Bishop Bonsu’s Corner : ‘Can a Catholic priest be a running mate or presidential candidate of a political party?’

Bishop Bonsu’s Corner : ‘Can a Catholic priest be a running mate or presidential candidate of a political party?’

Question by Ambrose Kusi:

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:

  1. What should be the attitude of the Church as an institution to national politics?
  2. What should be the attitude of the lay members of the Church to politics?
  3. What should be the attitude of clerics to politics?
    1. 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).

Bishop Bonsu writes on the Apostolic Administrator’s Role in the Church

Bishop Bonsu writes on the Apostolic Administrator’s Role in the Church

Question by Joshua Elikplim:

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).

Popes are buried in three different coffins

Popes are buried in three different coffins

Question by Am Enoch:
Is it true that popes are buried in three different coffins? What is the significance?

Answer by Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu:

It is true that popes are buried in three different coffins! When a pope dies, usually his actual burial takes place between the fourth and sixth day after his death. The burial follows a funeral Mass, presided over by the Dean of the College of Cardinals. In terms of the burial itself, the church performs what is termed as The Ritual of Three Coffins.  Each of these coffins carries its own symbolism and significance:

The Cypress Coffin

The innermost, a cypress coffin, holds the pope’s body as well as a copy of the eulogy given at the funeral Mass. It also holds three bags of coins: one of silver coins, one of gold, and one of copper. The number of coins in each bag represents the number of years a pope served. The simple wooden coffin made of cypress signifies that the Pope is an ordinary human being like everyone else, and is buried like a common man. The coffin is sealed and wrapped with three silk ribbons before being placed in a lead casket.

The Lead Coffin
The lead coffin, which is soldered shut, is engraved with the Pope’s name and dates of his pontificate, as well as a skull and crossbones. A skull and crossbones or death’s head is a symbol consisting of a human skull and two long bones crossed together under or behind the skull. The design originates in the Late Middle Ages as a symbol of death and especially as an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death found on tombstones. The lead coffin is more durable.  Important documents he issued under his seal are also placed in the coffin. The broken seal of office is placed inside the lead coffin by the Camerlengo prior to final closure.

The Elm Coffin
Finally, the lead casket is placed in an elm coffin which is nailed and shut with golden nails. The elm coffin is used to signify the great dignity of the man being laid to his rest, since elm is the most precious of local woods available in Rome.

Before the coffins are sealed, the bishop who is in charge of the pope’s official proclamations reads a list of achievements of the pope, and then the parchment that lists the achievements is rolled into a Copper Tube, and placed inside the casket. When each casket is closed, it is wrapped with two cords of violet silk and sealed in wax with the coat of arms of the chamberlain and the Cardinal Dean. Thanks to this ancient custom, many early documents of the Church have been conserved.

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).


Rev Fr Joseph Nyarko Asare

Reflection for the week (August 2nd-8th, 2020)

By: Rev Fr Joseph Nyarko Asare

(Catholic Diocese of Obuasi)

We are made for God and cannot get anywhere if we desert or ignore the Lord. One way of drawing close to God is through prayer. In this month of August, we turn our minds to the usefulness of prayer in a way that makes prayer relevant and easy to practice.

Prayer is a family communication. If God is our daddy, then we can call prayer a chat with our loving daddy. Calling prayer A CHAT WITH OUR LOVING DADDY changes many perceptions about prayer.

It is no more artificial or something strictly formal. It is all about respectfully enjoying some moments with the lover daddy.
That will mean, prayer is not too much of a work. It is a deliberate leisure time. We find moment to be with the beloved daddy.

It becomes more fascinating if we know the nature of our daddy. Absolutely, he is gentle and never get upset.

He enjoys the moment more than our words, and he takes us as very important children of his (he allowed his son to die for us).

Now, if I deliberately ignore such a loving, kind, good, gracious, and important daddy, then there should be something wrong with me.
He is wise and directs me for my betterment. Not praying means ignoring the greatest personality. Could this not be a snob of a sort?
So we see that not praying means ignoring God. The implication is that I am cutting myself off the best channels of improvement and favour in life.

