Last week, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana concluded an impressive assembly in Sunyani, the Bono regional capital.
Under the leadership of Most Rev. Matthew Gyamfi, president of the conference and host bishop, Ghana’s Catholic hierarchy issued a communiqué that addressed internal matters confronting the Catholic Church, such as its purportedly diminishing numbers, and also touched on issues of national concern.
In the latter category, the prelates focused on such matters as the state of the economy, decentralization, and destruction of the environment through illegal mining (galamsey).
Depicting a keen sensitivity to the “signs of the times”, Ghana’s Catholic bishops equally referred to the recent Akosombo dam spillage, conflicts and military brutalities in the country, and elections and “politics of religion” in their five-page communiqué.
Not surprisingly, the Catholic Church leaders addressed the matter of the Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill of 2021, urging expedited action on its passage, including speedy assent by the President once Parliament passes the Bill.
The bishops were arguably most prophetic and unequivocal in the part of their communiqué subtitled “Persistent Challenges”, in which they catalogued various social cankers confronting Ghana.
Among the litany of ills enumerated by them included the high cost of living, high inflation, youth unemployment, weak and ineffective institutions of governance, lack of patriotism, the culture of impunity, abandoned and unfinished government projects, abuses in procurement practices, and “institutionalized” bribery and corruption.
The denunciatory tone adopted by the bishops concerning what they identified as “Persistent Challenges” was consistent with the tenor struck by the bishops’ conference chair, Most Rev. Gyamfi, in his keynote address at the start of the episcopal assembly.
In that speech, Bishop Gyamfi lamented the spate of corruption in the country: “The massive uncontrolled corruption is suffocating the nation. It appears corruption is legalized…What about the impunity and arrogance of some politicians and their defence of corruption?”
As might be expected, various media outlets, in and beyond Ghana, have widely publicized the bishops’ criticism of the ostensibly corruption-ridden socio-political and economic culture characterizing the nation.
Today, for instance, the French Catholic newspaper La Croix International featured a news item with the headline: “Catholic Church in Ghana denounces ‘legalized’ corruption”. The voice of Ghana’s bishops has been heard loud and clear.
Yet, the bishops were curiously silent on one issue particularly salient to the corruption concern that the bishops decried in both the conference president’s keynote address and the final communiqué.
Concerning Ghana’s National Cathedral project, plagued recently by allegations of corruption and mismanagement for which some of its board of trustees members have resigned, there was a deafening silence from Ghana’s Catholic hierarchy.
In response to my article, “GCBC plenary and the National Cathedral: To comment or not to comment?” published on November 6, 2023, the Catholic bishops of Ghana chose the latter option. Whether the issue came up for discussion and the deliberations were considered unsuitable beyond episcopal ears is anybody’s guess.
Yet, for all their denunciations about how something is rotting in the state of Ghana, the bishops could perhaps have focused their searchlight on where the stench is closest to the body of Christ, on the one issue that has consistently elicited urgent calls for truth, transparency, and accountability to prevail: building Ghana’s National Cathedral, a project this same bishops conference urged support for in their 2021 communiqué issued in Wa.
Shining the torch on this issue confronting Ghana’s majority Christian population will not have required much; indeed, not more than an additional paragraph to a well-written communiqué. Thus, the missing paragraph of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference communiqué, addressing the proverbial elephant in the room of Ghana’s National Cathedral project, might have read:
We note with concern certain worrying developments recently associated with Ghana’s National Cathedral project. Considering the vision expressed by the president of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for this project to serve as a symbol of unity for all Christians and a national place of prayer, we back calls for transparency and accountability to characterize the realization of this project.
Only by ensuring that these tenets and other established hallmarks of Christian virtue and first-rate professionalism are observed at every phase of this project can there be any hope for its successful completion.