Rev Fr Joseph Nyarko Asare of Obuasi Catholic Diocese
God created Adam alone and he was intended to be alone with God. A helper was given him because he couldn’t handle relationship with God alone. God’s original intention does not include associating with friends and family. He expects a walk alone with him.
What we have not realized is that we easily sin when we get too excited about enjoying friends at the expense of enjoying God. Hmmmmm, at Genesis 3, Adam and Eve couldn’t realize the presence of God because they were too concerned with their companionship above the original relationship with God.
God is never jealous when we ignore Him. The danger is that we end up in nakedness and create disaster for ourselves. Thankfully, God mostly give us plan “B” but that includes sweating and pain on our part. Be positive if you are now moving with the plan B for God will make you prosper again and permit a future access to the original plan. Enjoy family and friends but never do so at the expense of God. You were originally made for God, others came in because we failed to make God our biggest companion.
Don’t be afraid to create an intimate connection with God.
It is generally believed in positive psychology that attitude is the only word that gives the value of 100 percentage if we code the letters with figures. Therefore our attitude towards, people, places, things defines our relationship with them as to whether we will relate well with them or not. So to say, having negative or positive attitude defines our destination; the kind of association we will have. In the 1st Reading, Prophet Ezekiel tells us about the negative attitude that the Israelites had towards God’s judgement.
They found themselves in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem. They believed that God was punishing them due to the sins of their fathers, therefore God had been unjust to them. The prophet reminded them that each one pays for the price of his/her deeds; so their deportation was due to their own sins, and not as a result of the sins of their forefathers.
They needed to have attitude of repentance so as to move them back to their own soil. He says “when the wicked man turns away from the wickedness…he shall surely live” (Ezk 18:27-28). Most times, we blame people for our unfortunate situations and misfortunes, and turn to have negative attitude towards them.
The 2nd Reading invites us to have a good attitude like Christ who despite being God, in all humility accepted all forms of humiliation for our sake to die. God therefore exalted him.
In the Gospel, Jesus gives a practical example about how our attitude influences our destination. The first son responded ‘no’ but changed his attitude and went to do the father’s will while the second son who responded ‘yes’ did not do the will of the fathers. Action, they say, speaks louder than words. When tax collectors and sinners changed their attitudes, they found themselves in the Lord’s place while the Jews who thought the Kingdom was theirs but did change their attitudes were shut off.
What is your attitude towards people, things and places you come across? May we purify our attitudes towards doing God’s will in His vineyard wherever we are.
PRAYER GUIDE ~•That we may develop positive mindset towards God and creation ~•That our children may find solace in God ~•That all the sick may accept sickness as sharing the suffering of the Lord, especially those affected by covid 19. Lord hear us
Can a Catholic priest be a running mate or presidential candidate of a political party?
Answer by Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu:
In dealing with this question, it will be necessary for us to look at the bigger question of what the attitude of the Church as an institution should be towards politics, especially partisan politics. The issue of whether a Catholic priest can become a running mate or a presidential candidate should be looked at against the backdrop of this bigger question.
The question of whether the Church should be involved in politics or not raises its head constantly in many countries. Within the Church itself there are Catholics who would like to draw a sharp distinction between the secular and the spiritual dimensions of the human person’s life and would like to deny the Church any involvement with the secular or the temporal, which includes the political. Quite frequently a similar sentiment is expressed by politicians and governments irritated by criticisms of their policies uttered by clerics. It is in the light of views such as these that an attempt will be made to discuss the question of whether the Church today should be involved in politics. We will look at this from three perspectives:
What should be the attitude of the Church as an institution to national politics?
What should be the attitude of the lay members of the Church to politics?
What should be the attitude of clerics to politics?
The Institutional Church and Politics
Like Christ, the Church must be concerned with the salvation of the human person in his or her totality, the human person as body and soul. The salvation of the human person at the spiritual level will be difficult when his or her material concerns are in jeopardy. The human person will not have the peace of mind to concentrate on spiritual matters when he or she is denied basic human, civic and political rights. So if the Church hopes to help in saving the human person, it must be concerned with whatever affects the total person. If its members and other citizens of the nation are denied certain basic human rights, the Church must raise a voice of protest. Through its official representatives – the bishops – the Church must make prophetic denunciations of injustices and champion the cause of the oppressed. If the oppression comes from the government, the Church must courageously rebuke the government and put pressure on it to change things. If doing this is doing politics, the Church has no alternative. It is its duty to criticize bad governmental policies and offer alternative proposals.