Prayerlessness makes us weak and vulnerable.
God initiated prayer (chat with his created children). He visited Adam and Eve each day in the garden of Eden.

After the fall, God kept interracting with humanity. Think about Abel, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc., all in Genesis.
David would not make a major move without consulting God. The moments he avoided that, he landed in deep trouble.

Let us jump to few words of Jesus about prayer.
~Pray without ceasing
~Pray that you do not fall into temptation
~When you pray say….
~You should ask my father whatsoever you desire, and he will grant you.
In a sense, we are commanded to pray. God knows we need him. He does not want to see us defeated so he “orders” us to pray.

Moment oof prayer
Moment oof prayer

To refuse what God commands is to disobey him. Thus, not engaging in prayer becomes a sin.
Coupled with that, it is a sign that we don’t like ourselves.


Accra( G/A) July 7, Act-News- THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE (GCBC) has expressed worry about the non-adherence to the COVID-19 PROTOCOLS in the country especially the activities of the two major political parties recently as well as the on going voter registration exercise by the Ghana Electoral Commission

This was contained in a statement issued by the conference and signed by its President, Most Rev. Philip Naameh and Metropolitan Archbishop of Tamale Catholic Archdiocese.

‘ While we focus our concerns on national events that attract crowds of people, we also appeal to all to accept the reality of COVID-19 and thus modify their behaviours to conform to the safety guidelines. It is our hope and prayer that the concerns raised here will be addressed immediately to prevent any escalation in our COVID-19 cases’ , the statement pointed out.

Read the full statement below:

Can a Catholic faithful receive Communion from a Catholic Priest who has lost the clerical state and now an Anglican Priest?

Question by Joseph Aduedem (Sandema, UE/R):

My Lord Bishop, I would like you to clarify an issue for me.  It has to do with a Catholic priest who has lost the clerical state and is now with the Anglican Church.  Can a Catholic faithful receive Communion from such a former Catholic priest, bearing in mind that he lost only the juridical character and not the sacramental character?  This question arose because a friend of mine attended a funeral Mass in an Anglican Church and the Mass was presided over by a former Catholic priest who is now with the Anglican Church and though my friend did not receive Communion, he wants to know whether his decision was right.

Answer by Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu:

Most Rev. Joseph Osei Bonsu ( Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Konongo Mampong)

In answering this question, we need to deal with two issues: (1) Is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist celebrated by the ex-Catholic priest (now an Anglican priest) valid? To put it differently, do the consecrated elements of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ? (2) Is it lawful or licit for a Catholic to receive Holy Communion in an Anglican Church, even if the Holy Communion is consecrated by a former Catholic priest, now an Anglican priest?

(1) Let us begin by noting that the Catholic Church teaches that ordination – like the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation – “confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1582). In like manner, Can. 845 §1 says, “Since the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and orders imprint a character, they cannot be repeated”.  In this connection, Canon 290 states bluntly that once a man validly receives sacred ordination, the sacrament never becomes invalid.  This is because once a priest, always a priest.  It logically follows that once a man is validly ordained a priest, he will always be a priest, and (as per canon 1338.2) no one can take that away from him!  In other words, a cleric can never become a layman again. 

At the same time, however, it is possible for a priest to be released from the duties and responsibilities that are connected to the clerical state (CCC 1583).  Why would a priest lose the clerical state? In the Catholic Church, a bishop, priest, or deacon may be dismissed from the clerical state as a penalty for certain grave offences, or by a papal decree granted for grave reasons. Dismissal from the clerical state can be imposed upon the cleric as the most serious penalty for a cleric who has committed an ecclesiastical crime, but that does not take place very often.  Ordinarily, clerics suffer the loss of the clerical state because a priest voluntarily requests it. But regardless of who initiates it, the end-results are canonically the same.

