He tussled with Archbishop, now Cardinal, Njue and lost his priesthood seven years ago. Now bishop of a renegade church, Peter Njogu Kibutu, felt nothing when the Nyeri dioceses announced a few Sundays ago that he was now formally excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
Mr Njogu says his trouble with his church started way back in 2002, when he had a disagreement with the then Archbishop Njue.
He had served as a priest, attached to the Mweiga Catholic parish, for 13 years when he was accused of breaking his priestly vows on celibacy and thriftiness.
Now aged 49, he had purchased a car and a three-acre piece of land in Thunguma centre in Skuta with money he claims he had received from the Italian government, where he had served as a priest for eight years.
Chased me away
He was then accused of having a girlfriend, whom he had met while serving in Italy. He vehemently denied this, though he now admits it was true.
“Njue told me that I was money minded and chased me away from the church for two months. He also ordered me to attend a retreat,” he says.
Upon his return from the retreat, he was not allowed to resume his priestly duties. Instead, he was ordered to return to his rural home.
“My parents had given me up to the church, I am not going home,” he recalls telling the then Archbishop Njue. He sought the intervention of the Pope’s representative in Kenya to no avail.
After two months in the cold, he was told that the status quo would remain.
“I was dedicated to priesthood, I was even willing to sell the piece of land as it was said I intended to settle a woman on it,” he says.
However, he does not regret keeping a girlfriend on the side despite his celibacy vows.
“I know many priests with girlfriends, and I don’t know why I was singled out,” he says.
On April 5, a letter from the Vatican formally excommunicating Mr Njogu was read out to the congregation of the Nyeri Consolata Catholic Church by the Nyeri Archbishop Peter Kairu.
“Although he refused to sign the decree, the fact still remains that he no longer and will never serve in the Roman Catholic Church. We cannot bring him back on board, it’s too late, the damage has already been done,” said Archbishop Kairu during an interview with the Saturday Nation.
Also human beings
The issue of priests breaking their celibacy vows is not new to the church, and the 71-year-old Archbishop Kairu says steps are being taken to arrest the situation.
The church, he says, has been holding meetings with priests at the Christ the King Major Seminary after the weekly masses.
“Priests are also human beings, and if counselling and proper advice is not done, they may end up breaking their vows,” he says.
After being defrocked in 2003, Njogu bought a taxi for Sh60,000, which he used to earn a living. All this time, he was living with his girlfriend in Nanyuki.
After four months of waiting, he gave up and decided to marry Berith Karimi Njogu, now aged 36. They have three children.
He has since joined the Renewed Universal Church, where is the Bishop for Mount Kenya. He was consecrated by former Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo.
The father of three is also a lecturer at Kenya Methodist University in Meru, where he teaches philosophy and religious studies.He had worked earlier as a lecturer at Catholic University after returning from Europe.
His Mt. Kenya diocese is in charge of Nyeri, Meru, Embu, Nakuru and parts of Nairobi. He says he does not regret leaving the Roman Catholic Church.
“Excommunicating me at this time is time barred; it has already been overtaken by events. The letter should have come seven years ago,” he says.
He, however, says he has no bad feelings for either the Pope or Cardinal Njue.
Njogu insists that the church will have to face up to the problem of priests and their broken celibacy vows.
“Nearly all priests have girlfriends, while some even have secret families. However, things have changed and now priests are not being chased away. Instead, the church is being soft on them, creating more confusion.” he says.
“My hope and prayer is that we become African Christians and not Christianised Africans. We should not lose our culture even if we’ll be asked to be Christians,” he says.