But the Church’s duty does not consist solely in criticizing the government. It should also praise the government when it initiates good policies. It must collaborate with the government to improve the material living conditions of the nation’s citizens. It is also the duty of the Church to encourage its members to take their civic and political duties seriously. But the Church as an institution must not and cannot identify itself with any political party or government. It must be above partisan politics. The Church must act as the conscience of the society, offering constructive advice whenever possible, and criticizing whenever necessary. If it identifies itself with any political party or government, it will either lose or compromise that objectivity expected of it; its vision will be obscured. Paradoxically, while the Church must be seriously involved with the government in the attempt to improve the material living conditions of the people, it must keep a certain distance politically between itself and the government.
2. Church Members and Politics
The individual members of the Church are citizens of two worlds, as it were – the Church and the nation. They should, therefore, “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and unto God what belongs to God”. These words of Christ justify the involvement of the members of the Church in the politics of their nation. As citizens of the nation, Catholic lay faithful have every right to be involved in the political life of the country. They should be actively involved in politics. They should join political parties, take part in voting, seek key positions in government, district assemblies, etc. They should strive to become district/municipal chief executives, members of parliament, president, etc. If they refuse to vote, or show indifference to political issues, other people will vote and take decisions which will affect them, for good or ill. In this connection, it will be good for us to reflect on what Vatican II says in Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World):
Those who are suited or can become suited should prepare themselves for the difficult, but at the same time, the very noble art of politics, and should seek to practise this art without regard for their own interests or for material advantages. With integrity and wisdom, they must take action against any form of injustice and tyranny, against arbitrary domination by an individual or a political party and any intolerance (no.75).
On the Christian’s political responsibility, we may also want to reflect on what is said in the Post-Synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa:
On the political front, the arduous process of building national unity encounters particular problems in the Continent where most of the States are relatively young political entities. To reconcile profound differences, overcome longstanding ethnic animosities and become integrated into international life demands a high degree of competence in the art of governing. That is why the Synod prayed fervently to the Lord that there would arise in Africa holy politicians — both men and women — and that there would be saintly Heads of State, who profoundly love their own people and wish to serve rather than be served (par. 111). 3. Clerics and Politics
The cleric is also a citizen of the nation and must be concerned about all political issues. These issues will affect his life whether he likes it or not, and so he cannot turn a deaf ear to them. He must discuss political matters and vote when there are elections. If he happens to have any expertise on political matters, he can serve his nation by offering suggestions through writing to the government. If the government seeks his advice on political matters, he must give this for the good of the nation. Thus, a cleric can be an adviser to the government; he can be a member of an advisory body which the government can consult. However, membership of such a body must not be to the detriment of his priestly or pastoral duties. He is first and foremost a priest, a pastor, and not a professional politician. Here we may recall that some Catholic bishops were members of the Council of State under the regime of President Hilla Limann (1979-1981). This Council was advisory and not politically governing; neither was it legislative nor executive in character. This distinction is vital.
This brings us to the rather problematic question of whether a cleric can and should hold an executive or legislative or judicial position in government. We should recall that in August 1989 the Chairman of the PNDC, Flight Lt. J.J. Rawlings, in his address at the Fifth Triennial General Assembly of the Association of Episcopal Conference of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA) in Kumasi, lamented the fact that some Catholic priests had not been allowed to stand as candidates in the District Assemblies elections. Should a priest hold such an executive position in government? Here we are not dealing with a cleric acting in an advisory capacity to the government on a part-time basis. The issue here is whether a cleric should hold such an executive position in government, whether at the district, regional or national level.
