The catholic Bishops in Kenya have cautioned the faithful against associating with former priests and bishops who have broken away from the communion of the church.
Through a pastoral letter to the faithful on the gift of priesthood and celibacy, that was signed and read to the press by His eminence John Cardinal Njue on behalf of the 25 Bishops of the Kenya Episcopal conference on June 16, 2009 in Nakuru, the Bishops asserted that by their desertion, the said priests are no longer Catholics.
“We are saddened by those unfortunate priests, whom, retaining that special character conferred to them by their priestly ordination, have been unfaithful to the obligations of celibacy they accepted when ordained,” the bishops said.
The bishops singled out the priests who have ‘succumbed to a counter sign of celibate life, have abandoned the pastoral ministry and are now with families’ as well as ‘those who have abandoned the church and defected to some other churches, or want to start their own churches’.
“None of us has the right to want to alter or change what was lived by the Lord Himself and what has been handed down to us by the Popes and the Church Fathers down the centuries,” they said.
The bishops explained that each priest swears before almighty God to obey Bishop, abide by the law of celibacy as well as be faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his church.
“These oaths are solemn and binding forever. They cannot be lightly dismissed under any circumstance. To dismiss them as mere formality is a failure in responsibility and a source of scandal to the catholic faithful that jeopardizes the salvation of their souls,” the ordinaries said.
Of late, former priests who defied their vows of celibacy, hence incurring excommunication have been moving around claiming to reform the discipline of the church.
“The so Called ‘rebel priest’ defies the authority of the church…then a declaration of excommunication is made since excommunication is self-inflicted. It is the person himself who breaks the bond of communion through his actions that are incompatible with the teachings of the church,” said Bishops through the statement.
Accordingly, with proper dispositions and use of the sacrament of reconciliation, the priest in question can only return to the church in a manner prescribed by his bishop, keeping in mind the canonical guidelines.
The Bishops urged the faithful to pray for their priests and the priests of the whole world, while ‘fostering deep respect and a delicate reserve in their dealings with priests, on account of their condition as men entirely consecrated to the Christ and to the church’.
“We turn to the most loving Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of the Church, the Virgin Margin invoking her to protect the Catholic Priesthood with her powerful intercession…At this time when negative forces are being unleashed against the gift of celibacy may the Church in Kenya and the whole world experience once more her powerful protection,” they prayed.