Practically speaking, what this means is that such a priest will no longer function outwardly as a priest.  It means that he must not administer the sacraments, is not permitted to preach, and may not bless anyone or anything. There is only one exception to this rule: in accord with canon 976, a priest who has lost the clerical state is able – and in fact is obliged – to hear the confession of a person in danger of death who requests it. This is because the spiritual well-being of a dying person takes precedence over the obligation of this priest who has lost the clerical state to refrain from priestly ministry.  But apart from this uncommon situation, a priest who has returned to the lay state is not permitted to celebrate the sacraments.  Once he has lost the clerical state, he is supposed to be living his life as any other member of the laity.  He will no longer be called “Father” or wear clerical clothing, and will no longer be supported financially by the Church.  To the world he would appear to be a layman, working at an ordinary job and living the normal life of the laity.  Canon law refers to this change as the “loss of the clerical state” (cf. cc. 290-293).  Common parlance calls it “laicization”. 

What has been said above is true of any Catholic priest who has lawfully returned to the lay state by following the proper procedures. But what happens if a priest without requesting dismissal from the clerical state decides to celebrate Mass?  If a priest simply walks away from the Church, his bishop or religious superior is obliged to suspend him – in which case he is certainly under orders not to celebrate the sacraments. But what happens if such a priest does celebrate Mass?  If he does, he is clearly defying the ecclesiastical superiors who have forbidden him to exercise his ministry.  But does he validly consecrate the elements of bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ? The answer is yes. A priest – even one who has lost the clerical state – always retains the power to celebrate the Eucharist validly, even if he has been ordered by his superior not to do so.  This is also the case with the Catholic priest who leaves and becomes and an Anglican priest.

Here we come across the issues of validity and liceity.  On the assumption that the priest was validly ordained, the Eucharist that he celebrates is valid if he consecrates wheat bread and grape wine, and pronounces the words of institution which include: “This is my body,” and “This is the cup of my blood”, or or whatever the equivalent is in any other language.  Provided that he says the proper words of consecration, with the right intention, over the correct matter (i.e., unleavened bread and wine, cc. 924 and 926), the consecration really does take place.

(2) Does the validity of the Holy Communion consecrated by this priest necessarily imply that a Catholic can receive such Communion in the Anglican Church? While the Communion has been validly consecrated, it is illicit for a Catholic to receive it.  This is because the priest who has lost the clerical state is not supposed to celebrate the Eucharist at all, and Catholics are not allowed to receive Communion from an Anglican Church.  Something can be valid without being licit! Liceity refers to the “legal” provisions which should be followed.  Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Neither can we receive their Communion in their churches.  Can. 844 §1 states:

Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and can. 861, §2.

Can. 844 §2 states:

Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

This canon thus sets the following strict conditions:

a. necessity or genuine spiritual advantage
b. when the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided
c. it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister
d. a church which has valid sacraments

This last condition is the key one, since it eliminates ALL the Reformation churches (Anglican, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc.), none of whom, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, have valid sacred orders, and therefore, a valid Eucharist. The possibility of a Catholic receiving from the minister of another church, when the first three conditions are fulfilled, is limited to the Orthodox Churches, other Oriental Churches, Polish National and others whose sacraments are recognized by the Holy See. 

In conclusion, even if it is maintained that the Anglican priest in this case was a validly ordained Catholic priest so that the Holy Communion is valid from a Catholic perspective, the celebration is illicit since he has lost the clerical state as far as the Catholic Church is concerned.  Moreover, a Catholic cannot receive Holy Communion from him because the first three conditions (a, b, c) cannot be said to be fulfilled, especially (b) and (c) at the funeral Mass in the Anglican Church.  With regard to (d) which speaks of a church with valid sacraments, we note that the Anglican Church is not listed among those churches from which a Catholic can receive Holy Communion when the first three conditions are fulfilled. 

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). 

Focus on forming the moral consciousness of Catholic Teachers- Archbishop Palmer-Buckle

Cape Coast ( C/R) July 4, Actnews- Focus on forming the moral consciousness of Catholic Teachers- Archbishop Palmer-Buckel  

Most Rev. Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Coast has charged the executives of the Association of Catholic Teachers (ACT) in his archdiocese to focus on helping to form moral consciousness of their members to help fight the immorality in the society.

He made the call when the executives of the association paid a curtsey call on him at his office recently.

