Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cameroon: Buea Diocesan Priests Rise Against Their Bishop, Mgr. Bushu

*Accuse him of highhandedness,

*Allege excesses in Church Administration 

*Diocesan Chancellor regrets leak of Memo to the press

By Christopher Ambe
Bishop Bushu:His Leadership under criticism
The Association of Diocesan Priests (ADP) of Buea Diocese has risen up against their Chief Shepherd, Bishop Immanuel Bushu Banlanjo, barely falling short of describing him as a devil in cassock, in a strongly worded six-page memorandum, addressed to him.

 The memo is copied to His Excellency Piero Pioppo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, the President of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPE) and the Provincial Chairman of the Association of Diocesan Priests.

The bashing of Bishop Bushu by his own priests has come as a surprise, especially as many Christians and critical observers describe him not only as a true Man of God, but also as a committed development agent, considering the many development projects he has initiated in the Diocese since taking over as Chief Shepherd, in 2007.
In the memo dated 2nd October 2012 and reportedly signed by Rev.Fr John Tchamnda (ADP chair) for and on behalf of the Buea Diocesan ADP, the priests allege that the administration of Mgr. Bushu since he replaced Bishop Pius Awa, in January 2007 is high-handed.

Although the memo was said to be confidential, it has been leaked to the press.

“Among many things, we have found your administration of the Diocese to be high-handed, and we’ve the impression that it is vindictive, divisive and leading both priests and the laity to be scandalized that some of our excesses in Church Administration are worse than those seen in the very corrupt government of our country,” the priests note in the memo.
The memo was drafted in an extraordinary meeting of the ADP aimed at taking stock of Bishop’s stewardship. The meeting was provoked by controversial appointments made on September 28 2012, by Mgr.Bushu, barely three months after the College of Consultors sat and worked conscientiously through the list of priests to be appointed or transferred, The Recorder learned.
The Bishop House in Small Soppo-Buea has strongly regretted that the memo has been leaked.
 When this inquisitive reporter on Monday October 22 met Rev. Fr. Evaristus Nkede, the Diocesan Chancellor and showed him the leaked memo, in his office at the Bishop’s House to cross check if the Bishop received such a document, the Reverend Father- looking embarrassed, acknowledged he did but wondered why and how such a sensitive document could have gone public. 
“The memo was not intended for public consumption, if it were we could have got it published ourselves,” Rev.Fr Nkede told The Recorder, regretting: “It is unfortunate that this occurred.”
Other priests The Recorder had earlier spoken to about the leaked memo and shown it to them, admitted the document is authentic, but declined commenting on its contents. 
 “Since you are already here, I advise that you get the reaction of the Bishop or his Secretary”, a priest told this reporter on Sunday, October 21, at Bishop Rogan College, when The Recorder first attempted to get the reaction of the Bishop’s House.

Efforts by this reporter to meet Bishop Bushu himself on Monday were futile. The Diocesan Chancellor said His Lordship was very busy. “Even If you meet him, he would not like to talk about the memo. I know how he feels about it”, Rev. Fr Nkede said, adding that after receipt of the document Mgr. Bushu convened a meeting to that effect. But Rev. Fr Nkede did not give details about the meeting. 

Also, all attempts by The Recorder to reach Rev.Fr John Tchamnda, the ADP chair who allegedly signed the memo on behalf of the Diocesan priests, by phone, failed.
The priests, in the memo, regretted that Mgr.Bushu has been unable or unwilling to stop infighting and struggle for power among priests, which has led to back-stabbing and back-biting, despite the fact that his attention has been brought to it. They allege that  the bishop has made “some priests in the Diocese untouchable and has introduced positions hitherto unknown  in the Diocese in the Ecclesiastical Province and the Universal Church to establish their authority and give them freedom to do as they choose with Church property and the lives of fellow-priests

“You have introduced a two-class system in the presbyterium where some priests are high and others are low-class. The high-class priests can do whatever they like and receive your protection, and their “jobs” have become their vocation, so that even the celebration of holy mass and the Sacraments, their primary calling, is relegated to the background. This is done apparently with your blessing as you don’t know where the celebrate Holy Mass and the Sacraments”

The memo notes that Bishop moves priests around as if the Diocese has no direction. “In fact, we don’t know where we are going in the area of pastoral ministry, education, communication and others. Priests are moved in to one function today and changed the next day; others are dismissed for apparently flouting Diocesan rules and re-established the next day…” they allege.

