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‘Acknowledging reality,’ a splinter church in Kenya ordains married Cathol …

Philip Muiga, left, sings with his wife, Octavia Wangari, before he was ordained as a priest in the Renewed Universal Catholic Church in April 2018, in Nyeri County, Kenya. RNS photo by Doreen Ajiambo

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) – At the Renewed Universal Catholic Church in Nyeri, in central Kenya, celebratory ululations filled the air last spring after Bishop Peter Njogu ordained three new priests.

Like Njogu, a former Roman Catholic priest and the founder of the Renewed Church, all three of the new priests are married.

“I’m happy because I have been ordained as a priest in this church,” said Philip Muiga, 52, a former Roman Catholic priest. “With the experience I have, I will be able to perform my duties as a priest and also as a father.”

Muiga and others are among more than 20 priests, including several ordained in July, who have renounced their vows of celibacy, proposed to women and joined the Renewed Universal Catholic Church since late 2017.

Njogu, who launched the new church from his Mweiga Catholic parish in Nyeri Archdiocese in 2012, said many Roman Catholic priests are already abandoning celibacy. His new church, he said, was simply acknowledging reality.

“We want priests to get married so that they can live a pure life without pretense,” said Njogu, a 55-year-old father of three. “Many priests and bishops have secret families which they have abandoned because they fear losing the privileges that come with priesthood, such as a good house and vehicles. Some priests even prey on children and abandon them.”

Njogu’s journey toward schism began in 2002, when Pope John Paul II excommunicated him for his relationship with his longtime companion, Berith Karimi. Soon afterward, the priest and Karimi married. Former Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who had also been excommunicated for marrying a woman, then ordained Njogu as a bishop, paving the way for the establishment of a new church.

The Rev. Peter Njogu, a former Roman Catholic priest, is now a bishop of the Renewed Universal Catholic Church in Kenya. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

Other Catholic priests said Njogu was addressing a concern widely shared among the local clergy. “He is speaking our minds,” said a priest in Nairobi who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of being suspended. “Everyone wants the issue of celibacy to be discussed and resolved.

“It’s true that we desire families. But it’s also true that some priests have secret families and others continue to prey on children to satisfy their sexual needs,” he said.

Njogu has urged Pope Francis to consider ordaining married men as priests to prevent clergy from defecting to Njogu’s church, saying he was planning to ordain more priests next year.

Njogu, who is also a lecturer of philosophy and religious studies at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, explained that until the church introduced the rule on celibacy in the late Middle Ages, 11 popes had married without the church suffering.

Pope Francis had floated the possibility of ordaining married priests, especially in isolated communities where there is shortage of clergy. But he ruled out making celibacy optional last year.

“I want to urge our pope to make priestly celibacy optional to increase transparency in the church,” Njogu said. “Celibacy is not biblical and doesn’t sanctify priesthood, because priesthood is a calling. We need to change the law on mandatory celibacy because it’s leading to allegations of child abuse in the church.”

However, in an interview with Religion News Service, Bishop Philip Anyolo, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, dismissed Njogu’s statements, saying no priests are willing to leave the church. “Priests have been called for a special mission and they cannot serve two masters,” he said.

“Those who are leaving are a few individuals, and we’ll continue to pray for them so that they can live a holy life wherever they go.”

Meanwhile, Muiga said he was enjoying the life he had missed while being celibate and he thanked God for the revelation.

“God values families and I’m proud that my children will know their father,” he said. “I realized there was no problem getting married when you are a priest because even other churches are led by men of God who have families.”

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Tonny Onyulo

71 Comments

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  • “Acknowledging reality” is something the Roman Catholic Church did for the first thousand years of its existence when it allowed priests to marry. Funny how you never hear anything about that either from the Vatican or from the so-called orthodox among us who are always clamoring in every other debate for a return to tradition except, oddly, in this one particular case.

  • Just a few facts for you and those who might get confused by your comments.

    The Roman Catholic Church has always, and still does, allow priests to marry.

    The norm, however, has always been celibacy. It is always the norm for bishops, not just in the Catholic Church but in the Orthodox, Assyrian, and Oriental Orthodox churches. Married priests refrain from relations with their wives on the day before and the day celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

    If you have not heard any of this from “the Vatican” – I assume you mean the Church – or any of the orthodox, you weren’t paying attention.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03481a.htm

  • The Roman Catholic Church has always, and still does, allow priests to marry.