Admittedly, there have been instances of priests holding executive and legislative positions in Ghana and elsewhere. About forty years ago, a Catholic priest, the late Rev. Dr. Vincent Damuah of the Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese, accepted membership of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) in contravention of the law of his Church and ignoring the directive from his bishop to resign from the PNDC. Until his tenure came to an end, he was a full executive member of the PNDC. We must also draw attention to the United States of America where some priests held legislative positions in government. The most notable was Robert F. Drinan, a Jesuit priest from Massachusetts who served in the House of Representatives for ten years. In May 1980 he withdrew his candidacy for another term in obedience to an order from the Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, which was given at the express wish of his Holiness Pope John Paul II. A few days later, the apostolic delegate to the United States, Archbishop Jean Jadot, exercising his own authority, barred Norbertine Fr. Robert J. Cornell, who had lost his seat in Congress 1978, from seeking to regain it.
Pope John Paul II in his address to an international gathering of religious-order priests in Mexico City in January 1979 said, “You are priests and members of religious orders. You are not social directors, political leaders or functionaries of temporal power”. In his address to the priests in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) during the Drinan crisis, Pope John Paul II said,
“Leave political responsibilities to those who are charged with them. You have another part, a magnificent part, you are ‘leaders’ by another right and in another manner, participating in the priesthood of Christ, as his ministers. Your sphere of interventions, and it is vast, is that of faith and morals, where it is expected that you preach at the same time by a courageous word and by the example of your life.
We should note that the new Code of Canon Law (1983) contains such a prohibition on all clerics. Canon 285, section 3 reads, “Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power”. The Church has interpreted the phrase “a participation in the exercise of civil power” to refer to those political positions which involve legislative, executive, and judicial power. This in turn means that becoming a member of Parliament (or of Congress), a cabinet official, or a judge are all off-limits to Catholic clergy. A priest seeking to be a running mate or a presidential candidate will not be permitted by this canon since it will entail a participation in executive power.
But whether a cleric should hold an executive or legislative or judicial position in government or not is not something that can be settled simply by appealing to Church law or papal pronouncements. There must be good reasons justifying such laws and pronouncements. I would like to put forward a few such reasons.
Firstly, there is the lesson from Church history. The Catholic Church has over two thousand years of history behind it. Some of it has been good, some of it has been bad. There were times when popes and bishops wielded political power, most of the time disastrously. In the case of some of the popes and bishops, we could rightly say with Lord Acton, the English Catholic historian, politician and writer, that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. There were times when some popes were more powerful than emperors and used this power in a way that left much to be desired. In more recent times, the cases involving priests holding executive and legislative positions leave much to be desired. We have already referred to Fr. Robert F. Drinan. His voting record became a matter of great scandal when he repeatedly voted in favour of abortion, while claiming at the same time to be “personally opposed”— a fact which did not escape the attention of the new Pope, John Paul II. He had been elected Pope while Fr. Drinan was still a member of Congress. To this day, the Drinan case and other cases from other countries constitute a good example of the potential harm that can be done when Catholic clergy become unduly involved in contemporary civil politics. The controversial voting-record of Congressman Drinan, and the understandable scandal it was causing, might very well have been the motivating factor behind John Paul II’s decision to revamp canon law on this issue. The Church has learned from its mistakes and so has enjoined its clerics to desist from active political involvement in the sense of holding executive, legislative or judicial positions in government.
Secondly, because of his unique role as pastor of the flock of God, the cleric should strive to be the source of unity in his congregation and not the source of disunity. A clear and official identification with one political party or ruling government will have the effect of driving a wedge between the cleric and his flock, alienating those of his flock who do not share his political stance. Indeed, temporal leadership can easily become divisive whereas a priest must be a sign and symbol of unity. As the Directory for the Life and Ministry of Priests says, “Like Jesus (cf Jn 6:15 ff.), the priest ‘ought to refrain from actively engaging himself in politics, as it often happens, in order to be a central point of spiritual fraternity’. All the faithful, therefore, must always be able to approach the priest without feeling inhibited for any reason” (no. 33).
Thirdly, holding an executive, legislative or judicial position in government will affect the cleric’s pastoral work. The work of the priest is a full-time one; so also is the work of the politician. The priest who holds an executive position will do justice neither to his priestly work nor to his work as a politician. He must choose one of them.
