Kenya Church Braves Stormy Scandals

Capital News
June 17, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 17 - The Catholic Church in Kenya put on a brave face on Wednesday amidst a two-pronged onslaught that threatened to shake it's standing in society.

The Church's top organ the Kenya Episcopal Conference (KEC) announced that a sex scandal involving a well-known priest and the decision by some clerics to break their celibacy vows were unlikely to shake the millions of Kenyan Catholic followers.

KEC Vice Chairman Bishop Philip Sulumeti remained firm that priests who opted to marry had no place on the pulpit.

"Nobody is forced to be a priest. As Christ himself said, it is only for those that can accept," the Bishop stated, while stressing the importance of priests to stick by their oath to celibacy.

A number of Catholic priests have formed a splinter group that does not bar marriage, but the mainstream church has excommunicated them from the communion for as long as they intended to remain priests.

"If however one wants to marry, he should ask permission to leave the priesthood and he marries and he remains a catholic," said Bishop Sulumeti.

"If you however marry and then you want to carry on the priesthood, then unfortunately the two do not go hand in hand since you will have broken the vow that you made to God."

Rebel Catholic priest Godfrey Shiundu was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 2004 after he allegedly impregnated a nun when he served in West Pokot District.

He later joined the Ecumenical Church of Christ formerly known as the Reformed Catholic Church (RCC) where he was ordained as a Bishop.

The RCC is a US-based Catholic splinter group that allows its clergy to marry and openly accepts polygamy, as opposed to the mainstream Catholic Church.

Fr Shiundu had denied the claims that he impregnated the nun, Ms Stella Nangila, but surprised many when they later tied the knot in 2006 at a lavish wedding presided by RCC Archbishop Dr Karl Rodig.

Dr Rodig flew in from Germany to marry the couple at the Kitale ASK showground, only a kilometre away from Kitale's main Catholic Church Cathedral.


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