    For those who might get confused by your comments – that is a lie.

    The Catholic Church allows married priests from other denominations, specifically the Anglican and Orthodox ones, to become Roman Catholic priests; but the Catholic Church most certainly does NOT allow single men to get married after they have already become Roman Catholic priests.

    Once again, to quote Joe Wilson, “You lie!”

  • No, it is not a lie. Consider this from the Code of Canons of Oriental (Eastern rites) churches:

    “Canon 285 – §1. In order for a presbyter to be named pastor it is necessary that he be of good morals, sound doctrine, zealous for souls, endowed with prudence and the other virtues and gifts which are required by law in order to fulfill the parochial
    ministry in a praiseworthy manner.”

    ” §2. If the presbyter is married, good morals are required in his wife and his children who live with him.”

    These priests are fully Roman Catholic priests who celebrate using the Eastern liturgical books.

    Permission is routinely granted in the Latin rite for priests who have been laicized to marry.

    And, yes, the Catholic Church will ordain Lutheran, Anglican, and certain other converts who are already married.

    The issue of Orthodox priests is different. They are already ordained and usually enter an Eastern rite where married clergy are common.

    Do try to get your facts together BEFORE you comment.

  • I’m impressed by the fact that priests who leave the Church to found their own always seem to decide they’re really called to be bishops. There was a guy who lived down the street from us in L.A. who was Archbishop of the Americas and Patriarch of the West. On weekdays, he sold surgical instruments.

  • “splinter church”

    aka “another, equally valid Christian sect”

    Perhaps that “splinter church” simply remembers that until 1100 CE The Church allowed gay priests. Marriage only became an issue when England tried to levy a tax that Rome wanted to avoid.

  • A historical correction would read: “Perhaps that “splinter church” simply remembers that until 1100 CE The Church allowed married priests.”

    All of Christendom allowed married priests originally. Western Christianity started banning it (or trying to) around the 5th Century; Eastern Christianity never banned married priests, and they still have them today.

    Neither Eastern nor Western Christianity allowed gay priests.

  • Sad but all too true.

    Although, come to think of it, Luther did not follow that path, and remained simply a “Doctor in Biblia” (which title he held years before the Reformation) until the day he died.

  • The statement “until 1100 CE The Church allowed gay priests” and “(m)arriage only became an issue when England tried to levy a tax that Rome wanted to avoid” are long ago disproven myths.

  • “All of Christendom allowed married priests originally.” is both accurate and inaccurate.

    The ideal appears based on the best research to have been celibacy, but marriage was permitted particularly in mission areas for practical reasons.

    Bishops have always been celibate or, as with Peter, old enough to be continent.

    Western Christianity has never banned married priests, but has made them the exception that proves the rule.

  • Bishops have not always been celibate, at least not in the East. It was due to legislation at the time of Justinian that the change was codified there.

  • Married but celibate, like Peter.

    They were the older men in the community.

    Now only the unmarried, the monks, become bishops.

  • Real Catholic priests will, of course, follow the inspiring example of Saint Pope Alexander VI the Great, the Patron Saint of Celibate Priests.

  • “I want to urge our pope to make priestly celibacy optional to increase transparency in the church,” Njogu said. “Celibacy is not biblical and doesn’t sanctify priesthood, because priesthood is a calling. We need to change the law on mandatory celibacy because it’s leading to allegations of child abuse in the church.”

    The last sentence there strikes me as an odd statement. Child abusers are not created by being unmarried, nor are they necessarily fixed by being married. As for “leading to allegations”? Say what?

  • Yes, there are tons of “Old Catholic” bishops in the US with their own little domains, a cathedral and maybe two or three parishes. And they dress to the nines in gold brocaid & fine silks.

  • The norm is celibacy in the Latin rite.

    Priests who become widowed can marry with the permission of the bishop, which is normally granted.

    But the norm is unmarried.

