Bishop Bonsu on Contraception

Bishop Bonsu on Contraception

Question by Fr. John Bonaventure Quaidoo:

Does a (Catholic) gynecologist who prescribes contraceptives or who practises IVFs as part of his or her work commit a sin? What about mixed HIV-status couples who use condoms in order to prevent HIV transmission? Do they sin in doing that?

Answer by Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu:

Most Rev Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Konongo-Mampong

I: Contraception

Contraception refers to the various means used during sexual intercourse between a man and a woman to prevent the sexual act from resulting in the conception of a new life. Specifically, contraception refers to all the means used to stop the male seed from fertilizing a female egg.

Contraception can take various forms. Apart from a person abstaining from heterosexual intercourse, there are physical (condoms), chemical (pills), and surgical (vasectomy, hysterectomy, tubal ligation) means to prevent conception. Since in using physical, chemical, and surgical means there is the need for some kind of human intervention into the natural, biological processes of the human body, such means have been described as artificial means of contraception or birth control. Those means of contraception or birth control which do not require any kind of manufactured device or other technological means of human intervention to be effective are referred to as natural means of birth control.

The purpose of human heterosexual intercourse is undoubtedly to propagate the human race. It is intended to produce a child. Until the twentieth century, it was the teaching of the Church that the primary purpose of human sexual activity in the context of marriage was procreation. Thus, contraception was seen to be morally wrong. It was held that apart from the procreative purpose, sexual intercourse also had a unitive meaning and value. The unitive meaning here means that it refers to a specific type of physical union, the sexual union of a man and a woman in natural intercourse, in the type of act that is inherently ordered towards procreation.

By 1965 almost all Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, agreed on at least two things regarding human sexual activity. One was that the unitive meaning and value of heterosexual intercourse was enough moral justification for a married couple to engage in such activity. The other was that married couples had both the right and the duty to limit the number of children that they could care for responsibly, given their real-life circumstances. Responsible parenthood thus became an important consideration in discussing this topic.

Almost alone among the Churches, however, the Roman Catholic Church, at least in its official teaching, continued to insist that artificial means of contraception were contrary to reason and the moral law. It was the view of the Church that only natural means of family planning were morally acceptable and even in this case there had to be serious reasons. This was in spite of the fact that the techniques of natural family planning had improved to an effectiveness rate of 95 percent or more for those able to follow these methods faithfully.

The main reason for the Church’s continued opposition to artificial contraception was the claim that the procreative and unitive meanings of human sexual activity were inseparably connected to one another and willed by God to be inseparable. The claim was based on an understanding of marital love, drawn from a view of the Divine Love, according to which the chief characteristic of such love was total, unconditional, self-donation; on this view, the gift of self in sexual intercourse was understood to be both a sign and a concrete realization.

The argument advanced by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life, July 1968), and reemphasized and developed by Pope John Paul II in various addresses, is both subtle and complex. Both popes accepted the need for responsible parenthood. Both popes continually warned against the terrible personal and social consequences of a contraceptive mentality and the widespread use of artificial contraceptive techniques. They maintained that only the practice of natural family planning respected the mutual love, freedom, and human dignity of the couple.

Some people have questioned why every single act of sexual intercourse must remain open to the possibility of procreation in a relationship that has already accepted and is living the marital vocation of parenthood. Even though the natural family planning method seems to have many physical and personal advantages over artificial means of birth control, it is not easy for couples to learn it or disseminate it. It has also not been proven to be workable without a high degree of motivation on the part of both husband and wife. Consequently, the techniques of the method, unfortunately, are not widely known nor commonly taught.

This briefly is the Church’s teaching on contraception. As things stand now, a Catholic gynecologist who prescribes contraceptives as part of his or her work with the intention of preventing conception is going against the teaching of the church.

II: In Vitro Fertilization

We now look at In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) or artificial insemination, which is a technique used to impregnate women who are physically capable of conceiving and bearing a child but who cannot do so through sexual intercourse, usually because their husband is sterile or impotent. Fresh semen is obtained from the husband (if he is impotent) or from some other male donor (if the husband is sterile) and is introduced by a syringe into the woman’s vagina or cervix during the middle of her menstrual cycle. The semen may also have been previously frozen and stored in a sperm bank.

