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A Warning Against “Religious Fundamentalism" in the Catholic Church in Tanzania

A Warning Against “Religious Fundamentalism" in the Catholic Church in Tanzania
A Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Tanzania
28 May, 1999

Sects and independent churches are proliferating everywhere in Africa. Most are of protestant, evangelical or pentecostal origin. In Tanzania, a Catholic priest, Fr. Felician Nkwera, and his followers have been in conflict with the Bishops for several years. The Tanzanian Episcopal Conference has taken a definite stand to end the confusion.
As we prepare to enter the 21st Century and thus celebrate the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, the Catholic Church in Tanzania is experiencing vexation caused by certain groups of fundamentalist trends of one kind or another. Some of these groups have originated from within this country and others from outside. Although some of these groups show genuine charismatic orientation and even received permission from competent Church Authorities, we Catholic Bishops of Tanzania insist that any of such groups must be ready to obey all the directives given by local Ordinaries (cc. 312,315,323,301#1). In order to carry out their functions in any diocese, these groups must first of all obtain explicit permission from the local Ordinary. It is the duty of the Ordinary to make sure that no destructive practices are infiltrated into the discipline of the Church. This concern covers the whole field of ministry of the Word of God, celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, veneration of the saints, and administration of goods (c. 392). We emphasize that giving witness of our Faith includes as well the faithful observance of the basic doctrines and directives of the Catholic Church.
In particular, we, Catholic Bishops of Tanzania as trustees and custodians of Catholic faith and morals, want to rebuke, give our official stand and directives with regard to the vexing problem of the "Wanamaombi." In 1985, Catholic Bishops in Tanzania, after receiving several substantial complaints that Father Felician Nkwera was conducting "religious devotions" of dubious nature in several dioceses, including the Archdioceses of Tabora and Dar es Salaam, warned and ordered him to immediately stop his unauthorized activities. Inspite of this order, Fr. Nkwera persisted in his stubbornness and continued with his unorthodox teachings and practices. Due to contumacy and disobedience to his Ordinary, he was suspended from priestly ministry in 1989. Yet, Fr. Nkwera refused to obey his Bishop and continued with his occult syncretistic "devotions" and unorthodox teachings. According to the Code of Canon Law, no one can legitimately perform exorcism over the possessed unless has obtained special and express permission from the Local Ordinary. However, such permission from the Local Ordinary is to be granted only to a presbyter endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life (c. 1172).
The basic reasons which make we Catholic Bishops to immediately condemn and stop the activities of Fr. Nkwera among others are:
The personal character and moral tendencies of Fr. Nkwera have not been and continue to be non-edifying.
Disrespecting, abusing, and misusing the Holy Eucharist superstitiously. A person who throws away consecrated species or who takes them or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See (cc. 1367, 1376).
Causing conflicts and factions in families of married people.
Teaching and spreading erroneous doctrines, and insulting Church leaders including the Holy Father and the Bishops, to an extent of labeling