  • http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/issues/august-19th-2016/the-true-history-of-celibacy/

    This cites some recent research but is Latin oriented.

    http://stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/orthodoxy/articles/married_bishops

    St John Chrysostom on married Hierarchs

    “If then ‘he who is married cares for the things of the world’ (1 Cor. 7:33), and a bishop ought not to care for the things of the world, why does he say ‘the husband of one wife’? Some indeed think that he says this with reference to one who remains free from a wife. But if otherwise, he that has a wife may be as though he had none (1 Cor. 7:29). For that liberty was then properly granted, as suited to the nature of the circumstances then existing. And it is very possible, if a man will, to regulate his conduct. [p. 438, ibid.]“

    Quinisext Council (Fifth-Sixth)

    “Canon XII: Moreover, this also has come to our knowledge, that in Africa and Libya, and in other places the most God-beloved bishops in those parts do not refuse to live with their wives, even after consecration, thereby giving scandal and offence to the people.”

  • Yes, the first link largely reflects later Latin practice.

    The second link gives a good sampling of Patristic era fathers and councils on the matter.

    Chrysostom:

    “[Marriage] is not an unholy thing in itself, but so far honorable, that a married man might ascend the holy throne…”

    Quinisext (Trullo), and the comments following, show how marriage was allowed for clergy previously, but then was forbidden to Bishops (but not Priests or Deacons). The East preserved this practice; the West did not, and extended the ban to Priests and deacons as well.

    One aspect rarely mentioned in these studies -but of some significance – is the obligation of clergy to fast (including from sex) prior to the eucharist. With the practice of a daily mass, celibacy becomes a logical consequence. In the East, where daily mass for clergy was not the norm, marital relations remained possible, though restricted. That remains the practice there today.

  • Trying to do a treatise in comments is impossible, but the thrust of both, and there has been considerable research in the last twenty years or so along the same lines, was that marriage was
    allowed but the ideal was celibacy for clergy. Allowances were made, particularly in mission areas along the periphery of the Empire, for married native clergy who were familiar with the local people, languages, and customs.

    That is why St. John Chrysostom wrote:

    “But if otherwise, he that has a wife may be as though he had none (1 Cor. 7:29).”

    which was the apostolic tradition of how Peter – who was married – dealt with his marriage.

    It is an accident of history that the ideal was codified in the West, with exceptions, and not codified in the East except for hierarchs.

  • A man who is already married may, in some instances, be ordained a priest. But a man already ordained in the Catholic Church cannot marry. This has been the tradition for centuries, most notably in the Eastern rites. It is also the practice in the Latin rite for deacons.

  • When people are forced to conform to an unnatural state of celibacy, it sometimes leads to them molest children. Not that you care.

  • “But a man already ordained in the Catholic Church cannot marry.” with exceptions.

    Because it is a discipline, not a doctrine, it can be dispensed and is – but rarely.

    An example is a priest with young children.

  • That wasn’t very nice. We need to be blaming child molesting on the disordered minds which are capable of doing it—–not blaming it on lack of marriage. Ever heard of Jerry Sandusky? He was quite married. Or have you heard of Larry Nassar? He was quite married too.

  • So is Brett Kavanaugh. My point is that unnaturally forcing people into asexual or heterosexual boxes leads to “disordered minds”, as you put it.

  • No, but I’m sure that you would, if given the opportunity, because that’s the sort of thing that you’re into: rapist scum.

  • It is not important to me that the Catholic Church maintain its position on priests (and nuns) not marrying. I’m neither Catholic nor on a crusade about this issue for any other reason. As for “asexual”, nearly no one is. Everybody has solo from puberty onward and many people manage their single lives that way—–without ever hurting or offending ANYONE and without us needing to know any details. We don’t assume that all the career military singles or what they once called the “old maid schoolteachers” are tended to evil or likely to become perverts with other people. Molesting and raping are not for sex. They are behaviors rooted in serious mental problems.

  • no, Bob, the priests of the eastern rites are catholics of the eastern rites . by definition they are not roman catholic . only catholics of the roman rite are roman catholic .

    that they follow the pope as their patriarch and pope, while true, does not make them “roman” catholics . that eastern rites catholics and roman rite catholics are equally of one church is also true . yet:

    your statement “The Roman Catholic Church has always, and still does, allow priests to marry” is at best irrelevant to a discussion of roman rite priests and their desire to be able to marry and be in good standing ; and at worst is deceptive .

  • rarely and only with special clearance from the vatican . generally it involves bringing into the church priests and ministers, who are already married, from the episcopal and perhaps lutheran churches .

  • Charlotte, i am one who has been extremely upset with the whole scandal with the pedophile people in the catholic church . i was raised, education and lived with religious of the church and never found a hint of it . what has been revealed in recent years is abhorrent . and the slow pace of resolving the problem only increases my anger .