They draw Bishop’s attention to this: “The Code of canon Law outlines the procedures of the movement of Parish priest and the recent Complementary Code for the Church in Cameroon, approved by the National Episcopal Conference even makes the mandate for parish priests, at least six years before they can be move. The word consultation hardly exists in your administrative vocabulary and you throw down heavy appointments on priests without even telling them or giving them specific assignments as to why they take up their appointments. How can we follow the Provincial pastoral Plan in this Machiavellian style and government? ”

Bishop Bushu is accused, in the memo, of being insensitive to the needs of priests in many areas and “we feel that you are not the “Father” you are supposed to be for us”. They allege that he has not been visiting priests who are sick and hospitalized and those traumatized by armed robbers -as well as not inviting wayward priests for advice as a father would do to his sons.

The memo raises concern about Retired Bishop Awa. “Your insensitivity and lack of empathy come out strongly in the way you treat Bishop Awa,” they write, noting that “we were shocked when you did not even mention his name during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Diocese and when you were praised for doing in three years what Bishop Awa did not do in 30 year, and you took the vain glory. You even forgot to introduce him when you were introducing the Bishops present” They regret that Bishop Awa does not even have a good car.

They accuse Bishop Bushu of floating projects here and there whereas the Church has little or no means to fully realize them. Hear them: “There have been too many projects initiated in the Diocese and it is becoming clearer with the passing of each day that we cannot manage these projects all at once.We simply do not have the financial resources necessary to carry out the se projects. We have started schools which we cannot finish building and littered our colleges with semi-permanent or half-finished buildings”
The memo alleges that funding of some projects like the University Institute is wrapped in mystery.
The priests question why Bishop Bushu signs contracts on behalf of the Diocese involving huge sums of money without consulting the curia and without consulting Diocesan lawyers.
 “ These include contracts signed with Architect Paul Ekema,for which he is  now taking us to law and claiming  over two billion Francs CFA, as well as  contracts with Platinum and Professor Nkafu which are costing us a lot in monetary terms”

The priests allege that, by so doing Bishop Bushu is being insensitive to the needs of Christians who have strained every nerve to raise money for their Diocese and who are now complaining that “we talk/preach more about money in our Churches these days than we do about God”.

In the memo, Bishop Bushu is warned not to treat the Church as if he were the owner and treat priests as if they were page boys and slaves. “The Church belongs to Christ and we are priests of Jesus Christ, not slaves of the Bishop”, they warn.

Hear the priests: “There are certain priests in the Diocese who must be in control of everything that matters. So one person is Pro-Chancellor and the same time Interim President of the University Institute of the Diocese of Buea (UIDB),Bishop’s Delegate in charge of missions with Government and the external world, as if there is no one else in the Diocese who can handle that post. The same priest is known by us to be very influential in the appointments and transfers of priests in this Diocese, especially his friends who he controls and manipulates to gain his own interest.
“He has therefore influenced the appointment of the Education Secretary and has also brought the St.Thomas Aquinas Catholic Bookshop under his control.

“In the same vein, a priest is appointed to the post of President of university Institute, who left for a Doctorate Degree in Rome less than a year ago and who has not put in one year of course work yet. The Pro-Chancellor, who was removed from UIDB less than two years, has bounced back and now both the education Secretariat and the Bookshop are in the hands of the only person matters in this Diocese”

 The memo says “Many of our priests and the laity believe that the Bishop’s delegate has cast a spell over him. Things are never the same in the diocese when he is around. Something must go wrong. Some of us the priests were happy with the May 14th, 2012 transfers but we suspected that as soon as the Delegate returned there would be changes. We have been proved right”

The Bishop’s transfers are described in the memo as rash and inhuman, and the priests have asked the Bishop to recall his transfer list and should call a meeting as soon a s possible of the College of Consultors to discuss this in detail before implementation.

They concluded the memo by calling on priests of the Diocese to work together to “re-establish unity and peace that once reigned in the Diocese. They recommended the dissolution of the Board of Trustees of UIDB at home and abroad, and a reconstitution according to the statutes of the university.

First published in The Recorder Newspaper, Cameroon, of October 25, 2012