Quite informative and Educative for Catholics. The Emergence of Rev. Fr. Alia, who emerged as APC Governor of Benue State, has raised many debatable and controversial questions. You may be confronted with such questions as a practicing Catholic.
Fr. Alia: When a Catholic Priest becomes a State Governor, can he celebrate mass again? Who, then, is the state’s first lady?
These are the questions that have been asked frequently and shall surface again. However, the Catholic Church is 2000+ years, and everything that happens to her seems to be a repetition of history. This is the reason why the Codex Iuris Canonici, that is, the Code of Canon Law, of the Church took care of this kind of situation.
Precisely, the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic stops priests from doing anything unbecoming or foreign to the clerical state. The law prohibits diocesan priests and bishops from taking up public offices (Canon 285 § 2).
But then comes the question of what actually constitutes a public office? Being an aged and wise institution, the Church in Can 285 § 3 states that Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of CIVIL POWER. Here, the clarity is made because these public offices include the office of the governor of Benue State, which Fr. Hyacinth Alia just won under APC PARTY and has been declared the governor-elect of Benue State, Nigeria. Therefore, he shall be involved in the exercise of civil power.
So, has he gone against the Law of the Catholic Church as a Catholic Priest? In an article in Daily Post Nigeria dated May 21, 2022, written by Fikayo Olowolagba, and titled: “Catholic Church Suspends Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia Over Governorship Aspiration,” it read:
“The Catholic Church, Gboko Area of Benue State had SUSPENDED REVD. FR. HYACINTH IORMEM ALIA FROM PUBLIC MINISTRY( Capital letters mine). This was disclosed in a statement signed by William Avenya, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Gboko & Apostolic Administrator, See Vacante.
Revd. Fr. Alia was suspended for his involvement in politics and purchasing forms to contest for the position of the Governor of Benue State under the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The statement read: “May I begin by acknowledging and appreciating you for your commitment and dedication to the work of spreading the Good News of Christ. “I wrote to communicate to you the suspension of my priest, Revd. Fr. Hyacinth lormem Alia from public ministry after series of admonitions to him Ex Can. 1371, 2° CIC.
The Bishop continued:
“The Mother Church does not allow her clerics to get involved in partisan politics on their own, Can. 285, 3 CIC. You are aware that my son, your brother and your priest has purchased the party forms to contest for the Office of the Governor of Benue State under the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is totally against our vocation. Therefore, to respond to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the Church in the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, I have suspended him from the exercise of sacred ministry.
The Catholic Bishop noted that the canonical suspension takes effect from the moment it is communicated to him and LASTS UNTIL HE CEASES FROM CONTUMACY.” Therefore? You have to note the phrases in Capital letters: “SUSPENDED FROM PUBLIC MINISTRY… UNTIL HE CEASES FROM CONTUMACY.” These phrases explain all your questions.
SUSPENDED FROM PUBLIC MINISTRY
This means that the Catholic Church has withdrawn the priestly faculties from Fr. Alia and therefore he can no longer celebrate mass publicly for others but he can still celebrate his private mass because he too should also pray and the mass remains the highest prayer; he can no longer hear confession unless in danger of death(can 986 § 2); he can no longer celebrate baptism, nor communion of the sick, nor extreme unction; and Matrimony (Christian Marriage), and what have you.
Yes, he can hear someone’s confession in danger of death and that tells you that Fr. Alia remains a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek but the power to exercise that priesthood has been removed from him by the Church who made him a priest of Christ, because the church is the body of Christ the Head. That means that no one is actually an ex priest.
LASTS UNTIL HE CEASES FROM CONTUMACY.
Contumacy points to disobedience which Fr. Alia is canonically guilty of. This entails that Fr. Alia remains suspended from exercising the sacred function of a Catholic Priest till the time he refrains from party politics, exercise of civil power, etc. Therefore, the moment Fr. Hycinth Alia evidently leaves party politics which includes the governorship throne even if in the next 1 to 8 years, etc, he is automatically reinstated to function as a Catholic Priest.
Who then is the Benue State’s First Lady?
We must all as Nigerians know what is constitutional and what is common. What is common doesn’t necessarily become constitutional but what is constitutional is already presumed common.
The office of the first lady in Nigeria, whether in the State level or at the national level is unconstitutional but common. The executive governor or the president is not required by law to have an office of the first lady or the potential first gentleman. Therefore, Fr. Hycinth Alia, the governor elect of Benue State is not required by law to have a first lady.
This coincidentally saves Fr. Hycinth’s priesthood from any structural or constitutional obstruction of coming back, as we pray for him and long that he comes back to the priesthood.
Note Well: I write to portray only but the truth, irrespective of any prevailing sentiment.