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CBCN Throw-back: Our Catholic space has been invaded by Pentecostalism – Fr. (Prof.) Akinwale

By Neta Nwosu

A Catholic Priest-Scholar, Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Anthony Akinwale, has enjoined the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) to take a more critical look at the startling growth of Pentecostalism in the Catholic Church in Nigeria, claiming that it is a greater concern than blessing of same sex marriage which has sparked a great degree of controversy. The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Augustine University, Ilara-Epe, Lagos, expressed this concern while delivering his paper entitled “Synod on Synodality: Areas of concern for the Church in Nigeria” at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) first 2024 plenary assembly held recently in Abuja.

He said “The Church in Nigeria should not only look outwards. She must also look inwards. Yet, in looking inwards, we must not ignore what discourages. The Church in Nigeria must pay attention to doctrinal deviations, liturgical aberrations, and pastoral malpractice. This appears to be going on while we are looking the other way. “It is a well-known fact that in Nigeria, our Catholic space has been invaded by Pentecostalism. I prefer to call it contemporary Nigeria religiosity in its expression within and outside the Catholic Church. This type of religiosity is a greater concern than blessing of same-sex couples. “We have witnessed an explosion of new religious communities, some with little or nothing in terms of spirituality and charism of consecrated life.

Thankfully, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has looked into this phenomenon. “There is another phenomenon that the Conference needs to look at, not to stifle but discern the spirit. It is the explosion of ministries in the Church in Nigeria established and patronised by some priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful. “Some of these ministries and ministers pretend to be Catholic. They even display statues of our Blessed Mary on their websites or expose the Blessed Sacrament in a way that points to sacrilege. At a time of economic hardships, fake prophecies and arrangee miracles are being touted before a traumatised, bewildered and gullible populace while shepherds fail to rescue the flock from ravening, ravaging and manipulative wolves.

According to Fr. Akinwale, “The populism of these ministries, the advertisement of un-authenticated miracles and prophecies, the opium these ministries administer on our people, erode the credibility of Christianity, of Catholicism in particular, in our country.” But the cleric sees hope ahead, he puts forward formation as the answer, hear him, “Formation of everyone in the Church, beginning from the ecclesiastics. Our seminary formation must be constantly reviewed to attain the objective of safeguarding the faith. And the Church recognises that it ends neither with priestly nor with episcopal ordination.” Noting that Synod is not meant to change the doctrine, Fr. Akinwale emphasised that it obliges the people of God to walk within the Catholic tradition.

He urged pastors to be the teachers of apostolic doctrines, “Not teachers of doctrines they have invented, nor proponents or spokespersons of ideologies at odds with apostolic doctrine,” the scholar stressed. The professor of Systematic Theology and Thomistic explained, “Their exercise of pastoral office involves receiving, preserving and transmitting apostolic doctrine without distorting it.” Commenting on the Synodal process, Fr. Akinwale stated, “The Synod should be a journeying together within tradition and not away from tradition. If pastors are teachers, they must not to do pastoral work without doctrine, they must not exercise the will without the intellect. We cannot truly love without being truthful in love. “While it reaffirms the doctrine that marriage is permanent and indissoluble union of a man and a woman, its affirmation of the possibility of blessing same-sex couples undermines the doctrine it reaffirms. If we as a Church embrace a pastoral praxis that undermines our doctrine, if our pastoral praxis is at odds with the doctrine we preach, it is our credibility itself that is undermined.”

“While the spirit must not be stifled, every spirit is to be tested. That is what discernment is about. And the outcome of the process of discernment may be the inability or unwillingness of some who, like the rich young man, will go away sad, or of some disciples, who will find the teaching and language of the Gospel unacceptable.” On a final note, Fr. Akinwale stipulated, ” A synod is not a political consensus. For there is political synod and there is ecclesial synod. The former is what happens when political activists and ideologues strategies and “walk together” in their quest for votes and for political power.” “A synod, again in the true ecclesial sense of the word and not in the sense of political or ideological consensus, is participation in the task of going to the whole world to announce that we have been found by Truth while we were seeking truth.”

“Consequently, if we wish to preach a Gospel that is domesticated, customised and attractive, a Gospel that makes the world applaud our political correctness or our politically correct pastoral initiatives, then we had better forget going on this mission. For there is no such Gospel except in political campaign slogans.” “The initial proclamation of the Gospel by Peter on Pentecost Day invited the people to conversion. Our mission is to invite people to conversion. The Gospel demands conversion. The invitation of the Gospel is a demand. Such invitation will or may attract unpleasant consequences visited on the preacher of the Gospel. “

“Despite these risks, the Church of our time, the Church in Nigeria in particular, must have the courage of martyrs of old in receiving, preserving and transmitting the Gospel that comes to us from the apostles. She will exercise this courage by identifying, raising and addressing issues of concern for apostolic tradition, for the synodal process, and for social and ecclesial realities that confront her.”


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