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ANALYSIS: Why is Catholic Church losing followers?

Fr. Jacinto Kibuuka preaching at Mamre Worship Centre in Namugongo. PhoToS/INDEPENDENT/JIMMY SIYA

Trouble with Lwanga

It’s the establishment of this centre that caused Kibuuka problems with the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and led to his excommunication in July 2016.

Archbishop Lwanga accused Kibuuka of disobedience, operating an unauthorised prayer centre – Mamre, and banished him to Ggoli, a remote parish in rural Mpigi district. At Ggoli, Kibuuka was supposed not to do any priestly duties like praying mass, administering sacraments, leading prayers, or communicating with the outside world for 10 years. Kibuuka says he found Lwanga’s decision “harsh and unjust”. He refused to obey and the Uganda Episcopal Conference, which comprises all Roman Catholic bishops in Uganda, excommunicated him.

But Kibuuka’s problems with Archbishop Lwanga have a history. They were first publicly exposed when Lwanga deployed Kibuuka to work with another charismatic priest, Monsignor Expedito Magembe of Mt. Sion Prayer Centre Bukalango, a Roman Catholic establishment for charismatic worshipers.

At Bukalango Kibuuka got disagreements with Fr. Magembe and another charismatic preacher, John Baptist Kyeyune who was popularly known as JB Mukajanga. Kibuuka quit Bukalongo to start Mamre without Lwanga’s permission. The trigger for events that led to Kibuuka’s excommunication, however, was when he and two other priests, Fr Deogratius Ssonko and Fr Vincent Kisenyi Byansi, participated in consecrating other rebel priests in 2016.

Some people who disagreed with Archbishop Lwanga’s decision to excommunicate Kibuuka say he is out touch with the reality of the charismatic movement within the Roman Catholic Church. The Charismatic movement is a section of the church which believes in a “baptism of the holy spirit” which is supposed to feel the faithful with “fire” and ability to perform miracles. These beliefs are not embraced by mainstream Catholicism but Pope Francis has adopted a more embracing stance of the evangelicals within the church. A usually cited example is when Pope Francis visited Buenos Aires in Argentina and allowed Pentecostal preachers to “lay hands on him”. He later invited Charismatic Catholics to the Vatican to celebrate Pentecost in 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Instead of making gestures such as those of Pope Francis, Archbishop Lwanga took stern action. He accused Kibuuka of transgression when he sent him to work as chaplain at Lubaga Hospital and at the Namugongo Shrine where he is said to have fallen out with the Papal Nuncio or representative.

Kibuuka denies everything. He says, instead, his problems arose from envy from other priests because of his ability to pray for people and his work in rebuilding the Namugongo Catholic Martyr’s Shrine prior to the visit of Pope Francis in November 2015. The papal visit saw Uganda set a record as the only African country to be visited by three different Popes; the first being Pope Paul IV in 1969 and John Paul II in 1993.

“I was drawing crowds whenever I was praying for people and some priests felt envious.  During the Pope’s visit I was very instrumental in the reconstruction work at the shrine and also in the sale of the rosaries where we made billions of shillings,” Kibuuka says.

During that time, a woman publicly accused Kibuuka of sending her love phone messages which goes against the oath of celibacy taken by Catholic priests. Kibuuka pleaded innocence and sued the woman. When Lwanga ordered him to withdraw the case, Kibuuka refused.

“Two priests were behind this and paid Nantongo to frame me using one media house,” Kibuuka says. Though the court case was abandoned, Kibuuka insists that he still reserves the right to sue the priests who were behind the allegations.

Fr. Kibuuka’s defection from the Roman Catholic Church followed that of Fr. Musaala, another popular priest and gospel singer, who quit in January 2017 after a four year suspension. He joined the Jinja-based Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church.

However, the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda, is not the only the Catholic Church faced with rebellion and desertions. Many clergy worldwide leave after breaking the rule of celibacy and marrying or disagreeing on belief, dogma, or practice.

In neighbouring Kenya a number of Roman Catholic priests defected and joined the breakaway Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ. When Pope Francis visited Kenya in 2015 these priests were barred from meeting him. Most of these priests defected because they did not agree with the rule on the celibacy which they say is not Biblical.

Most notable of the former priests is now Bishop Sylvester Shihudu, who joined the U.S. based Reformed Catholic Church (RCC) and married a former nun. RCC now has other branches in South Africa, Tanzania and Nigeria.

Another former Kenyan priest who left the Roman Catholic Church in 2005 after serving for eight years as a seminarian claiming he could not continue ‘lying to himself’ about celibacy has two children now.

The RCC priests also wear the same vestments as those won by Roman Catholic priests, mention Pope Francis in the preface to mass and sing the same hymns. Celibacy is where they part ways.

A well publicised high profile case though was that of Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo who ordained married men as priests and married a Korean woman himself. Milingo, however, went back to the Catholic Church which incarcerated him in the Vatican for years and he gave up the marriage.

In Kibuuka’s case, he was elected bishop at the EOCC synod (meeting of leaders of a religion) that sat in Stockholm, Sweden in February and is to be consecrated soon. He told The Independent that he is determined to build the EOCC congregation even as the mainstream Roman Catholic Church faithful dwindle.

“We will spread to different parts of Uganda,” he said, “We expect to build to cathedrals in Kampala and Kasese soon.”

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editor@independent.co.ug

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