By Fada Dr. Ndubueze Fabian MMAGU (Ozichi), from Austria.
The evolutive consciousness: Whether in the field of religion, under the considerations of society or in terms of character, to live is to evolve. We all might well differ on varied issues and this would be quite in order. What on the other hand most probably unites us is (in my opinion) the reality of change. As far as I am concerned, the ancient philosopher Heraclitus did get it right when he maintained that the only credible reality is change. This is my motivation and mission in this write-up: to share some salient reflections on the possibility and necessity of a peculiar change that could make a whole world of difference in Awka Diocese, and in its logical consequence, in Anambra State.
Social structure, character and personality: I am strongly inclined to believe that we are never only victims of our circumstances, but that we can always create new circumstances within the existing ones. For the intended thought sharing in this write-up therefore, I acclaim the viewpoint expressed by Erich Fromm in his famous book To have or to be? (1988) when he writes: “The starting point for these reflections is the statement that the character structure of the average individual and the socioeconomic structure of the society of which he or she is a part are interdependent. I call the blending of the individual psychical sphere and the socioeconomic structure social character” (p. 119). It can really be fascinating to observe the interplay of both when trying to understand the rate of growth or retardation of any given society! “The socioeconomic structure of a society moulds the social character of its members so that they wish to do what they have to do. Simultaneously, the social character influences the socioeconomic structure of society, acting either as cement to give further stability to the social structure or, under special circumstances, as dynamite that tends to break up the social structure” (p. 119). Of course, we recognize immediately an inherent danger of believing in social determinism, something that plays itself out in the Nigerian society with the clause of “If you cannot beat them, join them!” Who would reasonably doubt that this kind of attitudinal value is one of the greatest nemeses in Nigerian society as a whole? Let us consider however, the following words of the father-founder of the depth psychology in Vienna (Austria), Sigmund Freud, who has this to say concerning the dialectic between social character and socioeconomic structure, “We must be ready, too, to abandon a path that we have followed for a time, if it seems to be leading to no good end. Only believers, who demand that science shall be a substitute for the catechism they have given up, will blame an investigator for developing or even transforming his views” (Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1989, pp. 77-78). My write-up is the fruit of long reflection and an evaluated clarion call to “abandon a path that we have followed for a time”. What is, however, this path that needs to be abandoned?
Enlightened shock absorber: When I came home on the 14th of May 2018, in great pains, to bury my beloved sister who died unexpectedly, I experienced salt to the injury of the loss by witnessing the prohibition of the “program” for the burial, because it “looked like a brochure”; something that has been abrogated in the entire Diocese of Awka. My Nieces and Nephews were not allowed to distribute the “quasi brochure” they well-articulated in the church. As I learnt, this was done in order to re-channel the attention of the catholic populace towards the substantial values that promote the simple life of the Gospel. Little did I know that my silent outrage would soonest give way to an unconditional understanding and approval of the new directive. As far as I am concerned, notwithstanding that the program prepared did not at all come close to being a real brochure, the new directive from the Bishop was, is and remains in order! But why this “decree”?, I questioned. Why must the Catholic Church educate and evangelize through prohibition? My anger therefore, was a great moment of introspection and growth! This is indeed what prompted this write-up and my additional opinion/conviction to the prevailing decree. Read on to fully and better understand my personal appraisal of this new directive.
The “culture” of ostentation and the spirit of the Good News: A forum to debate all or some of the conspicuous neuroses in Nigeria – Society and Church seems very desired; but I have chosen to identify but two, which are very closely linked up: ostentatiousness and boisterousness. Remember that you can differ on this! This is, however, my personal consistent observation and understanding. In a societal environment that is recalcitrantly awash with the culture of improbity and ostentation, Pope Francis remains an unrivalled model of modesty – in the spirit of the Scriptures – especially with regard to the type of car he uses and expects Bishops and priests to emulate. In doing this, he believes and sees in his expectation a form of spiritual culture that promotes the level and weight of credibility in the evangelizing mission of the Church of Christ. Who should convincingly doubt this approach and understanding, anyway? Fortunately or unfortunately, however, our noble and highly admirable Pope has no atom of knowledge about the many death traps people mistakenly call roads in Nigeria, most especially in the Southeast! On the issue of “bogus cars” therefore, this obviously signifies a controversial setting for Situation Ethics and Enlightened Individual Conscience. This is however, but only an aspect of the overdue Spiritual Renewal in our society, beyond the “theatrical monetized healing ministry” that has been in vogue for many years now all over Nigeria.
