Fr. Patrick Edet: a story foretold
By Kenneth Jude
For many, especially those who were his diehard fans, it was a heartbreaking news of cosmic proportions, for some dyed-in-the-wool Catholics who never believed in his ministry no matter how he tried, it was long expected; to some pentecostalists, it's a welcome development.
His decision, it must be stated, was tsunamic. But those who knew all the feverish rumbling and wrangling that played out within the 13 years he served as a Catholic Priest, the shock is way minimal. Perhaps, the only shock is the platform used to pass the message, the tone, tenor, contents and all.
Those who decry the platform wonder why he went through the seminary for almost ten years, ordained a priest in the Church, yet opted out of the Church that gave him name, platform, and all the appurtenances of pastoral authority on radio.
Ordained a Catholic Priest at St. Peter's Parish, Uniuyo on 19th December, 2003, Fr. Patrick Henry Edet (the title he graciously embraced up until 31st July, 2017), was a Priest who always had it tough with the authorities. Hardly a conformist and one you would easily dismiss as the enfant terrible of the Church. Fr. Edet was an iconoclast. Amongst priests, he wore the garb of a black sheep of the family. Outside the precincts of the Catholic Church, he shone like a million stars. Many loved him for that. They revered him - not necessarily for his handsomeness, height or dress sense, but for his grasp of the gospel. His passion. His radicalism. His Pentecostal bent. His uncatholicism. Name them.
More often than not, he was seen as a non Catholic priest. He confirmed it. Those outside the Catholic fold held this opinion with no care in the world. At another time, the same people insisted he did not preach like a Catholic priest. Another instance saw others pray earnestly he one day leaves the Church and establish his own. A lot was said. It's still being said. A lot will still be said.
Patrick Edet has always been a controversial priest. His road to being ordained was strewn with thorns and doubts. He had it rough and tough. Some were natural, others, manmade, others were ones he hugged with relish because of the path he chose to tread. But the journey to becoming a Catholic priest is not a bed were roses are found. Stringent rules holds swear here. Right from the junior seminary, one is put through a regimented kind of life with discipline maintained and observed to the letter. The Church does not bend its rule to accommodate dissidents. No.
As an institution, the Catholic Church does not brook disobedience. It's a Church that has existed for centuries. Its laws and rules are sacrosanct. It's a Church that thrives on hierarchy. Respect for the Church and its beliefs are not optional for adherents of the faith. They are clear on what they belief, preach, their dogmas, traditions and what have you.
Many leave the Church daily, many join the Church daily. It's like that. Today, Fr. Edet has left, latest September, new priests shall be ordained. The Church has never and will never cave in when a priest elects to leave. It has a law that allows that. But rarely do priests activate this law maybe, for fear of what will be said of them, the stigma and all that. You know when you say you no longer want to be a priest, the belief out there is that you can no longer keep to the vows of celibacy hence the decision to leave.
To become a priest in the Catholic Church takes gruelling years of intense training, uncompromising discipline, total obedience to authorities and nothing less. At ordination, priests pledge allegiance and oath to always obey the Bishop and his successors. Fr. Edet admitted this yesterday. "At my ordination, I pledged to the Bishop and his successor obedience, so I cannot stay in the institution and disobey; in order to disobey, I have to first of all leave the authority and walk away from the sphere of that influence so that my action will no longer be judged as rebellion in the institution for I am free."
The kind of pledge and loyalty prom
ised to the Bishop at ordination makes it difficult to go against same without telling repercussions. Even before finally calling it quits, Fr. Edet had rebelled severally on many fronts. Not because he preached Satan. No. But he remained in an institution he freely walked into - embraced its faith. Became a priest under its laws and doctrine yet conducted his affairs away from the doctrine and dogmas of his faith. For this, he often got a rap on the knuckle rather than a pat on the back for those number of years he operated in defiance to the Church's long established doctrine that can never be altered by anybody. With all these well chronicled and with pressure mounting daily, his breakout today was only a matter of when rather if he'll leave the Church.