The process of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Embryo Transfer (ET) bypasses the fallopian tubes and effects fertilization through technology. In this process, the ovum is removed from the ovary immediately before ovulation and is placed in a culture medium contained in a special dish along with sperm from the husband or another man. It is then transferred to the uterus. After a number of days it may implant, and if so, it matures over the next nine months.

The Position of the Catholic Church on Artificial Insemination

The Church’s teaching on artificial insemination can be summarized in three principles:

Human procreation must take place in marriage.

According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, a child should be the fruit of conjugal love expressed in sexual intercourse that takes place within marriage. According to God’s plan, three elements are required here: there must be love between a man and a woman; the couple must be married; and their love must be expressed through sexual intercourse.

Generation of new person should occur only through an act of intercourse performed between husband and wife.

According to the Church, using the gametes of a third person in order to have sperm or ovum available is a violation of the commitment of the spouses to each other and is also a grave lack with respect to that essential property of marriage which is its unity. The sexual act is an act that is inseparably corporal and spiritual. It is in their bodies and through their bodies that the spouses consummate their marriage and are able to become father and mother. The fertilization of the new human person must not occur as the direct result of a technical process which replaces the marital act.
Using the sperm or ovum of a third party is not acceptable.

According to the Church, techniques that entail the separation of husband and wife by the involvement of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus) are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterogenous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ right to become a father and a mother only through each other.

Techniques involving only the married couple (homogenous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists. The introduction of a third person is a violation of the rights of the child; it deprives him of this filial relationship with his parental origins and can hinder the maturing of his personal identity.

It is clear from the foregoing that a Catholic doctor who practises in vitro fertilization also goes against the teaching of the Church.

The Suffering Caused by Infertility in Marriage
It is natural for married people to want to have children. This desire can be even stronger if the couple is affected by sterility which appears incurable. Nevertheless, marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation. A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift, the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents.

Whatever its cause, sterility is certainly a difficult trial. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fertility. Sterile couples must not forget that even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility, in fact, can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2379).

III: Use of the Condom to prevent the Spread of HIV/AIDS

Finally, we come to the last part of the question that has to do with whether or not mixed HIV-status couples who use condoms in order to prevent HIV transmission commit a sin. Let us take a case where a man and a woman are properly married. If the man, for example, should come down with HIV/AIDS, can the condom be used in this case to prevent the woman from contracting the disease? The use of the condom in this case is not for contraception but to stop the transmission of HIV/AIDS. Recommending the use of condoms as a necessary HIV/AIDS prevention is extremely important. Some Roman Catholics are sometimes unsure whether or not condom use could ever be considered morally right. But we should be aware that Catholic moral theologians have been nearly unanimous in arguing not only that the Catholic tradition is not per se opposed to their use for disease prevention, but that Roman Catholic principles actually help to convey the moral legitimacy of their use. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI has said the use of condoms is acceptable “in certain cases” and this will be one of them. His comment on this matter is found in a book-length interview with a German journalist, Peter Seewald, and published in the book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times. According to Pope Benedict, in such a situation, using a condom to reduce the risk of HIV infection “can be a first step in the direction of moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants”. We can say that if the intention is to prevent transmission of the virus, rather than prevent contraception, that is of a different moral order and such couples do not go against the teaching of the Church in using the condom in this case.

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).

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE:He wants to be your friend today

By : Rev. Fr. E. Baah Baafi

Beloved, I have some good news and great joy for you. Today, unto us a Child is given, Christ our Saviour is born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem to bring release in our lives. He is God made man, Eternal Father, the Counselor, and the Prince of Peace.

Jesus is the Word who has finally become human and lives among us. He is the Light of the World, and has scattered darkness. God’s grace has been revealed in him. He wants to be your friend today. He is a good friend.

Great friends take a genuine interest in each other. They are loyal and honest. They focus on giving, not taking. They build each other up with encouragement. Great friends are empathetic. They are good listeners, and they help us to see the humorous side of life.