Fourthly and finally, by not holding an executive position and thereby not identifying himself with any political party, the priest or bishop can be objective and approach political issues in an unbiased way.
For further explanations or enquiries, you may contact the author, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Catholic Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, on this number: 0244488904, or on WhatsApp (with the same number).
Reflection for the week : 20th – 27th September, 2020 Reference text: 1 Samuel 9:1-10
By Rev Fr Joseph Nyarko Asare of Obuasi Catholic Diocese
Kish had his donkeys missing and he sent the most handsome man in Israel, his son Saul to go in search of the strayed beasts with a servant. After a frantic search that yielded no positive signs of finding the donkeys, Samuel decided to get back home. Saul, however listened to the counsel of the servant to go to the prophet. This simple obedient of a handsome son to a servant was to change Saul’s life and destiny forever.
The position and status of life do not necessarily reflect ones level of intelligence and wisdom. There is always an opportunity to learn from others, especially subordinates, children and the depraved. Each individual you meet, slave or free, is God’s image and likeness endowed with glory and honour and capable of causing a great impact in your life.
The fourth commandment is always valid, no matter how great and powerful you become. Servants could have been tasked to go in search of strayed monkeys, but Kish preferred to send the son Saul and the son respectively obeyed. Our parents deserve our honour and respect irrespective of the way they live or think. There is great blessings in honouring your parents.
It is amazing how Saul seriously took the father’s mission and how he frantically and selflessly embarked on it. God, our Father, has given each one a task to accomplish with his/her life and in the society in which one live. How seriously do we take God’s commands and instructions?
May Saul’s behaviour and its effect instruct us. Let us learn to obey God and all legitimate authority; let us make God our all in all and it shall be well with us.
20TH SEPTEMBER, 2020. †25TH SUNDAYINORDINARYTIME: Is 55:6-9/Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18/Phil 1:20c-24, 27a/Mat 20:1-16 (Rev Fr Isaac Kofi Amponsah-Boateng, CSSp; Director, Holy Ghost Schools-Makueni, Sultan Hamud, Machakos Diocese)
Human beings have the saying that, “the older the wine the sweeter it tastes.” Does this always apply at all times; and could the opposite be also true? Whatever the case may be, in God’s eyes, the sweetness of the wine does not reside in the length of period or duration it has stayed, for new or fresh wine can have equal taste as the old, and fulfill the goal for which it was produced.
In today’s Gospel passage, we read that different labourers were hired at different times of the day. The owner of the vineyard was so concerned that whoever was ready to work never lost such opportunity despite the time difference.
Human beings could classify them as early and late hours, but the instruction was the same: “go into my vineyard.” At the end, each worker received his due as had been set by the householder and not the labourers themselves.
Those labourers who grumbled did so because of their mentality about the correlation between number of hours worked and amount to be paid.
However, the just householder used the opportunity to purify their mentality to understand that God’s ways are not human ways, neither are human thoughts God’s, as Isaiah tells us in the 1st Reading. God’s ways and thoughts are always higher than human’s. God’s justice does not follow human accounting principles. In God’s eyes, there is no question about time or duration. What matters is fidelity of the worker in the Lord’s vineyard.
All workers are equal in the eyes of God; there are neither veterans nor amateur workers. And so, there is neither early nor late vocation, be it married or single life (like priest and Religious).
The fact that you married many years ago does not qualify you to be a good husband or wife. Similarly, one’s many years in Religious or clerical life does not make him/her better than the other who professed or ordained just the other day. You might have been living your vocation recycling the first day or even in infidelity; deceiving others.
In our vocations, families or communities, workplaces, what matters most is how one has fulfilled the goal intended by the Maker. Paul, in the 2nd Reading, caught between his human desires and God’s will, decided to make the will of God prevail in his life. May we fulfil the God-intended goals in our life.