Read the full report by  Kobina Asmah (

(Cape Coast Archdiocesan ACT President)


On Tuesday, 30th June, 2020, four of the executive members of ACT, accompanied by their spiritual director, Rev. Fr. Patrick Appiah and the Regional Manager of Catholic schools Madam Rose Johnson, made a cash donation to the Archdiocesan COVID-19 fund at the Catholic Secretariat, Cape Coast.  The group was warmly welcomed by His Grace, the Archbishop of Cape Coast. The Prelate was very happy with the group and was grateful for the donation. He took the opportunity to share with members some few thoughts. In his usual direct, frank and straightforward manner of speech, he shared with the group his thought on how the Association of Catholic Teachers should be and charged us to wake up to our calling. Below are four of the many points he raised in the thirty minute interaction he had with the group at the conference room of the Catholic secretariat.  

The first was the need to develop what he termed as ‘Catholic consciousnesses of the Catholic teacher. He observed that there exist many people who exhibit anti-Catholic sentiments in the GES and may oppose anything that an association like ours may stand for. In his opinion, most of such people normally do not share in the moral position of the church on a number of issues. A case in point he cited is such moral position in the situation where teachers may want to go on strike for non-payment of allowance.  Assuming teachers go on strike for such a reason, and then the government pays the allowance later on, how then do teachers’ pay the children the lost time lost? He asked.  So eventually the children and not the government become the victim of such strike action, he pointed out.  He however cautioned ACT not to be surprised to see that many of those who may strongly oppose the association are Catholics. He also decried the laxity shown by catholic teachers towards issues of the church. He therefore encouraged ACT to be firm in its resolve to use such an association to awaken the Catholic consciousness of the Catholic teacher.

The second was a challenge to awaken the moral consciousness of both teachers and parents towards the children and the society. Our society in recent times has a huge moral deficit, he stated. Briefly reflecting on the situation of George Floyd in America, he observed that America has long been morally bankrupt because even though their motto is ‘in God we Trust’, they actually trusted in power, money and science. He recalled the struggle of the church to see the inclusion of Religious and Moral Education (RME) in the school syllabus in Ghana and stated that the promotion of Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology (STEM) must not be done at the expense of the humanities because it is the humanities that make a human being.  He couldn’t imagine how dangerous a number of professionals could be without morals. A typical example, he said, is a well-trained intelligent surgeon who has no morals.  He described such a person as a ‘skilled butcher’.  Engineers, lawyers, teachers are worth their salt only when their practice is built on sound moral values, he stressed.  He observed that teachings on sound moral values can only be given by faith based organizations such as ACT and not by Ghana Association of Science teachers (GAST), Association of Mathematics Teachers or any other academic or social groupings, he added. It is in that light that, he said, ACT becomes very relevance.

The third was the need for teachers to show leadership wherever they find themselves.  On a lighter note, he said there exist some teachers who do not qualify to be teachers as well as parents who do not qualify to be parents.  To him most teachers entered the profession because that was the only thing left for them to do and not that they desire to be teachers. Such teachers lack the sense of responsibility and do not appreciate the fact that children mirror whatever is done to them. He couldn’t imagine a situation where a teacher gets to the classroom and seeing the students in disarray, starts yelling at them. He noted that “if you as a teacher yells at the students, they will yell back at you”, he therefore stressed that members of ACT become gentle with the students and that they (students) will learn to do the same.  He said it is in such confusion that the teacher must show leadership by being a good example. He added that teachers and parents must show leadership in a confused society by being good examples, speaking up when they should and not being silent for others to lead only to ‘wake up’ later and ask how this/that person became their leader, he cautioned.

The fourth point captured was his concern for the use of the social media platforms. He described the social media as an effective tool that can help organise the association. He for instance asked that ACT use it to stay in touch and cautioned members to ensure proper management of the page. He advised that it should be managed well so that it could be a platform for forming the catholic teacher. He jokingly described how effective he had been using the ‘clear chart button’ to get rid of information that he considered less important.