It is through our relationship with Jesus that we learn how to be a good friend to others. He teaches us what it means to truly be a friend. He teaches us how to relate to others with compassion and understanding. He teaches us when to speak and when to listen.

Do you want to be a friend of this newborn King, Jesus Christ? Are you a great friend?

Merry Christmas 🎄 and a happy new year to all. Shalom!

PERSONALITY PROFILE. CoEWJ Interview with Dr. Christian Addai-Poku, Acting Executive Secretary, National Teaching Council

PERSONALITY PROFILE. CoEWJ Interview with Dr. Christian Addai-Poku, Acting Executive Secretary, National Teaching Council

 Source /Credit : COE News Portal

CoEWJ: Good morning and welcome to the Colleges of Education Weekly Journal personality profile interaction.

Dr. Addai-Poku: Good morning thank you for the opportunity.

CoEWJ: Kindly tell us about your life growing up as young Christian.

Dr. Addai-Poku: Young Chritian was born and raised at Ashanti Boanim where I started schooling. My father was a civil servant and my mother barely completed her basic education but a very hardworking trader. One good thing was that my father was interested in education and did not compromise when it came to his children’s education. Thus,I had that privilege of being supported by my parents. I passed the Common Entrance Exams in form 3 at the Boanim L/A Middle School. From there I proceeded to Okomfo Anokye Secondary School at Wiamoase also in the Ashanti Region where I completed my O’ Level. I then moved to Atebubu Training College (now College of Education) and completed in 1994. While in College, I really wanted to go to the University and get a degree so I started reading A’ Level books to help me prepare. I was posted to a very remote village when I came out of College. One had to wake up around 1:00am and walk for about 4 kilometers to  the next village where  one can get a vehicle to travel to Kumasi. This did not deter me at all. I got my A’ Level books and studied in the village with my lamp. Three years after, I had my passes to enable me go to the University.

CoEWJ: Would you describe your parents as being strict?

Dr. Addai-Poku: My mother is very strict, no doubt. My Dad  was also strict but a bit diplomatic. Perhaps due to the fact that he had some sort of formal education,  his appreciation of discipline and reinforcement was tactically different from that of my mum. Of course the application of their different methods contributed greatly to who I am now.  They collectively ensured that all my siblings, but one, had up to the secondary education, at least.

CoEWJ: What were your aspirations as a child?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I wonder if I had any aspirations. But when I was in Secondary School, they used to call me Headmaster. One English teacher actually started calling me and it almost stuck. I would say that virtually, I did not have any aspirations until I entered College and realized that I wanted to be a great  teacher.

CoEWJ: What motivated you to apply to the Training College, specifically Atebubu?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I would say it was by chance or accident. This is because at the time, when I completed Secondary School, our results were withheld. When it was released, sixth form had finished with their admissions. So that was one major issue that led me to enter the College. As for the reason why I went to Atebubu, I would say that’s where I got admitted  and I was very happy because my elder brother was also there as a student so I felt very comfortable there.

CoEWJ: Tell us about your school days from the basic level till date.

Dr. Addai-Poku: Well, I started at Boanim RC Primary School where I was among the  the best in my class at the time. I later went to Middle school, passed and went to Okomfo Anokye Secondary School in Kumasi. Over there, I had a difficulty in adjusting to the terrain during my first year. Subsequently, I improved and later won a Government Scholarship that supported me to smoothly complete my secondary education. This really helped me because my father had been redeployed at the time. I went to the Training College where I was a bit troublesome. I started Secondary School at the age of 14, entered college at the age of 19. After Training College, I taught for close to four years and went to the University of Cape Coast to study Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) Arts, in 1998 and completed in 2001. After that I came back to the same district (Atwima Nwabiagya) I was but this time to  Nkawie Secondary Technical School where I taught until  2005. I enrolled for  a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Educational Administration degree at the University of Cape Coast. I graduated in 2009. My graduation delayed because I was involved in NAGRAT activities and also a classroom teacher at the time. After the expiry of my study in 2007 I came back to the same Nkawie Secondary Technical School, where I continued teaching and working as a NAGRAT official. Quite recently, I obtained my Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Leadership from the University of Education, Winneba.