PRAYER GUIDE ~•For the grace to fulfill and help othersto fulfill the God-given goals. ~•That we may cultivate a sense of deep faith in God’s love and providence in our communities and families ~•That leaders may have equal empathy for all covid 19 patients without discrimination of any kind. Lord hear us
13TH SEPTEMBER, 2020. †24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: Sir 27:30-28:7/Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12/Rom 14:7-9/Mat 18:21-35 (Rev Fr Isaac Kofi Amponsah-Boateng, CSSp; Director, Holy Ghost Schools-Makueni, Sultan Hamud, Machakos Diocese)
Almost everybody knows the famous saying of Pope Alexander that, “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” Each of us, one way or another, has either been a victim or culprit of injustice at one moment of our lives. Human beings can never avoid offending others or being offended. What makes a difference is having the ability to forgive amicably. The three (3) Readings give us the parameters for that cause. In the ancient times, retaliation and vengeance were the order of the day; people paid dearly for the offences commited by suffering even sometimes greater violence than what they had caused. The Mosaic law “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth…” (Ex 21:24) was introduced as a way of ensuring justice. But in the 1st Reading, Bin Sirach tells us that retaliation adds salt to injury rather than healing the wound. He insists that anyone who harbours anger against one’s offence must forget obtaining compassion from the Lord. So he recommends that forgiving other’s offences is an indispensable condition for one to obtain pardon from God for one’s offences. Similarly, during Jesus’ time the scribes and the Rabbis also recommended that people should forgive rather than holding grudges and vengeance, but should not exceed three times. This, perhaps, might have confused Peter and his fellows. In today’s Gospel passage, Peter seeks clarification from his master: “Lord, how often…seven times?” Jesus’ reply and his subsequent parable teach us that forgiveness has not finitude, and does not follow principles of accounting. Its foundation is on the immensity God’s mercy. Therefore, Christians must forgive just as the heavenly Father forgives, for “none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” as Paul tells is in the 2nd Reading. It is recommended that the best and effective way to retaliate is to forgive and love without condition or limit.
PRAYER GUIDE ~•For the grace to be instruments of pardon and peace ~•That our world leaders may shun from all forms of apathy and promote peaceful coexistence ~•That we may not deny the sick and the suffering our Christian compassion and care. Lord hear us
6TH SEPTEMBER, 2020 †23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME Ezk 33:7-9/Ps 95:1-2, 6-7,abc, 7d-9/Rom 13:8-10/Mat 18:15-20 (Rev Fr Isaac Kofi Amponsah-Boateng, CSSp; Director, Holy Ghost Schools-Makueni, Sultan Hamud, Machakos Diocese)
One saying among the Akans of Ghana goes that, “the lizard does not eat pepper for the frog to sweat.” In other words, people suffer the consequences of the sins they have committed and not for others.
But today’s 1st Reading seems to overturn this saying even though that is not the case. God tells prophet Ezekiel that sin can have communal effect so people must not think about themselves alone, but be the keeper of their brethren so as to help others to walk in right path.
No wonder another Akan saying goes that, “if an elder sits unconcerned for children to eat snake, he is also counted among snake eaters. Each one is called to be responsible, at least in parts, for what happens to others. Jesus gives us the direction for fraternal correction in charity.
For Jesus, the process of forgiveness must be initiated by the person offended; to go to the offender. It must begin with face to face talk, and upon failing to resolve, seek the assistance of one or two warm-hearted people. Should the second attempt fail, involve community of believers, and even if the last recourse fails, treat that person as a Gentile, an outcast or tax collector. What does it mean to do this? Jesus tells us to love the offender until we have won him/her back to the right track, for He came as a friend of Gentiles and tax collectors (Mat 11:19).
To forgive is divine. Therefore, we should not tire in fraternal correction in spite of the challenges associated with it. Note that fraternal correction does not absolve us from the responsibility of correcting with conviction and courage.
The prophet of God (Christian) should not condone or connive with evil or sin. The world faces evils such as: adultery, bribery and corruption, racism or ethnocentricism, hatred, injustices and discrimination, etc.Christians must stand firm and talk against.
However, the driving forces for correction must be compassion, concern for the neighbour showed in charity or love as St Paul tells us in the 2nd Reading.