    BUT your casual slur “Apparently, the norm is….” is simple nonsense . it does not show you have any real knowledge of the subject .

  • as the word that comes down to us as “bishop” in english evolved from the greek word for “overseer”, it strikes me as only realistic in that any attempt to set up a structure larger than a parish would have someone supervising it all as a “bishop,” one who oversees .

    the grandiose titles and, i assume, dreams of your fellow in l.a. are instructive . by oneself dreams often get away from us, leaving us with little more than the day job . it is amusing but sad .

  • is it only an impossible dream, Charlotte, that you might come in with an intelligent comment ? i know that snapping at Bob does seem like a fun and useful pastime, but i doubt that anyone has ever gotten through to him .

  • then speak to your tradition . the catholic church has had a problem . it still does not have the structures in place to address it should it return . but the pope, quite publicly kicking priests out suggest that the c.c. is moving in a healthy direction .

  • The Pope still refuses to release ALL of the names of pedophile priests, not to mention his continued lack of support for LGBTQ+ rights and abortion. I’d say the “c.c.” is moving absolutely nowhere.

  • Oh, he blocked me long ago. I just enjoy poking fun at him where he cannot see, because he’s too scared of the truth. Much like you.

  • Good for them. The Catholic church cannot be changed on a non-doctrinal matter like this from wwithin. This can lead toan African branch of the Catholic church that allows for married clergy, just as some branches affiliated with Rome already do. An African Catholic church with married clergy will thrive.

  • 1 Timothy 3:2: A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach.

  • Ah, yes. the old, “my sect has the only real truth, all others are false.

    The problem, you see, is that they say the same about your sect.

    And since neither of you can prove your beliefs are true and their beliefs are false, all such claims are equal in terms of truth.

    So, please prove me wrong. Prove that your religious opinion is true and theirs is false in a way that they can’t simply say the opposite.

  • Don’t bother, Bob. I’ve read all his correspondence, and most of his works, and there is nothing to indicate that. What they (half-baked gay-apologist writers like Boswell) usually refer to are a few passages which they interpret outside of their cultural/religious context. Serious scholars like R W Southern find nothing credible in their interpretations.

    And you are indeed correct about the financial tussles between England and Rome. They were unrelated to any lgbt issues.

  • You might want to:

    – familiarize yourself with the Catholic Church’s teachings, which have not changed on sodomy since the Apostles;

    – learn that just because you read it somewhere, e.g.

    http://queering-the-church.blogspot.com/2010/04/st-anselm-of-canterbury-bishop-doctor.html

    – recognize that

    folks like

    Mark D. Jordan have axes to grind and spin the facts to fit them with their anti-Catholic “scholarship”;

    – Anselm, who died in 1109, spoke and wrote a middle Italian dialect, Latin, and Middle English. Reviewing his correspondence, unless you are fluent in those languages, is going to require translations.

    When those translations are made by the sorts of folks who suggest Sodom was annihilate for “inhospitality”, you’re off the track.

  • The RCC is a splinter group off Orthodoxy. Both have added to and perverted the teachings of Jesus. I recommend following Jesus, but thee must do what feels right to thee.

  • Two thousand years of history are a bit too much to take on here. Suffice it to say belonging to any denomination, be it RCC, Orthodox, or anything else, does not make anyone a follower of Christ, nor does it necessarily preclude such discipleship.

  • Ummm… okay.
    Now you’re off topic.
    2,000 years or not; the RCC goes back to Christ. Not sure how that is a splinter group.

  • Well, the Orthodox churches had a little bit of Jesus along with other influences, and when the RCC split off from them they were no improvement. Now we have the RUCC. I wish them well, as I do the Orthodox and the RCC, but God alone determines who is right in his sight.

  • OK. So I am going to burn in hell because I do not accept the Catholic misinterpretation of Matthew 16:13-20. So what?

  • Didn’t say that. But you inserted yourself into a conversation, made some curious claims; changed the topic and are now coming full circle.
    Let’s stop before we both get dizzy.
    Have a good day.

  • Parker….. Please clarify “Lineage”.
    Webster’s defines ‘lineage’ as “posterity/progeny” or in simple terms, ‘DNA.
    I’ve never heard of this theory before. Are you saying every Pope can trace their DNA back to Peter???
    Please clarify “lineage”. This is a new one for me.

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