Before he ended, the Archbishop informed the Executive that in June 2021, there would be a second archdiocesan synod. Major among the issues to be discussed is Catholic Education and ACT would be officially invited to participate. He requested for a memoir on ACT stating the number of groups, memberships and activities so far. When questions were invited, the ACT president requested the archbishop to fix a day on his itinerary for what he termed as ‘ACT DAY WITH THE BISHOP’ for interaction.  The Regional Manager on her part remarked that the group will not hesitate to come to the bishop for directions anytime the need arises.  In a quick response, the archbishop said, he believes in the principle of subsidiarity hence questions must first be passed through the spiritual director. The spiritual director, Rev. Father Patrick Appiah pointed out the difference between the old Teachers guild which consisted of only teachers from the SHS and ACT which is open to all teachers at all levels of education sector who are Catholics. He therefore described ACT as a beautiful organisation. He promised the Archbishop of the growth of ACT and adherence to all the advice given. The secretary, Mr Appiah Sam on behalf of the delegation showed his appreciation to the archbishop for his time and promised that ACT will do all that had been said. The group then went outside the conference room for the official presentation where photographs were taken. The cash donation was received on behalf of the secretariat by Rev. Fr.  Stephen Amoah-Gyasi, Archdiocesan director for Caritas/ Development. 


The delegation went with cash but received words of life from the archbishop.  We presented to him our gifts of money to help fight Corona virus disease 2019.  He however presented to us the sword of the spirit to fight all spiritual viruses of all times. Oh that we may find strength to use this. Pray for us Mother Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Seat of Wisdom.

Thank you.


Article by: Fr. Godfred Ofori

Fr Godfred Ofori

15th March, 2020, during Mass, I told my church members, let us pray the virus does not prevent us from meeting as it is happening in some countries. My comment was prophetic and it came to pass when the President of the nation addressed us that evening that all gatherings including religious activities were to close. Our bishops cooperated with the directives from the President and we closed all Churches for three good months. It was quiet a longer time but who else could trade human life on the table of worship. Life is indeed precious and as a Church, we always respect and preserve life, so there was no mass gathering.
Covid-19 may be part of us for long but we have to allow certain things to move on like worship, primaries, conferences and so forth. The President addressed the nation and gave religious bodies the go ahead to meet but with certain precautions. The bishops met and they gave us some guidelines based on what the President and the Minister said. My parish for instance bought four (4) infrared thermometer, four (4) Veronica buckets, tissues, hand sanitizers and the like. We had to even invite the fumigation/disinfection team from the Kwabre Municipal Assembly to fumigate and disinfect all the Churches in the parish at a fee. We were told that task force will be coming round to check how we obeyed or are obeying the protocols. That was why the disinfection or fumigation had to be done by a recognized body like that of the Municipality and even there should be an issue of certificate which we obeyed, because we had no option than to go by them. Meanwhile, I am yet to get my certificate for the Church at Kenyasi after over a month of the work done.
Again, we were asked to disinfect the place after every one hour of Church service and I had to comply because I respect the status quo. To the lay man, THE VIRUS COULD BE AT THE CHURCH OR ON THE PEWS FOR THE THREE MONTHS WE CLOSED THE CHURCH and that called for the fumigation. Again, the virus can still be left on the pews or in the Church when we meet as 100 people to worship for 1 hour. As laymen we accepted the protocols as they fell in.
Just this morning as I came out from my presbytery, lo and behold a man from the “Local Electoral Commission” was posting something on the doors of our Church premises (without our permission). Guess what? He was posting the publication for the impending registration exercise. I allowed him to post them but I asked him the days they will spend on the registration and he said at least 12 days. I am a new pastor here so I do not know what has been going on in the past. When I inquired, I was told that they always do the registration in front of my parish Church. Hence, during this pandemic which we cannot enter our Church nor its premises beyond an hour for worship, they will carry out registration exercise at the same premises for more than five hours a day in about twelve days.
The Catholic Church has a social responsibility to the state that is why we have been given our facilities and premises across the country to be used as isolation centers in this pandemic.
From my interrogation, they are not ready to disinfect the premises after every exercise. They did not make any provision for that and according to the man, they will wear mask, apply sanitizers, use veronica bucket and the rest so that is fine. I do not think they will check temperatures and tell “supposed infected persons” to go back without registering; but that is their own problem.
BUT my worry is “if a virus can stay in a closed church for three months so we needed the municipal assembly to fumigate or disinfect, if the virus can be on the pews so we need disinfection after every 1 hour Mass, what prevents the EC who wants to use OUR OWN FACILITY for its exercise to disinfect after every exercise? Are the EC workers free from the virus or are the electorates free from the virus? What if the virus stays and a church member contracts it after the exercise. Won’t they blame it on the opening of Churches? Won’t they collapse my Church for having just one covid-19 patient? These are the questions I put before the man and still contemplating but I am yet to get answers.
I cannot be an anti-citizen for I will always support what the nations does but with this, I am tempted to close our facilities because of the spread. If religious members’ lives matter, then citizens’ lives matter too. If I am to protect the life of my members at every Mass which I do, I must do that from external “possible carriers of the virus.”
This is what I am experiencing at Kwabre Kenyasi in the Ashanti Region or better still St. Nicholas Parish- Kenyasi under Konongo Mampong Diocese. I write this as an individual entity who wants to create this awareness. I am solely responsible for this write-up and I pray I get things done for the Church and her members at Kenyasi. If you experience same, you can join me as I humbly ask the EC to disinfect our facilities after every exercise or better still, NO DISINFECTION, NO FACILITY. I am entitled to this opinion as an individual. I will always be a “citizen and not a spectator” but this time I am a citizen who happens to be a pastor of souls. GOD BLESS US ALL