PRAYER GUIDE ~•That the Lord may grant us forgiving hearts ~•That we may build communities rooted in prayer, strong in faith and active in charity ~•For grace among our leaders not to take advantage on people’s situation, especially in this period of covid 19 pandemic Lord hear us
Reflection for the week : 6th-13th September, 2020
If you are to go through life and have all the experiences of the fore-fathers all by yourself, instead of learning from their past to build a better future, I can bet that you are never going to break new grounds for yourself and others. You may even end up getting out of life without realizing how. In secondary school history, a common jargon we teased the non-History students with was, “Learn history and grow wise”. It is said that new brooms sweep well but old brooms know every corner. A good, God fearing Samuel will have missed a great encounter with God if a sinful, indulging father but experienced Eli was not around. God calls the young Samuel and it is through the direction of Eli that young Samuel responds to the Divine call and receives beautiful assurances for the future and other messages. We are mostly tempted to think that certificates, technological know-how, or resources makes us so independent from the older generations that we tolerate nothing they can offer us.
The lecturer, a senior colleague at work, our parents, opinion leaders and bosses have gone through life and graduated from the school of experience. Like Eli for Samuel, God has given them to us as models and guardians for a sweet future. They hold the light to the future that circumstances will not allow them to participate in. They are like the bridges which connect all to the city but they never have the opportunity to enter it at all. We must, humbly, draw near to the elderly for the rich experiences they have gone through. May we respect the adults and experienced, be ready to learn from them, take interest in their little admonitions and learn from their mistakes. Like Samuel, we shall all be great for heeding to the voices of the various Eli’s of our life.
And, when we move up, remember to send a token of appreciation to those who helped you up.
My Lord Bishop, on 18 August 2020, the Holy See, through its Apostolic Nunciature in Ghana, made a press statement that “The Holy Father, Pope Francis has appointed Very Rev Fr John Baptist Attakruh as Apostolic Administrator for the Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese with all the Rights and Faculties of a Local Ordinary in a decree dated 31st July 2010”. I would be most grateful if you could explain what the duties of such an Apostolic Administrator are in a diocese like Sekondi-Takoradi. Could you also explain what is meant by “with all the Rights and Faculties of a Local Ordinary”?
Answer by Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu:
Let us begin by defining the term “episcopal see” which we will encounter a few times in this answer. In the usual meaning of the phrase, it refers to the area over which one is a bishop. Phrases concerning actions taking place within or outside an episcopal see indicate that the term has a geographical reference, making it synonymous with “diocese”. The word see (in episcopal see) is derived from Latin sedes, which in its original or proper sense refers to the seat or chair that, in the case of a bishop, is the earliest symbol of the bishop’s authority.
An episcopal see (diocese) becomes vacant whenever the diocesan bishop dies, retires, resigns, or is transferred from or deprived of his see by the Roman Pontiff. When this happens, a new diocesan bishop is chosen by the Pope as per Canon 377 §1: “The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints bishops or confirms those legitimately elected”. As a general rule, choosing a bishop’s successor almost invariably takes some time, which means that dioceses are frequently left temporarily without a bishop.
If the diocese has an auxiliary bishop, he assumes governance of the diocese. If there are several auxiliary bishops, the most senior of them in terms of appointment assumes this responsibility (Canon 419). If there is no auxiliary bishop, it is required by canon law that the College of Consultors in the diocese meets to elect an “administrator”. Every diocese is required to have a College of Consultors which is composed of between six and twelve diocesan priests chosen by the bishop for a five-year term. The College is to meet “within eight days of receiving the notice of the vacancy of the episcopal see” in order to elect an administrator (Canon 421). This administrator – known as the “diocesan administrator” – then takes charge of the diocese until the Pope names a new bishop.
However, it can happen that instead of waiting for the College of Consultors to elect an administrator, the Pope can name one himself. In this case, the person chosen is known as an “apostolic administrator”, although his function is the same as that of a diocesan administrator elected by the College of Consultors. The Pope can choose a bishop from a nearby diocese as the apostolic administrator, which means the bishop now has two full-time jobs: in addition to his regular duties as bishop of his own diocese, he now has the added (temporary) responsibility of administering the diocese next door. The Pope can even choose a Bishop Emeritus for this responsibility. The Pope can also name a priest to be in charge of the diocese. Such a priest chosen by the Pope for this responsibility is also called an “apostolic administrator”, as in the case of Very Rev. Fr. John Baptiste Attakruh of the Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese.