CoEWJ: If your name was mentioned in College, what would you be remembered for?

Dr. Addai-Poku: People will think that I was a bit troublesome. I used to disturb my Principal (Mr. Okae ) a lot with protestations about food, delay in payment of allowances, among others. We were not violent anyway. The Principal at the time was very accommodating and really managed our excesses very well. Thank God we managed to sail through successfully.

CoEWJ: Where were you posted to do your teaching practice?

Dr. Addai-Poku: During my time we did not have the in-in-out format. We had on campus and off campus teaching practice. We went to schools in the Atebubu township.

CoEWJ: What was your favorite food from the dining hall?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Rice balls on Sundays and that was a never miss lunch for almost all students. Virtually everyday, we use to eat yam and we used to complain. On the contrary when I was in the Secondary School, yam was very scarce that eating it once a week was an achievement. Such is life.

CoEWJ: Did you occupy any leadership position in College?

Dr. Addai-Poku: No, I did not. I applied to contest  the dining hall prefectship but I was disqualified at the vetting, till date I do not know why. Probably because too young or because I was a bit noisy.

CoEWJ: Kindly share with us your journey through NAGRAT to the point of becoming the National President.

Dr. Addai-Poku: When it comes to this journey I speak with emotions because it was a miracle. When I was posted to Nkawie Senior High Technical School, I went there as a young teacher and the school was also practically new. The English Language teacher I met there offered Business and Secretarial Studies at the University but was made to teach  English Language. The then Headmaster had contracted someone from Opoku Ware Senior High School who  occasionally came to support the other teacher. When I got there I promised myself that I would put an end to that practice. I took the mantle and supported the lady  teaching the  final year students. The students did very well. From there, the confidence in me grew. When I got there,  the school did not have a school magazine. Within two years, I was able to help establish one. We did three Editions before I left for further studies. Within two years, I became the the Head of the English Department and a Housemaster in the school.

It was during this time that I applied to be a member of NAGRAT. This was because I had heard of them and how they fought for teachers and so on. When I applied, I was not registered. I was paying dues to GNAT but I still saw myself as a NAGRAT member. One time, an NGO came to our school to donate books to the students. There was a  little ceremony and I was the MC. In the course of  the ceremony, I had in information that NAGRAT officials from Accra were coming to Kumasi to meet their members. I informed a  colleague that I wished to  go with them. Although the Headmaster was a GNAT member, he gave out a bus to carry the teachers to the meeting. My colleague opted to take over the MC duties so I could go with the others. Can you imagine an MC abandoning his work in the middle of a program? On our way, we got stuck in traffic and at a point we thought we would be too late for the meeting. We contemplated returning but a colleague alighted and walked to the venue and called to inform us that the meeting was still in progress and that we could meet it. I went there purposely to just attend the meeting. During the meeting, I got up and spoke on an issue and I didn’t  know if that was what made me popular at the time or not. In the course of the meeting it was announced that the position of the Regional Chairman was vacant and there was supposed to be an election. They started  nominating people until someone stood up and mentioned my name. People protested because I was not even a certified member of NAGRAT because my name was not  on their dues paying list. The then President, Mr Kwami Alorvi, argued that I applied to be a member and it was their duty to take my dues and it was not my doing. Besides, I was the Union’s Secretary in my school. The argument continued for about 30 minutes. Eventually, they agreed for me to contest.We were given a few minutes to address the audience. I think I impressed them so at the end of the polls I came out victorious. I was elected as the Ashanti Regional Chairman of NAGRAT. I did not even know the constitution of the union. I do not think this can ever happen again in the history of the union , never. It happened also because the Association was still developing at the time. After the meeting I started talking to people who were experienced and I asked a lot of questions.

