Rome Has Spoken; The Case Is Closed

Rome Has Spoken; The Case Is ClosedPope Francis (ETTORE FERRARI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Using religion and amassing the natural and human resources of the local believers in various continents, the church is flatly refusing population-based representation.

The Pope has demanded an apology from every priest of a rebelling Nigerian diocese. "Total obedience" he underlined, and demanded that he be sent "individual letters of apology within 30 days".

If you think what you have just read is from the pages of a medieval document on inquisition during the dark ages, then you will be surprised. These lines are part of a communication by Pope Francis, who is projected by the press as the most progressive and revolutionary of them all.

And the letter has been sent by the Pope to the diocese of Ahiara in Nigeria. It shows what the church really is, and how it deals with a different point of view when the church has the power, as in the case of this African congregation.

The Pope says in the aforementioned communication: “I ask that every priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and personally.”

In a language that would make a medieval inquisitor blush in pride, Pope Francis, the liberal, says that disobedience to the church authority by the Nigerian diocese is "a mortal sin that is very serious".

The Pope instructs the diocese's clergy that in their individual letters, while asking for forgiveness, they must also "clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope" and "be willing to accept the Bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed". Then there is a deadline. The letter by each cleric pleading for forgiveness and accepting, without questioning, the authority of Rome must reach him within 30 days, which is 9 July.

A protester takes part in a rally against the appointment of a priest in the Diocese of Ahiara. (
A protester takes part in a rally against the appointment of a priest in the Diocese of Ahiara. (

The Pope ends the letter with a direct threat, "Whoever does not do this will be ipso facto suspended a divinis and will lose his current office".

If you think that the Pope has reacted so harshly to the diocese for having shielded paedophile priests as in Mexico, where the pontiff showed his mercy and compassion even to the priest with HIV who sexually abused more than 30 children, then you are mistaken again.

The Nigerian diocese in question has requested that they have a bishop from their own clan who can understand their problems. The appointment of this bishop was made by the predecessor of the current Pope. The notoriously conservative church refused their request and imposed on them a bishop from a rival clan.

At the outset it may look like an enlightened church fighting ethnic tribalism in an African nation. Indeed, the Pope and the controversial bishop have made tangential reference to tribalism though the Pope has pointed out that his concern is more about the disobedience of Nigerians to the authority of Rome rather than ‘tribalism’.

However, the church itself is an ethnicity-centered institution. In the powerful Papal conclave of 2013, which elected the Pope, through the cardinals, Asia had only 10 cardinals, Africa only 11, North America 20 and South America 13. However, Italy alone had 28 cardinals and the rest of European countries, 32. That has always been the case. Hence, despite the much trumpeted "person from outside Europe for the first time being elected as Pope", the person was carefully chosen to be from an Italian family in South America. And in Africa, the church has always played ethnic ‘divide and control’ which in Rwanda resulted in one of the worst genocides witnessed by the current generation.

What is happening to the Nigerian diocese is a repeat performance that happens everywhere. Catholic theology students from around the world are taught from the very beginning one axiomatic truth of his or her theological world: 'Roma locuta est; causa finita est' (Rome has spoken; the case is closed). With local spiritual traditions destroyed, the diocese would ultimately have to go back to the church.

The destruction of the local community strength is another way of Rome to make sure that the indigenous traditions do not surface again with its spiritual content.

In India, the Catholic communities are restricted from adopting local spiritual traditions by branding the latter as ‘Brahminical’ corruptions, and by steadily cultivating fear psychosis through atrocity literature. It is an interesting irony, though not unexpected, that the Left in India is an active participant in this theological imperialism of Rome.

So what we have here is an international body dominated by one state-ethnic group – Italians – deciding to deny the same privileges to Africans when they want their diocese to have a bishop of their own origin and their own choice.

Using religion and amassing the natural and human resources of the local believers in various continents, the church flatly refuses population based representation in Papal election, making it an empire controlled by cardinals of Italian diocese. So in post-colonial countries wherever the church grows stronger, it does not hesitate to impose an inquisitional stranglehold on the herds, using the diminished power of the dioceses and the inability of the concerned state power in negotiating with Rome.

The way church deals with paedophile priests with kid gloves in countries like India, while at least taking some compensatory actions in countries like the US (though even there justice in full sense has been effectively denied), is a standing proof to this almost racist dimension of the church which is also its integral part.

This is also the reason why every indigenous culture and community, particularly those belonging to the post-colonial nations, should fight against the spread of the church in their regions.

Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.


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