Posted on: 2014-01-16
Source: Chris N. Anyanwu

Since the provoking outburst of Pastor Chris Okotie, the general overseer of the Household of God Church, last year, against the sacred institution of the Universal Catholic Church, as well as his verbal abuse on Pope Francis, the visible head of the Catholic Church, many had expected a formal response from the Catholic Church in Nigeria.
Pastor Okotie was quoted as saying inter alia that �All Catholics in the world will go to hell because they worship Satan and are led by an anti-Christ Pope who is a friend to the devil. They are not Christians and have never been. They don�t know Jesus. ...�
When Okotie made his meaningless and baseless remarks, a formal response was not necessary at the time since the self-styled Pastor has been at the receiving end of attacks in the social media, from Catholics and other Christians, some of whom have demanded the examination of his mental state. And justifiably so because no sane person can say what he said, in a manner he did, as if to say he has some scores to settle with Catholics and their Pope. No sane human being, not even a truly anointed man of God can take the judgement seat of God and condemn fellow humans as if to say he/she has the keys to the kingdom of Heaven.
But when hired writers continue the devil�s advocate work of Pastor Chris Okotie in running the universal Catholic Church and the Pope down, by feeding the public with lies and heresies; silence is no longer golden. One of such hired idle minds, Justus Nwakanma who in his article titled Between Chris Okotie and Pope Francis (Guardian on Sunday, January 12, 2014; pg 53) embarked on further derogatory remarks about the Catholic Church and the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis.
When lies are repeatedly told without a corresponding challenge, they wear the dress of truth. And many hapless Christians without a critical mind can fall victim to accepting them as truism.
In his article, Justus Nwakanma not only displayed his brazen ignorance of Catholic dogmas, but made what could be regarded as an intellectual futility to ridicule yet again, the head of the catholic church, through misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the Pope�s remarks.
His entire piece was an attempt to justify pastor Chris Okotie�s early position against the catholic Church and the Pope. To start with Nwakanma tried to equate pastor Okotie�s position as an over seer on spiritual matters of Household of of God Church, with that of Pope Francis as a head of Catholic Church on doctrinal matters.
According to Nwakanma, �every christian must be worried and concerned with the recent postulations of Pastor Chris Okotie and Pope Francis on Christianity, Catholicism and Hell. In Christendom, when words are wrongly spoken by the supposed repositories of ecclesiastical
knowledge, and interpretations are misplaced or ill-conceived history as an impartial arbiter, will record such resonating defiance of wrongful and misleading thoughts, as well as the deceitful silence of the elect.�
For Nwakanma the �repositories of ecclesiastical knowledge�, are Okotie and Pope Francis. This comparison is an insult and most uncharitable to Catholics, nay all Christians. Since when can Okotie who we know as a �one time street dancer� turned a pastor overnight be equated with Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ and epitome of a tradition that has lasted over 2,000 years; as well as the universally accepted visible head of all Christians? How can we refer to a self-acclaimed pastor as a repository of ecclesiastical knowledge?
It is a common knowledge that today, in Nigeria, anybody can wake up any day and assume the role of a pastor/founder, evangelist, bishop, archbishop and so on etc.; premising the mission on an imagined divine call, particularly now that church founding has become a commercial venture. The pertinent question one can ask is �who called you?� Unfortunately, many are not observing the biblical injuction��No one takes this honour on himself, he needs a call from God, as in Aaron�s case (Heb 5:1-4). Many today are taking ecclesiastical honour and title as an avenue to exercise power, status or to enhance their financial positions. It is wrong to refer to such people as �repositories of ecclesiastical knowledge.�
Again, Nwakanma variously quoted what he claims Pope Francis said in many instances out of context without telling us when he said them and on what occasions he said them. Such random quotations by Nwakanma of Pope Francis run thus:
Pope Francis was reported to have said: �We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone. Even atheists acknowledge the divine. Through acts of love and charity, the atheists acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity.�
�Through humility, soul searching and prayerful comtemplation, we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and lover of humanity.
�God seeks not to condemn but only embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see as Hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for isolated souls, which like all souls, ultimately will be united in love with God.�
The above random quotations of Nwakanma�s interpretations of Pope Francis sayings were not placed in the context and occasions when they were said. They were mere assumptions. Even Nwakanma indirectly acknowledges that he is not sure if Pope Francis made such statement when he wrote:
�Concerns have been raised as to whether this rift of revolutionary irrationalism coming from the Pope is real or fake. But since there has been no official denial (to the writer�s knowledge) from the Vatican, it is reasonable to conclude that whether he is speaking ex cathedral, or not, Christendom should not at all be silent or relaspe in mutted applause of a seeming infraction of its principles teachings.�
From all indications, it is obvious that Nwakanma is a confused person who lacks indepth knowledge of the Catholic Dogma and teachings of the Church and thus cannot decipher between a reported speech or commentary of another person and the verbal statement of the actual speaker; in this case Pope Francis.
The statement being authoritatively quoted by Nwakanma above was not only absolute falsehood but a satirical blog posted on the internet by people of likeminds of Nwakanma and his mentor.
In his posting of January 5, 2014; on HOME ARCHIVED; Carl Olson, editor of the Catholic World Report refered to the misrepresention of the Holy Father�s remarks under the headline Pope Francis Just Concluded Vatican III and declared:�All Religions are True.� Below is the full text of Olson�s posting:
Funny stuff, right? It is, I suppose, except that some people have apparently taken this December 5, 2013, "story" quite seriously, even though the first few lines should have set of the spoof alarms:

For the last six months, Catholic cardinals, bishops and theologians have been deliberating in Vatican City, discussing the future of the church and redefining long-held Catholic doctrines and dogmas. The Third Vatican Council, is undoubtedly the largest and most important since the Second Vatican Council was concluded in 1962. Pope Francis convened the new council to �finally finish the work of the Second Vatican Council.� While some traditionalists and conservative reactionaries on the far right have decried these efforts, they have delighted progressives around the world.

The Third Vatican Council concluded today with Pope Francis announcing that Catholicism is now a �modern and reasonable religion, which has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone. Even atheists acknowledge the divine. Through acts of love and charity the atheist acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity.�

I first heard of this satirical piece, published on the Diversity Chronicle site (which carries this descriptive/disclaimer: "The original content on this blog is largely satirical"), about two weeks ago. A friend forwarded me the link, and explained that several of his non-Catholic friends and co-workers were touting it as real "news". Was there, he asked, a response to this nonsense? In a better world, it wouldn't be necessary to respond to nonsense, save uttering a loud and long laugh. But anyone who has spent time involved in apologetics knows that there is much nonsense to be addressed, especially when it becomes an impediment to understanding what the Catholic Church really teaches (and doesn't teach) and has really done (or not done).

Jimmy Akin, senior apologist at Catholic Answers, has addressed this bit of nonsense in a January 2 column for the National Catholic Register, pointing out that Snopes has posted about it. Since we're on the topic of strange and surprising stories, the New York Times recently published a piece about Francis, the "Radical Pope". Why is it surprising? Because the author, Robert Calderisi, rightly points out that while Francis has done some unusual things, he actually "represents an essential continuity in the Roman Catholic Church�s mission."
The above clearly clears the air on Nwakanma�s falsehood. One expects that if Nwakanma, a journalist and former Editor of Champion newspaper is not sure that Pope Francis said those words, charity, clarity and ethics of his profession demand that he should have cross-checked those assertions before publishing them. And there are many ways of cross-checking facts on the Catholic Church. Nwakanma would have consulted relevant Church authorities to ascertain the true facts and positions of his assertions. In these days of the internet nothing is hidden under the earth. To put words into Pope Francis� mouth or interpret what he did not say is to say the least, a calculated attempt to mislead Christians, especially Catholics who are about 1.2 billion in the world and who have confidence in the leadership of the Pope.
The Catholic Church as an institution is the foremost Christian body established by Our Lord Jesus Christ himself, over 2,000 years ago; and in the spirit and mission of Christ the redeemer of the world; has continued the mission of uniting all Christians in response to the injunction of Christ that �They may all be one.� This ecumenism is being vigoreously and sincerely pursued by all Christian bodies in the country. Also, in keeping with the belief of all human beings are in the image of God, the Church has also extended the olive branch of love and peaceful co-existence to non- Christians � Moslems and other religions in the world, including the African Traditional Religion.
At the long run, it does not really matter what the likes of Pastor Okotie and Nwakanma think or say about Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. Theirs, are but mere personal opinions that have no weight. It is important to reiterate the fact that the Argentine-born Pope Francis who has been declared as Times- Man- of the -Year, is a gift to the Church and the entire Christendom in this century.

(Father Chris N. Anyanwu is the Director of Communications at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja).