A PRIEST RESPOND TO A PROTESTANT PASTOR’S CRITICISM OF CATHOLIC FAITH IN NIGERIA.


An Open Response to Reno Omokri on His Attack On the Catholic Church

Dear Reno Omokri,

Your post of December 18 2019 titled “Some Facts About The First State Sponsored Church”, was written under the guise of helping some of your Catholic fans with analysis of the Catholic Church. Because you called lies fact, I have decided to point out your lies and show you what facts really look like.

To adequately do this, I will respond to every paragraph of that post.

First Paragraph From Reno Omokri:

“Some of my Catholic followers have asked me to do an analysis of their church. I find their use of the word ‘our church’ almost ironical because they do not know my history. Not only was I once a Catholic, my mother, and my grandfather were both Catholics. As a matter of fact, the first place Catholicism came to in Nigeria is a place called Ode-Itsekiri, which all true born Itsekiri know as Big Warri. Augustinian Monks set up the first Catholic mission in Nigeria there in 1555. My grandfather was an Olu of Warri. I can trace my bloodline and Catholic origin up to Olu Atuwatse I (AKA Dom Domingos), who in 1648 became the first university graduate in West Africa, as well as the first Christian to be crowned Olu of Warri.”

Response:

It is very beautiful that some of your Catholic followers could in sincerity ask you to do an analysis of “their Church.” I guess they trusted you so much as one who is knowledgeable in giving a sincere analysis, even though they do not know that the words “sincere analysis” are actually not compatible with you when it comes to the Catholic Church.

You know that it is funny for children to ask a stranger whom they meet on the street to tell them the story of how their mother gave birth to them instead of asking their mother or a relative directly, so you cunningly inserted yourself into the picture as a Catholic with Catholic origin so that your so called analysis will be seen as true. Nice one! This is why you started tracing the history you read up, finding a way to put your father and grandfather and great-grandfather into it. But you forgot something.

The history of how Catholicism first came to Nigeria has nothing to do with your mother and grandfather becoming Catholics. This is because, the missionary activities of the Portuguese in Itsekiri land when they first came as far back as 1555 was highly unsuccessful. It was until 1914 and specifically 1916 that Catholicism took root in Warri through the effort of an Italian and a French priest. We are talking of almost 360 years difference here from 1555 to 1914.

The Olu Atuwatse 1 also known as Dom Domingo whom you mentioned, was actually sent to Portugal by the Portuguese missionary to train as a priest, but he did not meet up with the requirements of being a priest because he got married to a Portuguese woman. He studied at the Portuguese Premiere University of Coimbra from 1600 – 1611. Thus, he became the first African graduate. At his return, he became the seventh Olu Of Warri who reigned from about 1625-1643 AD.

The Catholicism your grandfather and mother got converted into was what was planted around 1914, that was 359 years after the Portuguese missionaries first came to Ode-tsekiri.

So, bringing the story of the first missionary in a bid to do an analysis to your Catholic followers on “their Church” does not say anything other than to make them feel you are credible, when you are not. Also to prove that you are knowledgeable in history, whereas you only succeeded in copying from the book written by Samuel U. Erivwo, Ph.D. on the “History of Christianity In Nigeria: THE URHOBO, THE ISOKO, AND THE ITSEKIRI.” A book published in 1979. That is not scholarship my dear pastor Reno Omokri.

The Second, Third, and Fourth Paragraphs

“It is just that I can’t tell my followers the truth about the Catholic Church. I have so many Catholic followers and I do not want to upset them. But what I will say openly, and which you can verify from your priest, is the fact that the Catholic Church does not even pretend to be a Christian church. The Catholic Church is a ROMAN church. The official name of the church is The Holy Roman Catholic Church. Go and investigate this.

“What does the terminology The Holy Roman Catholic Church mean? The word Roman means it is of Ancient Roman origin. The word Catholic means ‘all embracing’. Please check the dictionary, in case I have lied to you.

“The Holy Roman Catholic Church is a Roman Church put together to embrace all the religions of Ancient Rome in one religion as a way of bringing the Roman Empire closer together and prevent it from disintegrating because of the threat posed to it by early Christians, who refused to give up their faith, despite harsh persecution.”

Response:

These three paragraphs are just laughable. You really ended up showing so much ignorance.

You were right when you said you cannot tell your followers the truth about the Catholic Church, because you will prefer to tell them lies. That is what you did in that post.

The big question in these paragraphs is centered on The Roman Catholic Church. Why is it called the “Roman” Catholic Church? I still cannot understand how you managed to twist this simple fact about why it is called the Roman Catholic Church. It is so myopic of you.

First, the word Catholic is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), or Latin ‘catholicus’ meaning “universal.” I can understand why you decided to use “all embracing” to mean Catholic, because you want us to see that the Catholic Church was primary established to embrace all the religions of ancient Rome. But you were not very smart. I will show you why.

When the word “Catholic” is not used in the ecclesiastical sense, it can still mean, all-embracing, of general interest, liberal, having broad interests, or wide sympathies, or inclusive. Someone can even look at a large crowd and say, “this crowd is Catholic”, just to mean that the crowd is much.

Again, St Ignatius of Antioch is credited to have been the first to used the word “Catholic” far back in 110AD in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans. Remind me again when Rome came into the picture in the Catholic Church? 313 AD. The church has been called “Catholic” for more than 200 years even before it was adopted as state religion in Rome. It was not called Catholic because it aimed at embracing all the religions in Rome, it was called Catholic because it is universal. St Ignatius of Antioch did not even conceive or thought of Rome as we know it today before he called the church Catholic. How do you write lies and still sleep at night?

