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AsRev. Fr. Patrick Edet :The way forward – By Osondu Ahirika 

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The Catholic Church is like Mount Zion. A mountain that cannot be moved and whose foundation abideth forever. I am not Catholic, but methinks, that faith is the pride of Christianity. 

Her traditions, entrenched for ages are virtually unbending, if not unbendable. Trying to move against her precepts and organizational structure is like trying to roll a water up hill. It will always return with a forceful rush and flush down the one experimenting that. 

The Catholic community and indeed the entire Akwa Ibom State and beyond were shocked beyond words, when one of her finest and best known Priest,  Rev. Fr. Patrick Edet, renounced his stewardship as a  Priest of the Catholic church. He remains a Priest however, albeit, not in the definition professed by the Catholic church . 

Dropping the bombshell,  Edet said, 

he should be addressed as,  Reverend Patrick Edet. Adding that, he could also be addressed as Father. Hear him :

“From Today Henceforth, I cease to be a Catholic Priest, in my spirit and in my soul… I forgive those who will criticize me, I live for God…I seek freedom for my soul. As I leave, I leave smiling, I am so happy to be free”.

Let us address matters arising from this defection by the erstwhile Catholic Priest,  who will be seen by hardcore Catholics as a rebel in the mould of Reverend Prof. Martin Luther of the Reformation fame. 

Truth is, everyone who measures the kind of charismatic Ministry Fr. Edet plies, will not be surprised by the decision to abdicate from the Catholic Priesthood. Indeed, the confounding thing is, how he managed to hang on for so long. There is no doubt, he has meandered and struggled through unimaginable hurdles and strictures,  to operate his radical  pentecostal bent in a deliberately conservative church. 

I come from a background of experience of how backstabbing, the envy of intra-church rivalry among Pastor’s can be. Once you are a stand – out minister, be ready for the onslaught of the other less endowed ones against you. 

At every council, you will be the topic for disciplinary discussions and the agenda will be, how to tame, restrict, undermine or, in extreme cases,  throw you out. 

The Church leadership, I am sorry to say, is so oft unsparing of the rise of another ‘king’ within the fold. Priests like Patrick Edet so outshine others in the presbytery of the church that, even the bishops, are barely known. It happens in every church and many times, the solution is for the iconoclast Pastor to break away and chart his own course. Only then, can he find peace. Perhaps, what he meant by being free now. 

Has Father  Patrick done anything abominable? Absolutely not. Indeed, within the Catholic church, a few more Priests like him abound. 

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Edeh is a  Priest of the Holy Ghost congregation. Father Edeh is the founder of the Pilgrimage Centre of Eucharistic Adoration, also known as the Pilgrimage Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, Elele, Rivers State.  He has become an institution within the Catholic community. His equally charismatic ministry is so large, it runs schools, clinics and orphanages and so on. 

Enugu Catholic priest, and Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu State, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, is another such Priest. He is well known in Nigeria for his hobnob with President Goodluck Jonathan and later, his romance with President Muhammadu Buhari. Patrick Edet was an unfurling version of the twosome, just that, unlike them, his full metamorphosis to carve a ‘ministerial colony’ within the faith has been abrogated by his decision to quit. 

Perhaps,  if he had stayed on, he could have reached that zenith of becoming intractable and too delicate to excise from the Catholic Church, and earn the freedom to co-exist within her universal fold. It could also have boomeranged and get him scolded or excommunicated as a heretic in the near future . In the circumstances, Patrick Edet has done, what overwhelmingly, is appraised as, best for him going forward. 

Let me make these clarifications. It is wrong to consider the man of God a rebel who has violated his priestly vows. We err if we judge him. At most, I call us to infere from the testation of Gamaliel recorded in the Bible. 

When the  apostles were dragged before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the High  Priest for breaching strict orders not to teach in name of Jesus. Peter and the other apostles simply  replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”

Infuriated by such defiance, the religious leaders wanted to put them to death.  But a Pharisee and lawyer  named Gamaliel, saved the toil when he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel”, he said, “consider carefully what you intend to do to these men.  Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.  After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.  Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

His sound counsel prevailed as the apostles were flogged and asked to go. Let’s not flog Fr. Patrick. Let him go and let God be his judge. A good chunk, certainly not all, of his very large congregation of Grace Family will go with him if he decides to start a Ministry. 

We will then see what happens. Let me say that, Fr. Edet will be a great idea in the Christian community. He will be the middle ground between the excesses of  showmanship, exhibited by Pentecostal mega Pastor’s which runs at odds with the unassuming humility of Jesus and the undulating orthodoxy of the Catholic hierarchy, with his passion, amiable resonance and simplicity. His background of well tutored theologian and Catholic discipline with the revelation inspired unction of charismatic preaching will give the right balance needed in the Church today. 

Some have harshly argued that, by quiting, he is no longer a Priest. I say no! No! No! There are two things the church can do, but cannot undo. The Church can pronounce a man husband and wife, but cannot unbundle the union. The other is ordination. The church can ordain a man, but cannot reverse the ordination. Folks ‘,  The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (see Romans 11-29). Patrick Edet remains a Reverend  gentleman and a Father in the Lord. I wish him well in ministry and future endevours. Albeit, weep not for Catholic Church. They have not lost anything of its rich history and formation. They have survived such hiccups again and again. The church can only March on.

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