I took up the challenge and I can happily say that within six months of assuming office, we had overtaken three  other regions that were ahead of us in terms of membership. Everybody was impressed. My Headmaster was very supportive and continued to give us the school bus whenever we needed it. All this was between  the year 2005 and 2006. I served for less than two years. The moment I took over, I worked and supported the administration at the time and the entire national administration believed that I could do the job. As fate will have it, we unfortunately, lost the then National Vice President a few months to elections. They started looking for replacement and there was quite a number of people who could fill the gap. The then President, Mr Alorvi and then Financial Secretary, came to me at the University of Cape Coast and encouraged me to contest the Vice Presidency.

I was young but had what it takes to be a worthy Vice President. Indeed  I did quite a lot during my time as the Regional Chairman and that made people have much confidence in me. We went for the congress and I was elected  unopposed.

I won and served for three years under Mr. Alorvi as the National Vice President and I served him and the enrire association very well. Fast forward, it became very obvious that the next best person to serve as President would be me taking into consideration my experience and hard work. I contested and by God’s grace I became the National NAGRAT President for two terms.

CoEWJ: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment as NAGRAT President?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I think it is for making teachers belive in themselves that they can always do it and also raising the status of the teacher through the NAGRAT auto scheme which did not just help teachers acquire cars but it also gave them the confidence that yes, they can also own vehicles if they wanted to. This made me believe that we do not always have to accept the inferior position of we not being paid well or this or that. Generally, we have done a lot which we are very thankful for. Of course I fought for teachers on many issues including placement on the Single Spine Salary Structure, The Teacher Retention Premuim and the new Pensions Reforms as well as its implementation. Fought, negotiated and lobbied for teachers.

CoEWJ: How did you feel leaving office while NAGRAT moved into such a magnificent edifice (Headquarters)?

Mr. Addai-Poku: Actually, I put up that building during my time as NAGRAT President. I named it the NAGRAT Lyceum because NAGRAT stands for excellence and a Lyceum is a historical meeting place in Greek City states where philosophers, rulers and sports personalities  met to discuss issues of importance. It is also one of the biggest achievements of my days in NAGRAT.

CoEWJ: Do you miss your days as NAGRAT Boss?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Well, it is a great position.  In that position you can write  to the President of Ghana and he will  to invite you to the Jubilee House for discussion but it also comes with a lot of pressure. This is because it is a position where if you do not fight the status quo, people think that you are not working. People prefer to see you fight authority and go on strikes rather than negotiating and getting better results. I think we need to let people know that there are always other ways of solving issues. The world is moving away from antagonistic and radical unionism and towards what we call cooperative unionism.

CoEWJ: How did you blend the pressure of work and family life?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I would say my wife has been very supportive of my work and has been with me through it all. But it has not been entirely rosy.

CoEWJ: What new thing will you do if you were the NAGRAT President today?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I think leaving the union and coming to the other side, I realized that changing of mindset of people is very important. Therefore, I think that teacher unions need to reorient  members on best union practices. Union leaders do a lot of behind the scenes to resolve issues but members do not appreciate that at all if they do not embark on strike. It does not matter how much you achieve for members, if you do not embark on strikes and demonstrations members consider you as having been bought by authourities. This is the kind of mindset leadership must work to change. That is what I would chanel more resources into if I were a union leader today.

CoEWJ: At what point did you develop the love for education?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I admired one teacher back in primary five and I felt I could become a teacher someday but was not sure of who I would be in future. But it actually dawned on me  when I entered the Training College.

CoEWJ: As a form of advice, were you involved in any relationship with the opposite sex during your school days?

Dr. Addai-Poku : No, I was not. In the Secondary School I was not involved in boy friend and girl friend stuff . I really focused on my studies. The situation changed at the tail end of my days in College when I was matured enough. I maried in my early thirties.

CoEWJ: Any regrets on how life has unfolded for you?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I will say that there is a purpose for whatever God does. I also think I have been one of the luckiest people in the world. All I can say is that God has been good to me.

CoEWJ: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment so far in life?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Having a very united and supportive family.

CoEWJ: Tell us about the journey to becoming the NTC boss.

Dr. Addai-Poku My appointment, I believe, was a decision made by the the Minister for Education together with the teacher unions. The Minister believes that as a teacher regulatory body mandate to instill professionalism in teaching, the NTC has to be accepted and  owned by teachers. To do that it has to be led by teachers. Based on that thinking, the Ministry and the Unions agreed that I should be given that responsibility. All this was also based on my experience in the field.

CoEWJ: How has the experience at NTC been so far?

Dr. Addai-Poku: It has been tough, coming from the other side of the table. I thank God that my colleagues in the unions know and trust that I will do nothing to jeopardize the interest of teachers. Currently, things are smooth with the help and cooperation of Staff and the Governing Board of NTC, the Minister for Education and the Teacher Unions.

CoEWJ: What would you say has been your biggest challenge so far?

Dr. Addai-Poku: That will be the licensing of teachers. That sets the tone for  teacher professionalization. If we are able to establish our our systems well, Ghanaian teachers will be highly recognised nationally and  globally.  For instance, the only thing we need if a teacher travels outside the country to teach is for the  employer to key in the the teacher’s NTC pin and every single detail of the teacher’s professional progress is shown. Unfortunately, the politicization of the work of NTC is becoming a major source of worry to us  It is a big challenge for us but it is surmountable.

CoEWJ: What is the future of NTC?

Dr. Addai-Poku: The future is as bright as it can be. NTC is one of the few agencies that is expected to make it big. We have over 400,000 teachers that we are going to regulate and make sure that they develop professionally. If we are able to do this well,  we will be able to change the face of teaching. This will also mean that the quality of teaching will dramatically improve.

CoEWJ: We have heard of the Teacher Professional Development Allowance, when is it finally going to be paid to teachers?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Well, I must put on record that I do not have the authority to say when it will be paid. However, from reliable sources, all things being equal, it will be paid by the end of October.

CoEWJ: Aside the Teacher Licensure Examination, what other policies or packages does NTC have for the Colleges of Education?

Dr. Addai-Poku: The first thing is that Colleges of Education are supposed to go by the new teacher training curriculum framework which is derived from the National Teachers Standards. Therefore, we at NTC are supposed to monitor the progress of teachers as they develop. That is why we are supposed to do indexing of every student the moment they  enter College. The content of what is to be taught in the Colleges should not be left with the National Accreditation Board alone.  It is also up to NTC to make sure that modules in the Colleges meet  requirements. As I said, we are a developing agency and some of these things are gradual but we will get there.

CoEWJ: Are we likely to get to a point in the future where the Licensure Examination will be canceled?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I do not believe that. It can be reformed in different ways but a total cancelation is what I do not think will happen and I pray it does not happen. Stakeholders have worked very hard to get to this stage of the Teacher Licensure and it will be unfortunate for it to be reversed. It is quite essential in the NTC’s quality assurance function.

CoEWJ: As NTC boss, how do you feel when the whole teacher licensing process is being politicized?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I feel sad. As a nation, we must be able to distinguish between things that are of value and things that are populist in their architeture. There are certain things that can win votes but are regrettable. So deep down, I pray whoever is in charge works on making it better and not reverse the gains made.

CoEWJ: Is the situation the same in other countries as well, where politicians interfere with the licensing of teachers?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I do not know much about these other countries but I always take the words of  former President Barack Obama that, it is important to build strong institutions than strong personalities. Building strong institutions means that you allow the professionals to take the decisions and advise government rather than the government making promises and later give to the professionals to help excute  the promises. At least, the first and best example I can give is Nigeria. For them, even the in-service teachers also write the licensure exams.

CoEWJ: You have been the President of Education International for Africa from 2018 till now, tell us about your work there.

Dr. Addai-Poku: I have been with the Executive Board since 2011. I served the Region (Africa) until I was elected in 2018 to serve as the Regional President in Ivory Coast. I represent them at international fora and I chair meetings of the body. The headquarters is located in Ghana and so sometimes I pass by the office to take briefings and reports to help us work better.

CoEWJ: Briefly tell us about your days as a Headmaster and how that role has affected your personality.

