Clash of cultures: African priests making waves as they re-evangelize Ireland
DUBLIN, November 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – A Nigerian priest who condemned Irish supporters of same-sex "marriage" has sparked a debate about whether the Irish should accept African priests with unpopularly orthodox beliefs or push for married priests and more roles for women.
To Nigerian Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of Oyo, it is a no-brainer. "There should be absolutely no problem," he told LifeSiteNews, "for priests from anywhere in the world to come back and help Ireland," especially after so many Irish missionaries spread the Gospel to Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
Not everyone agrees, especially after Fr. Joseph Okere allegedly told the congregation at St. Mel's Cathedral in Longford, Ireland that the recent referendum vote in favor of same-sex marriage "was evidence the devil was at work in Ireland" and that those who voted in favor were "devil-worshipers."
The local LGBT group complained, and the local bishop, Francis Duffy, duly apologized on his own and Fr. Okere's behalf. "The language used caused offense to some people. Father Joseph did not intend to hurt anyone and is sorry for doing so. I too apologize for any insensitivity."
The Irish clergy contains a strong and openly pro-homosexual group called "The Association of Catholic Priests," whose founder, Fr. Tom Flannery, estimates that 25% of all Irish priests voted "yes" on the same-sex "marriage" referendum.
Now Britain's Tablet – the voice of the liberal Catholic establishment – has examined the question of whether priests from the developing world ought to be allowed to serve in Ireland at all, given Africa's hostility to homosexuality.
"Remarks by a Nigerian priest in Ireland linking gay marriage to the works of the devil are seen by some as symptomatic of the problems of importing clergy to address the country's need," the article begins. "But the practice does have its defenders."
In fact, in all of Ireland, the article's author could find only one man to condemn the practice, and plenty to speak in support – not surprisingly, given that some predict that the country will be "effectively priestless" in 20 years.
The sole naysayer is Fr. Brendan Hoban, also of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests, who told The Tablet, "Expecting thousands of foreign priests, even if they were available, to effectively man every parish in Ireland in 15 to 20 years' time is a ridiculous proposition."
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Warns Fr. Hoban, the priest's job today is "a very complex and demanding role, one that needs a clear understanding of and expertise in the history, especially the recent socio-religious history, of Ireland."
Fr. Hoban wants the priest shortage solved by allowing priests to marry and female deacons to assume a bigger role.
But Bishop Badejo thinks otherwise. This is not a matter of retrograde African priests imposing their views on the more enlighted, as Fr. Hoban would have it, but much the opposite. "Many, many years ago, Ireland came out of love to evangelize Africa," Bishop Badejo told LifeSiteNews. "That was when Africa was in need. Now Africa has received that Gospel, incarnated that Gospel, and is mature in that Gospel – the Gospel of love and the Gospel of truth. Now Ireland is in need of that Gospel."
The bishop dismissed Ireland's cultural differences. "We have been called to evangelize in the whole world and to bring forth the whole truth."
As for the negative response to Fr. Okere, it was to be expected, given Ireland's fall from the Faith. "When the truth is compromised, the people who try to keep the truth whole and sacred always suffer."
The Tablet reported that importing priests from very different cultures creates problems quite apart from Europe's moral relativism. One Ghanaian priest, Fr. Raphael Annan, said that African masses are much longer, with congregations much more involved, than Irish ones. There is a strong cadre of lay ministers who make communion services possible every Sunday, when the parish priest is far away at another church. There is nothing like that in Ireland.
Sister Kathleen McGarvey of the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles admits, "It will be challenging to ensure they are integrated into Irish society, learn to dialogue respectfully with Irish culture," but adds that the foreign priests "will greatly benefit the Irish Church in the area of dialogue and liturgy."
In the meantime, the Irish Church has developed an orientation course for foreign priests, as churches in other parts the world have done after encountering similar cultural issues with imported priests. "They are used to much longer services, and they are used to servants," said one Canadian priest. "In Canada the priests are the servants."
But the biggest cultural clash may come, as it did at St. Mel's, between Christ's teachings and the world's, says Bishop Badejo. "The 'Kingdom of God' suggests that there is a King who issues the rules and regulations, and we are subject to those rules," he said. "If we do not want to play God, we must be faithful to the Word of God."