According to Canon 425 §1, “To be validly chosen diocesan administrator one must be a priest of at least thirty-five years of age who has not been elected, nominated or presented for the same vacant see”. He must also be outstanding in doctrine and prudence. A priest chosen as the diocesan or apostolic administrator is obliged to make a profession of faith in the presence of the College of Consultors (Canon 833, §4). This is comparable to the bishop’s obligation to make a similar profession of faith, though there is no reference to an oath of loyalty to the Holy See in the case of a priest administrator (Canon 380). If the person chosen to be the administrator of the diocese is the diocesan financial officer, the diocesan finance council is to choose another finance officer pro tempore until a new bishop is appointed (Canon 423 §2) In other words, one cannot be the diocesan administrator and be the diocesan finance officer at the same time, just as a bishop cannot also be the financial administrator at the same time. A concern for financial accountability seems to underlie the prohibition of the administrator’s simultaneously functioning as diocesan finance officer. The role of the apostolic administrator ends when the new bishop is installed (Canon 430 §1).
A number of changes are in effect during the time when the diocesan see is vacant (sede vacante): (1) Offices that exercise general or specific authority granted directly by the diocesan bishop cease since their authority derives from the diocesan bishop, such as the Vicars General and Vicars Forane (Deans). (2) There are some offices that remain during the vacant see: chancellor, judicial vicar (i.e., an officer of the diocese who has ordinary power to judge cases in the diocesan ecclesiastical court) and financial officer. These offices are necessary for the ordinary operation of the diocese and so remain in place and assist the diocesan administrator or the apostolic administrator in his work. (3) While the judicial vicar’s authority is granted by the diocesan bishop, it does not cease during the vacant see so the process of justice within the diocese can continue without interruption.
Now that we can see who has authority over a diocese when there is no bishop, let us examine what it is that he is able to do. Canon 427 §1 states that a diocesan administrator has the power of a diocesan bishop, excluding those matters which are excepted by their very nature or by the law itself. What is said in the Pope’s appointment letter with regard to Very Rev. Fr. John Baptiste Attakruh should be understood in the light of this canon. The letter says that he has been appointed apostolic administrator “with all the Rights and Faculties of a Local Ordinary”. In general, the fact that the administrator fulfils the most significant leadership position in the diocese means that he normally enjoys a legal status comparable to the diocesan bishop (Canon 427 §1). Thus, the administrator is subject to the same obligations and possesses the same powers as a diocesan bishop. However, there are certain limitations on the power of the administrator that hinge upon his status. Canon law itself denies the administrator the power to perform certain actions that are permitted to the diocesan bishop. The administrator has the authority to make the necessary decisions for the daily operations of the diocese. However, major decisions and initiatives are deferred to the new bishop unless an urgent situation requires action. The administrator is charged with deciding what issues need to be addressed during this interim period and what issues need to wait for the attention of the new bishop.
The administrator cannot make major personnel-changes in the Marriage Tribunal, for example, removing the Judicial Vicar and/or adjutant Judicial Vicars from office (c. 1420 §5), since this is exclusively the purview of the diocesan bishop himself. Nor can an administrator remove the diocesan Chancellor from office, unless the College of Consultors has granted their consent (c. 485). There are certain functions that the administrator may perform only after the diocesan see has been impeded or has stood vacant for more than one year (c. 525 §2). For example, the administrator may grant incardination or excardination to priests and deacons only if the diocese has been vacant for a year. The administrator can name priests as administrators of parishes but cannot name them pastors (parish priests) unless the diocese has been without a diocesan bishop for at least one year. The office of pastor is understood to be a stable office. Since the administrator is not to make any innovations, the conferral of a stable office should not happen except in the situation noted here. If a parish becomes vacant before that year time frame has occurred, the administrator may appoint a priest as the parochial administrator since this is not a stable office. Similarly, he may appoint priests as parochial vicars because that is not a stable office. Finally, Church law prohibits the administrator from taking actions which may prejudice the rights of the diocese or its bishop. This would include suppression of parishes and relegation of churches to profane use.
Apart from such limitations, the administrator enjoys powers and has obligations equivalent to those of a diocesan bishop in all respects. For example, with regard to selling of ecclesiastical property, the administrator (like the bishop) needs to obtain the consent of both the College of Consultors and the diocesan finance council when the value of the property to be alienated falls within the minimum and maximum amounts set by the episcopal conference.
In general, the administrator, whether elected by the College of Consultors or appointed by the Holy Father, maintains the necessary day to day functioning of a diocese but does not make any structural changes that would truly be innovations in the particular diocese. There are other limitations on the role of the administrator, and they all serve to underscore a general statement found in canon 428 §1: while the episcopal see is vacant, no innovations are to be made. This is only common sense. No one but the diocesan bishop himself should be engaged in any sort of major overhaul within a diocese – and so when the diocese has no bishop, its administration should ideally be functioning in a routine, ordinary way, on a sort of “auto-pilot”. When the new bishop arrives, he and only he can decide to radically reorganize his chancery staff and reassign chancery officials, rearrange parish boundaries and create new ones (c. 515 §2), establish new diocesan Catholic schools (cf. c. 802), and make other significant changes in the diocese.
On the liturgical front, we should take note of two things. (1) If the administrator is not a bishop, certain distinctly episcopal prerogatives, especially in the sacramental arena, are outside his sphere of competence. Thus, he cannot ordain deacons and priests, and cannot celebrate the Chrism Mass during which the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick are blessed, and the Oil of Chrism is consecrated by a bishop. The Oil of Chrism can only be consecrated by a bishop.
(2) If the administrator is a priest, the phrase “for N. our Bishop” is completely omitted from the Eucharistic Prayer at all Masses in the diocese until a new bishop is ordained or installed in the Diocese. If, however, the administrator is a bishop, his first name is mentioned, for example, “Joseph, our Bishop”. It should not be “Joseph, our apostolic administrator”. The title “apostolic administrator” is not a liturgical title, nor does it have any bearing on his ability to be a source of communion, which comes rather from his ordination as bishop.
Let me conclude by adding that if a priest or a bishop is chosen to be the administrator, it does not necessarily mean that he will automatically become the next bishop of the diocese. Indeed, Rome could confirm him later as the new bishop or Rome may choose somebody else.
For further explanations or enquiries, you may contact the author, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Catholic Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, on this number: 0244488904, or on WhatsApp (with the same number).
Reflection for the week : By Rev Fr Joseph Nyarko Asare
(Catholic Diocese of Obuasi)
Sunday 30th August – 6th September, 2020
We cannot claim to be Christians if we are not ready to remain truthful, sincere, on fire, and upright in the radical sense. From our roots up, there must be the burning sensation in us to do good, damning the consequences.
We cannot follow the truth with a heart that easily compromises, that sacrifices truth on the altar of fear and intimidation, that looks on as evil persists, and a heart that is not burning with objectivity.
The calling is straightforward in today’s readings. We must be rid of every encumbrance, and especially of sin. We are to persevere in running the race marked out for us. This is where the problem lies: we want to serve God without tears, sweat or challenge. Let me give a gentle reminder: there is no short cut to heaven for the way remains Jesus (together with the readiness to follow him with the cross).
Tolerance has no place in matters of objective reality. We do not tolerate lies in order to enjoy “false or hypocritical peace”. Jeremiah teaches us the path. He will die rather than change God’s word or message. What he did is as dangerous as a pastor going to a politician (like Pres Mahama and Nana Akoffo Addo or Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump) in the presence of party fanatics, in some few weeks before elections, to say, “My brother/sister, forget about the elections for God says you are going to lose and lose big”.
Jeremiah is thrown into the well for predicting defeat to an army about to launch an attack on an enemy territory. Truly, there was no need to give hope to a force about to be defeated (since God’s insight is perfectly correct). Present day pastors and ministers will give hope and motivation to those on the wrong path for fear of persecution.
We do not want to lose friendship with colleagues, family members and neighbours, so we offend God without considering the effects. That is how depraved we have become as believers in Jesus Christ. Let us allow the fire of Jesus to defreeze our lukewarm hearts and institutions.