Nyeri Archbishop ANTONY MUHERIA explains to LYDIA NYAWIRA how Kenyans glorify Judas Iscariot, and what Jesus would have said about the use of contraceptives by teens
As a senior cleric, what disappoints you most about Kenya?
The false and hypocritical way we justify evil and sin, and how we all rally easily to endorse such evils. We have glorified sin and evil behaviour and made heroes of those thriving in unscrupulous immoral behaviour. The upright are condemned, while the crooks are praised and awarded for their disgraceful acts. Paradoxically, this was the same attitude in Jesus’ time.
Aren’t men afraid of hell?
I believe both men and women are afraid of hell. But how I wish they were more desirous of heaven! We should, however, live upright lives, not because we fear hell, but for the “strength of love”. Fear never leads to commitment, love does!
The Catholic Church is opposed to sex education for teens and the general use of contraceptives. Doesn’t this ignore the reality on the ground?
Look, if you live in a violent neighbourhood, the solution is not to give your children guns. If your child is a thief, the solution is not to get better locks at home. If the crazy matatu culture teaches that we overlap and drive on the wrong side of the road at top speed, the solution is not to improve the car’s suspension and airbags.
What then is the solution?
The problem is not pregnancy or avoiding the consequences of sex such as STIs. It is a question of morals. The moment we give up on morals, we hack back to the Stone Age. We must teach morals and trust that men can have the capacity to live up to them if they are still human. To give up on this is to condemn humankind to degenerate into beasts and animals that cannot use their intellect and will.
Aren’t we burying our heads in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich?
The Catholic Church has always given lessons and classes on sexuality in our catechesis, schools and churches and taught on chastity, and continues to teach our young people about the gift of sexuality. God’s plan is that sex should be guided by our intellect and will, directed by love, through a clear control of human passions. What the Church is against is the teaching of distorted, ungodly sexuality. Let’s believe in our children.
Faced with this dilemma, what do you think Jesus would have said?
The question is not “what Jesus would have said”, but “what Jesus said”, and says now! Jesus reaffirmed the 10 Commandments, which are clear that promiscuity and adultery with all its iterations, are sins. Jesus tells us to teach our children the path of Love. It is a difficult path, but it is the path to salvation.
Mainstream churches are losing their flock to charismatic preachers. What is causing this exodus?
I would not call it an exodus. This euphoria is presented mainly in the media. Some sects and churches have taken to the gospel of prosperity, which is basically a cult of greed. Unfortunately, this false teaching continues to attract many gullible Christians who seek quick fixes.
Why do many devout Christians veer off the Church when they become adults?
Many cool off in their faith during their post-adolescent years, finding themselves heavily laden with sin or big messes. But no matter the depth one has fallen, God is always merciful and waiting. Our duty as the Church is to stir up this dormant or latent faith.
On a typical Sunday service, women and children outnumber men. Why are women more devoted?
I wish I could give a well-informed answer to this. But I think God placed in the heart of women the sanctuary of love, care and tenderness. This perhaps makes them empathise with Christ and others easily.
These days, even primary school dropouts can declare themselves ‘bishop’… Is sound theological training still necessary for the clergy?
Current trends demand better skills and deeper and more intellectually challenging preaching from clergy to enable the faithful to face the aggressive, pervasive, and ungodly culture obtained today.
The Church is plagued by corruption, alcoholism, fornication and homosexuality…
I would not subscribe to such a sweeping judgement. Our society has degenerated in morals. It is very sick and some “spiritual doctors” and priests seem to also have caught the illness. However, there are also many upright servants of God who are generous and give themselves to assist the sick, the abandoned and the forgotten.
In what ways has your training as an engineer influenced your calling as a church leader?
Any professional training helps one become mature in judgement and in people skills. I believe my training also helped me to be more analytical in addressing problems, and in being orderly in approaching issues, planning or strategising. These are all good qualities in administration.