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Well arranged time is the surest mark of a well arranged mind-Sir Isaac Pitman

My father once told me that it is the busiest people who have time to spare.

In the mist of COVID-19 when time may be abundant for many people especially teachers and students, one of the most essential exercises they can embark on is reading.

Reading is the least expensive way to travel around the universe. From the comfort of your room, sitting under a tree, even whilst in the bus, a ship or an aeroplane, waiting for someone at the office for an appointment; you can spend time in any country in the world among people of differing cultures.

Whilst reading, you encounter different cultures attitudes, beliefs and characters that are different from your own. Through reading, you become familiar and make friends across the world and history. Reading, according to Robin Sharma it is not what you get out of the books that you read that is so enriching, it is what the books get out of you that will ultimately change your life.

Books simply help you to see what is really within yourself.  My personal experience of reading has exposed me to fine treatment of topics, issues, themes and arguments that makes me see the abundance of living from abundant reading. My love for literature especially novels expose me to clever and uncomfortable moral fables, handling human values without withholding sympathy for the wicked people and celebrating with the heroes and wishing to change destinies of characters like Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart and Constance Briscoe in Ugly.

There are many ways of reading, firstly, you can read as a believer, secondly, reading as a doubter, thirdly, read by exploring how the rhetorical context and genre are shaping the argument of the text. Also, readers can seek alternative views and analyse sources of disagreement. Finally, Reading enables you to use disagreement productively to prompt further investigation.

There are so many sources of materials to read once you start to read 30 minutes a day.

The history of the Kulangos of Seikwa whose land will and has always expose strangers with evil intent before they are hatched or the bravery of Ashante woman, Queen Pokou    who   led her people to establish the Boule Kingdom in Ivory Coast as narrated by Veronique Tajou   or why Medea will kill her own twin boys to avenge her lover Jason. You can start reading any small material you lay your hands on but as you grow in reading, you will surely have to be selective and do more reading in a week. My resolution is read book a week. Authors influence their readers with their style of writing. There many authors ranging from religion, classics politics, commerce history etc. Many years of reading has introduced me to authors like The Emeritus Archbishop Akwasi Sarpong, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Robert Green, Robin Shamar, Chimanda Ngozi Adichie, Kofi Anyidoho and many more. Start Reading today and you will discover authors who will transform your imaginations.

Samuel Kwasi Atta

ACT President

Sunyani Diocese

St. Peters Parish- Fiapre


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