Photo credit: The Star, Kenya
The Renewed Universal Catholic Church in Nyeri, central Kenya, ordains Catholic priests who have renounced their vows of celibacy and married. Peter Njogu, a former Roman Catholic priest, is the bishop of this church since 2012 when he left his former Mweiga Catholic parish in Nyeri Archdiocese. Like more than 20 priests ordained in this church, Bishop Njogu is also married and he thinks that his church is simply acknowledging reality, because many Roman Catholic priests are also abandoning celibacy.
“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, as Religionnews.com reports. “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.”
When Njogu was ordained a Catholic priest in 1989, he had made up his mind to be celibate for the rest of his life. But in 2002 Njogu was charged by the Diocese of Nyeri for having a girlfriend. Worried for his position as a priest, and with a different attitude than today, Nyeri strongly denied the allegations. Eventually, the Vatican decided to formally excommunicate him. Njogu joined the Renewed Universal Catholic Church, which is at odds with Rome for allowing priests to marry and continue their service. Since then, Njogu has been meeting with priests across the country urging them to abandon priestly celibacy, join the Renewed Church and marry if they wish.
“I tell them to live their own lives because celibacy is not biblical and it does not sanctify priesthood,” said Njogu, who is also a lecturer at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, according to Cruxnow.com. “There is a huge difference between celibacy and a call to priesthood. Priestly celibacy should be made optional to encourage more young people to join priesthood.”
A debate surrounding celibacy in churches is not new and there were some thoughts about the possibility of ordaining married priests, especially in isolated communities where there is a shortage of clergy. However, last year Pope Francis ruled out making celibacy optional. Some priests may desire love and families, just like other human beings, and priestly celibacy could force them to combat their desires. This may result in some priests having secret families or even trying to fulfill their desires in other inappropriate and even harmful ways.