we think this is fair, may we have our kinsmen, cousins, nephews, and nieces’ promotions in school and at work stalled. If you agree, say Amen. If the Cardinal didn’t know about what is happening in his backyard, how do you diffuse the Telewoman? Maybe we should cut him a slack as we think such an act is comparable to the imitation of Christ, than disconnection from the kingdom where the prayer has deductively continued to be our father who art in Rome. We expect that the Catholic authorizes in the Vatican and their representatives get more serious and be more involved in God’s course for fairness, peace and harmony everywhere on the globe. Is punishing Mbiase priest with impale of Peter Okpalaeke glorious and imitation of Christ? The claim that Rome is infallible is nothing but colored journalism meant to defend the fast and furious favoritism hidden and gallivanting in plain sight.
I would remind you what relevance we ought to focus on and the purpose in the fight over the crude bishop appointment has served, if any, depending on who you ask. Assessing the gridlock from another perceptive, we can't do the will of God, where the glory of God doesn't take us. When the shadow of dishonest appointment produced discomfort, the people had a choice between religious belief and existential hopelessness. Free thinkers, don’t fault Cardinal Arinze that much; after all, they say using his position to favor his folks justifies the saying that whoever has one of his own in haven gains automatic and painless entry into haven. Thus, the magic in invoking our father who art in Rome, that produces the Powerball winners. Comparing the situation to a lottery jackpot winner in Florida knowing he/she won before the televised result sounds perfect? To some, nothing is intrinsically or extrinsically wrong about that. To allege the process was pious is the strongest argument you can offer to Thomas. By every stretch of imagination the selection of the Bishop was nothing but comedy, to be polite!
As a matter of conscience, problem arises when someone locks the gate against a struggling group. Little regard to even handedness is what gets people offset. Doesn’t the characteristic of a good leader include helping those struggling to do better, than engage in resolute stagnation of a people where the velocity is almost at zero?
Most Rev. Okeke, you state that, “On the other hand, why are Mbaise priests all over the world, especially in the United States of America? Do people not receive them and work with them as members of the One, Holy, and Catholic Church?” That suits your narrow-minded purpose. My answer to you is that your argument becomes more insidious when your comparison is lopsided. If your secretary didn’t write this, it seems to me you didn’t care about comparing apple and orange. The two are dissimilar and the outstanding discrepancy is that apple is red and orange has orange color. To break your argument down, priesthood is about vocation; bishop position is about promotion of people who are already priests.
Where have you been, Most Rev? And at what corner have you hidden love of the church and decided to pull it up now when people are still bleeding in their hearts out of the injustice stuck in their throat? You chose and dwelled more on the consequences of people’s reaction against clear act of injustice by injecting: Ethnic bigotry, Mbaise hegemony, indiscipline, and bad blood in the Catholic Church, etc. Isn’t this terrible, man of God spitting venom! You did also state actions of “some supposed “Catholics” Did you quote someone or make evaluation of people’s religious inclination? Please explain the source of your quote marks. This is not just college composition. This is narrative! The characteristic of a good narrative must be set off with a main idea, followed with array of sequence that takes your target audience from the beginning, along the paragraphs with all the evidence from the beginning to the end. Not that you don’t know how; you carefully avoided that by engaging in Bible references, the same Bible, which every one of us has. Is the issue heavy you couldn’t lift it off the ground and therefore took cover within the pages of the Bible? That is floppy, that’s plastic.
May I ask, did you purposely depart from giving us the statistics of Mbaise priests, according to you that the “… members of the One, Holy, Catholic Church” in the United States have promoted to be a bishop(s)? Would you name one? Can you also name one Nigerian Bishop in the US? In case you don’t know, America doesn’t compromise the office of the Bishop at all. They safeguard it for the indigenes, the same way Mbaise wants theirs protected. Therefore, if you raise an argument, make sure it is balanced for your mixed audience, not only Christian fathers and mothers - mine included, who, out of some limitations are driven to reason from your personal perspective. Let me be clear, America conserves the office of the Bishop for its people and so don’t care about your reference - “members of the One, Holy, Catholic Church.” That’s the culture here; you know it and if God doesn’t love America for that, they wouldn’t be as progressive. Although corruption is everywhere; America tries to weed theirs out, where they are thick. You missed a golden opportunity to salvage the Holy Church. As a Reverend, don’t spend your energy to contain injustice; follow American style where it’s favorable. All of us, the Laity, the Reverend Sisters, Bishops, and the Priest - every one of us owes our youth, Christian mothers, and fathers the path to fairness and justice.
It is only in black Africa, one would skip fairness and justice to pitch into abstract obedience. Invoking theoretical obedience is a big ploy. The matter is, again, about even handedness and integrity. Search your heart and mind to see if all of you in the squad would pass the test of human veracity or not. That is what Mbaise faithful are fighting for. That is the message we have sent out to the world and not until our unbiased narrative finds its way to the shelf would the public come to grasp with the age long preferential behaviors that have gone unchecked for so long in our universal church pinpointing at the prickly greediness through parochial tendencies. Unfortunately, your assigned propaganda warfare aimed at diminishing the obvious stands aloof. We may be fewer, our voices may be skeletal, but one thing is certain; never again will it happen in the history of our Catholic Church in Nigeria. Amen!
* Igbokwe wrote in from the United States of America (USA.)