His desire to leave reached a head in December as he told the world during his valedictory speech on radio yesterday. Within his immediate family, he told only one person. Some people in the Church got wind of it then too. Majority of priests were in the know. Those who care prevailed on him to perish the idea and hang on. He obeyed reluctantly. But the burden, as he said, was too much on him. So, the best thing was to call time on his association with the Catholic Church, so he felt and rightly so.
His audacity was never going to last within the stringent walls of the Catholic Church. He did things many priests dared not contemplate. He was fearlessly intrepid. He stood up to anybody and anything as he pursued with vigour and rigour the burden on him to win souls for Christ the way he felt the mandate was given to him. The opposition he met was in order because he was under an institution. You don't work in a company and disobey the company and go scot-free. No way. You can't work in, say Zenith bank and go to work spotting the vest of First Bank. It's a no-no. It's either you obey and remain or disobey and use the exit door. Fr. Edet was guilty for years in this regard. He had no apologies. To him, what mattered was the word not the garment. I agree totally with him, but before he chose the faith and made a vow to serve under its famed priesthood, he knew the garment and the conservativeness of its ministers, yet he made the choice to pitch his tent there. Perhaps, he thought he could change the narrative with his gifting in the word; little did he know that he came to a Church that cannot trade its tradition with a mess of pottage.
The Holy Book is clear on the diverse gifts ensconced in one Spirit. Fr. Edet had his. Other priests have theirs. But the problem was that he more often than not overstepped the parameters of the Church's long-standing traditions. And the Church is not an institution given to such changes. It beliefs what it teaches, and teaches what it beliefs. Talk of rigidity. Her members leave daily because they want something different, desire to express themselves more, the freedom to lift aloft Church seats when overwhelmed by a sermon, become 'crazy' for God on Sundays, women want to leave their hairs uncovered, wear trousers, many can't understand the use of incense in worship, loathe the mention of Mary, cringe at statues of holy people in the Bible in the Church, question the place of rosary in Christendom, probe the logic behind celibacy, ask why confessions should be made to priests (humans) rather than God, and lots more. Yet, on a daily basis, the Church welcomes new entrants who openly embrace the faith in spite of all these. Some say they come because of all these traditions, others leave because of the traditions. At the end of the day, it's a free world. A matter of choice. Fr. Patrick has made that choice today, not necessarily because of the Church's doctrine and beliefs as many have erroneously claimed, but because he seeks freedom from institutional control and denominational limitation. trendy prom selections with discount price
Even as he left, he attested to the Church's standard. "The Catholic Church is the best institution that has ever been built; so organised, no nation, no country can rival the Catholic Church in organisation, in the finesse of organisatio
n and others, education is excellent, the culture is impeccable but it comes with a package and limitation; a box is made for you and you cannot go outside that box."
So, the Church's organization is not the problem neither the box. The problem is that Father was no longer comfortable in the box because the box has always been there. When a man leaves a woman, it's not that the woman is no longer beautiful but because he wants to explore. Talk of adventure. Many priests have denounced their priesthood, many are planning to, yet the foundation and dogma of the Church remains unshaken. It is "othodoxically othodoxical". Immovable. Unflappable. Imperturbable. There's nothing like change here. If it must change, not to anybody's whims. When you can no longer stand the heat, leave the kitchen!
His decision is a win win situation. He wins, loses, the Church wins and loses. He says he will one day preach in a large Catholic gathering in future. We may never know. Never trust a man. Today, he has taken a decision that has rankled many, you never can tell what happens tomorrow. It is one man that loves a woman wholeheartedly today that still hates, beats and throws her out tomorrow. He goes back tomorrow begging for forgiveness!
We respect Fr. Edet's decision and that should be it. He's an adult and has his life to live. People leave good paying jobs, politicians jump parties as if the trend is going out of fashion, couples go their separate ways, people study medicine and end up in banks, life is full of choices. Make your own choice. Choice is free.
But be wary of the culture of follow-folllow. Everyone has their destiny to pursue, role to fulfill in life. Find yours. Fr. Patrick has discovered his own. Let's respect it and wish him well.
Kenneth Jude is a public affairs analyst and 2016 NUJ Columnist of the Year!