Erosion of leadership, confusion and thirst for meaningful change: The general situation in Nigeria has consistently become very dire. There is confusion of unimaginable dimensions! The sense of the Sacred has no place in the scheme of events! Not just because of the senseless and hate-filled killing of too many innocent citizens alone, but over and above this, because of the general feeling of anarchy, institutionalized indifference and hydra-headed leadership failure, realities that have since decades turned Nigeria into one of the most dreadful places on earth. It is therefore not far from the truth to call Nigeria an institutionalized jungle. With this background, there is therefore the fiery urgency of the now in re-evaluating collectively and individually our behavioural patterns, both in content and style. There is a felt necessity to re-think most of the general habits we tend to hold very/too dear. The litany is too long, but I have decided to focus on the widespread “tradition” on which an individual in a vital leadership position has courageously declared a war of real conscientization, a war of real and credible “deliverance”. This is my personal understanding of the prohibition of the big brochure during burials in Awka Diocese.
True Leadership by Example: Could the Bishop possibly take a step further? Can he get his priests on board the necessary ship of collective leadership? Alternatively, would the priests, pastors of souls, have the courage to demonstrate leadership by example? How, you want to know? First, the notion of leadership by example is embedded in the modern leadership-concept called self-management. It is as true as the night from the day that nobody can really claim to be a quality-leader who has not first subjected herself or himself to creative self-criticism. This boils down to living out one’s virtues (good qualities) and acknowledging the supressed weaknesses. It all boarders on credibility. So what, according to my primary aim for writing this article, is the ship of exemplary leadership that ought to take the Bishop and his numerous priests on the vividly troubled waters of behavioural patterns in Awka Diocese, in order therefrom to be blazing the way for the much-needed change, metanoia, real conversion, in our sick society? What follows is an intentional provocation in all the seriousness of the term “to call forth”.
Introspective Leadership in the Catholic Church: We live in an environment awash with all kinds of unimaginable religious and liturgical aberration. In a society with a persistent overwhelming intoxication for fame and vainglory, one would not seriously doubt the urgency for the usually exalted leadership of the Catholic Church to set decisively the path for an evangelism that goes far in touching the souls of the Millions of the Faithful who are longing for spiritual nourishment. I consider the abolition of the burial brochure as one striking step in the right direction. There is, however, an urgent need for a follow-up by the Clergy! What do the Million brochures at ordinations and priestly jubilees really stand for? What about the print-exercise books? What of the almanacs? What of the big temptation of making oneself odious in the process of begging? The incredible irony of the whole fashion is that what is intended as a present now turns into a whole commerce; a monetization of appreciation; if you give money; you receive one of those printed items in exchange. What a custom, indeed! In a country, therefore, full of antithetical socioeconomic, political and religious culture, with all the manifest confusion, there is the dire need to increase, multiply and accelerate the missing debate on the Culture of Leadership in the Catholic Church. The reason is quite simple: Anybody pretending not to hear the ticking time bomb must have decided to put on the garment of self-deception. Such a person would wake up from the chosen slumber when it must have been too late. Why not actually conduct a widespread diocesan survey on the general mood among the young people generally, and among the young academics particularly, with regard to their factual loyalty to the Catholic Church? Be ready for surprising results!
Going beyond the Self: There is, finally, no doubt in my mind that there is room enough for Creative Jubilee Celebrations. Think, for instance, of the wave of positive influences it would have on people in Awka Diocese and far beyond when, instead of publishing brochures and printing exercise books and almanacs that nobody really needs, one decides to invite his friends to give something for a specified and agreed project either in one’s parish or in the Diocese! This would be very revolutionary! What about the particular Jubilarian inviting some priests and laypersons to reflect and write on some topical issues in the Church and Society? The criticisms of the readers on the views presented here would surely be a source of joy for me! My belief is nonetheless very strong: that we can always summon the better angels of us! Let the discussion, therefore, go on – in Awka Diocese and beyond!