Dr. Addai-Poku: I was first posted to Oppong Memorial Senior High school.  Initially, I was protesting because it was a relatively small school and having been  a President of NAGRAT, I  felt it was a bit below me. But I had an interesting experience when I got there and started working. I realized it was a different ballgame altogether. I spent just six months there but I lobbied to get a lot of projects running and also changed the mindset of people. Both teachers and students liked me so much. After six months, there was a vacancy at Asanteman Senior High School and the Regional Director said I was to fill that position. The day I informed stakeholders such as the  board, the PTA, old students, teachers and the students about my reposting, they were so sad and, they did everything they could to block the transfer. To the extent of sending letters to the Ministry of Education, the MP and the Chief of the area. The students and teachers went on a  peaceful demonstration. The good story continued  at Asanteman  and today when you go there, I am sure they will have good things to say about me. I may have my own weaknesses as a leader but I believe people liked the many innovations and quality leadership I brought to the school within my shot stay there.

CoEWJ: As a former union leader, the concern of newly trained teachers agitating against undertaking National Service, what is your view on that?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I do not believe they are  against it. However, the place to make their concerns known is parliament since that is where the existing law was made. Which requires any graduate to do a mandatory National Service. It is basically an issue of law and if we do not enforce it, we will be failing as a nation. We all know that Colleges of Education are now fully fledged tertiary institutions currently   affiliated to five major public universities.

CoEWJ : Few months ago, we heard in the news that preparations were underway to export Ghanaian teachers to neighouring African countries. How far with arrangements for that initiative?

Dr. Addai-Poku: The Minister for Education set up a small committee which I am a member working with the University of Cape Coast to work on that. We are still working on the modalities that will ensure that the programme becomes a success.

CoEWJ: If you are a union leader today, what will be your opinion on the Education Bill?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I do not have a position but I know that the unions and other stakeholders have raised some concerns which the Ministry of Education is looking into particularly on the decentralization aspect. These issues are resolvable and I know they will be ironed out.

CoEWJ: What do you do outside the office to relax?

Dr. Addai-Poku:  I like reading, I read a lot of novels and leadership books. I sometimes watch movies and I enjoy football. My favorite teams are Liverpool and Asante Kotoko.

CoEWJ: What food do you enjoy most?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Banku with okro stew does it. I am one of the few Asantes who do not enjoy fufu.

CoEWJ: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

Dr. Addai-Poku: God creates the path for men and I know He will do same for me. All I want to do is to excel at NTC and if there is another opportunity, I would go for it.

CoEWJ: Do you have any role model?

Dr. Addai-Poku: My class five teacher is my number one role model. Also  the late Thomas Bediako, the former GNAT Boss intrigues me a lot. He really mentored me so much, particularly, on pension issues and the geopolitics within Education International. I also got inspired by the way he brought me close even though I was a NAGRAT person and he was a GNAT person.

CoEWJ: With your current position, how far will you go to fight for the welfare of teachers?

Dr. Addai-Poku: As far as I can go to fight legitimately for teachers, I am ever ready to go. It is one of the reasons  I am here.

CoEWJ: The three major teacher unions in the past few years are seen together addressing concerns of teachers. Do you see this as a good thing for teachers?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Yes, it could not have been better. It is unity in diversity which did not start today. It started with myself and the then GNAT General Secretary Madam Irene Duncan Adanusa and we have built upon it over the years. We may belong to different Associations but the target we are fighting for is the same. So coming together to fight it is even the best way to go. It also helps the employer to bring all the unions to one table instead of meeting them separately.

CoEWJ: Your final words to our cherished readers.

Dr. Addai-Poku: I want to first commend you for the good job you and your team are doing. I pray that it grows in leaps and bounds. I also want to tell our able teachers that they should continue to cooperate with NTC to build our profession.  NTC is not an enemy of teachers but rather a part of teachers. It is to enhance our profession and give us both national and international recognition. I also want to assure trainee teachers that Licensure is not a punishment but rather to help raise their status to  flourish at what they do so that wherever they find themselves at any point in time they will know that they have really gone through the mill and they merit where they are. They should not antagonize the Licensure exams. Let us all work together to perfect it so that it will earn them the recognition they deserve

Source /Credit : COE News Portal

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).

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). 


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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