Now to the big question in those paragraphs: Why is the church called Roman Catholic?

We all know that the Catholic Church is made up of the Western rite/Latin rite and the Eastern rite/ Orthodox rite. The Nigeria church belongs to the Western rite. The term “Roman” catholic is used to refer to the Latin or Western rite as different from eastern or othordox rites.

The term Roman Catholic was used mainly by English-speaking Protestants. It was part of their attempt to portray the pope as the leader of just a faction of Christianity, as if he was the same as the monarch of England, who was the head of the Anglican community.

As with many terms that start out as an insult but later are embraced and adopted by the group they were aimed at, Catholics in the West over time have used the term to show their union with the Holy Father.

However, the more accurate title is the Latin Church, whereas the Roman Church technically refers to the diocese of Rome.

Is this too difficult to understand?

The Fifth Paragraph

“Many of the practices of the The Holy Roman Catholic Church are pagan practices from Roman religions. Mathew 23:9 says “call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven”, yet, you call Catholic priests, Father. Why? Because the origin was with Ancient Roman religions were they called the priests Father. The Pope is himself called ‘Holy Father’ in contravention of Matthew 23:9. We have only One Holy Father, as Matthew 23:9 teaches. Even the word Pope means Father (it originates from the Greek word Pappas, which means Father).”

Response:

I can’t believe this was even written by you Mr Reno. When you hate people for just no reason, you will even begin to advance arguments that are directly against you.

Ask Reno, do his children call him Daddy? Do they refer to him as Father? Ask Pentecostals, do they call their pastors Daddy? Do they refer to the wife of their pastors as Mummy? Now to all of us, how many of us call the man that gave birth to us Father, how many of us call the woman that gave birth to us mother?

So remember, the bible says “call NO MAN your father upon the earth.” Matt 23:9.

So why do we still call people father or teacher?

This is what I usually say to you all, knowing bible is not about quoting every passage. People do harm to the bible anytime they quote a verse out of its context. Biblical interpretation and exegesis demand a lot. You must be able to understand the passage in its original language, its context, its audience, author, when was it written, even the culture at that time. If not, you will fail. And Omokri, with all his acclaimed titles has not only failed, but woefully.

We cannot interpret Matthew 23:9 as prohibiting reference to dads or priests as “fathers” without contradicting other scriptural passages in which the word “father” is used. Such an interpretation would render the commandment “honor your father” meaningless and would diminish the authority of the apostles and their successors.

There is a deeper meaning to what Christ was teaching, and the context if we read the entire passage, we will see that it is not merely literal. Jesus was simply addressing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees and why we should not call them “father” in the same sense that we call God ‘Father’.

The sixth Paragraph

“1 Timothy 4:3 warned that religions will come later that “forbid people to marry”. Your Catholic priests do not marry, not because of Scripture, but because the priests of Ancient Rome were largely eunuchs, so they could be no threat to Caesar’s power. They claim Peter was the first Pope. Not only is that false, but the fact is that Peter was married. “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law”-Matthew 8:14.”

Response:

We fall back again to the age old argument of why Priests don’t marry. According to Reno “Your Catholic priests do not marry, NOT BECAUSE OF SCRIPTURE, but because the priests of Ancient Rome were largely eunuchs, so they could be no threat to Caesar’s power.”

LIE! A BIG LIE!

I take myself as an example. I am not married as a priest and that is because of the Kingdom of God following the words of Christ in Matthew 19:12:

“Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some CHOOSE NOT TO MARRY FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Then even St Paul that you quoted in 1 Timothy 4:3 that he warned of the religion that will come later and forbid people from marrying, was still the same St Paul that wrote 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 addressing the unmarried to remain unmarried like himself.

“For I would prefer it if you were all like myself. But each person has his proper gift from God: one in this way, yet another in that way. But I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them, if they would remain as they are, just as I also am.”

What do you make of what St Paul said in 1 Corinthians and what he said to Timothy juxtaposing it with his own unmarried state?

What is the point of all these? Simple, every scripture must be understood in its context. I have said this Before. The bible must be understood wholly, when interpreting scripture, one verse should not contradict another especially if it was said by same author.

But I understand, you cannot see this because of your hatred for the Catholic Church. To you, everything must be interpreted into pagan and it appears that giving the church a bad name makes you excited.

By the way, Peter is seen as the first Pope because Christ gave him the keys of the church and made him the head (Matthew 16:18- 19.) It is not about his marital status. Being married is inconsequential here. There was a time that priests, bishops were marrying in the Catholic Church. Even Catholic priests of the Eastern rites are allowed to marry. And if tomorrow the Catholic Church of the Western rite (the Roman Catholic) decides that her priests will be marrying, it does not affect the validity of the sacraments they celebrate.

So pastor Reno or whatever name you like to be called, why are you so paranoid?

Concluding Paragraphs

Your last paragraphs are about the use of images and the honour Catholics give to Mary. These arguments are not new. We have said it many times, Catholics do not worship Mary or any image. Now the question they now ask is, why do we have those images? Yet when I wrote against taking pictures of people to Shiloh for prayers, it was the same people that attacked me that those pictures are meant to help them connect. Then I gave up. Are we not all doing the same thing? Can’t we see that as humans, we necessarily need images to connect? Even if you don’t have a physical image, people still carry images of how God look like in their head, how Angels look like, how heaven look like.

Reno Omokiri is one writer I don’t take all his words seriously. When he hates you, he is never objective. I do not sincerely fancy him. But if anyone must read him, ensure you have a filter in your head to sieve out the lies from the facts.

Written by Fr Kelvin Ugwu MSP

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