The Catholic Church and governance: an exploration of the relevance of the Ohacracy indigenous model of participatory governance in Igboland of South-Eastern Nigeria.
More than half a century ago, the Vatican II ecumenical Council took place to redefine the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the modern world. Ecumenical as the Council is known; the Vatican II theology re-established the Church anew as to be relevant in the contemporary world, thereby opening doors for lay participation in the Catholic Church governance. Despite the Council and its leaning towards lay participation in the universal Catholic Church, the Catholic communities in the Igbo Ohacracy of the South-eastern Nigeria and the larger Nigerian communities continue to battle towards the determination and realization of the roles or duties of the laity. A Church identified to be communal, consultative; and collegial in its ecclesiological understanding applies the image of a Family of God’s People envisions a participatory Church which the Vatican II had proposed. This is yet to be fully achieved especially among the Igbo Ohacracy people. This study is located between two opposing ideologies of governance: It therefore investigates the centralized system of governance of the Roman Catholic Church and the decentralized Igbo Ohacracy order. The study also analyses the collective lay participation in the common governance of the Catholic Church as recommended by Vatican II council. It also examines authority, the laity, participation of women and inculturation to interrogate governance in both the Catholic Church and Igbo Ohacracy systems of governance. Indeed, this study reveals that in order for the Catholic Church tradition to continue to make sense and meaning, the values of dialogue, listening and consensus decision making should guide its style of governance in dealing with the Igbo Ohacracy people of South-eastern Nigeria. The Igbo Ohacracy form of indigenous governance is the inspiration behind the study. The study focuses on the Roman Catholic Church among the Owerri-Okigwe Igbo of Southeastern Nigerian communities. As a theological project, this study is located within the field of ecclesiology under the discipline of Practical Theology. Church as home for millions of Roman Catholic adherents around the world can no longer remain isolated and less concerned in matters related to governance which the Church in general has inspired all around the world; not just among the Igbo Ohacracy people of South-eastern Nigeria. Each day, human beings experience governance in various ways as it affects them; whether in the family, the community, place of work, in the Church or society at large. This study has applied both “Large Ears” and “Inculturation” theoretical frameworks. The former refers to the ‘Manja Metaphor’ used in the Central African Republic. It signifies the eldest brother as the one who has developed the greatest capacity for ‘listening’ to the will of the ancestors and to the conversations going on in the family community Uzukwu (1996:143). As a major theory for this study, it represents dialogue, consensus and communal participation in the common ownership of community activities and decision making. The latter, inculturation remains a term used to signify the movement which takes local cultures and their values as basic instruments and powerful means for presenting, reformulating and living; Christianity Waliggo, (1991:506). It describes the contextual or cultural application in understanding and practising the Christian values. This study investigates how both the centralized model of the Roman Catholic Church governance and the decentralized Igbo Ohacracy indigenous orders affect the Igbo people who are caught up in between these two influential systems. It is therefore meaningful to note that this study shows the Vatican II Council’s recommendation and opens doors for lay participation in the governance of the Catholic Church. The Igbo Catholic communities are yet to realize this vision fully for its Catholic adherents. Surprisingly though, through the Ohacracy institutions as analysed, this study has demonstrated a high level of individual and group participation among the Igbo governance order. From all indications of the analysis of both the centralized Catholic Church and the decentralized Igbo Ohacracy orders, it reveals that though these two systems are directly opposed to each other, the receptive nature of the Igbo culture has rather encouraged coexistence of the two. Moreover, the aggressive, dynamic and vibrant developmental pursuit nature of the Catholic Church (for example, Western education and medicine) has also propelled the Igbo Ohacracy communities’ receptivity of the ways and activities of the Roman Catholic Church among them. Finally, the study concludes that true and meaningful co-existence is highly probable between two traditions. With the aid and application of listening, dialogue and consensus in decision making (“Large Ear Theory”) between these two systems, peaceful co-existence and progress/development will continue to be achieved. The respect of both traditions among the Igbo communities through the utilization of the values of inculturation in the Catholic Church as fully described in this study will go further to propagate the realization of value and cultural insights that have emerged in this study.
Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.