Director of the Arrupe Jesuit Institute (AJI) – a Catholic centre for research, formation and social action, Rev. Fr. Kpanie Addy, SJ has said the Catholic Church in Ghana may be likened to a person suffering from anaemia who needs treatment.

Fr. Kpanie was speaking at a seminar organised by the Accra Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission in collaboration with the AJI themed, “The mandate of the Justice and Peace Commission in the discharge of the Church’s social teachings,” in Accra on October 28.

Using the medical analogy of iron deficiency anaemia, Fr Addy presented the Church in Ghana in its current state as typified by the lack of historical consciousness, depth and analysis as well as self-confidence about its future.

He indicated that part of the mandate of the Justice and Peace Commissions should be work towards the recovery of historical consciousness and a rediscovery of depth and analysis of the Church.

The lack of the audacity of the past

Speaking on the lack of historical consciousness, Fr. Addy noted that the Church in the past had a bold and firm voice on issues of national interest including politics and issues of social justice but this is largely absent today.

The AJI Director made references to publications in the Catholic Standard Newspaper from the 1970s and 1980s where bishops, priests and lay faithful spoke and wrote boldly on issues of socio-political concern.

In addition, he noted that the Church seems to have forgotten her previous creativity and innovation, reflected in such an institution as the Brong-Ahafo Catholic Co-operative Society for Development (BACCSOD), established in 1974 by Bishop James Kwadwo Owusu, pioneer bishop of Sunyani.

Lack of depth and analysis

Re-echoing the words of a former Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Fr Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., on what he termed “the globalization of superficiality”, Fr. Kpanie bemoaned what he described as the “concert craze” characterizing Roman Catholicism in Ghana today.

This is seen in how annual programmes of Parish Youth Councils (PYCs) are dominated by praise and worship concerts, with minimal engagement in formation programmes and intellectually stimulating events. Accordingly, serious, critical thinking is largely missing in most of our churches today, which have rather become increasingly pentecostalized.

Some participants at the seminar

According to the AJI Director, this level of boldness cannot be seen in the Church today.  In addition, he noted that the Church lacks the creativity as well as innovation of the past.

Lack of depth and analysis

Re-echoing the words of former Superior General, Society of Jesus, Rev. Fr Adolfo Nicolas, S.J. , Fr. Kpanie bemoaned what he described as the “concert craze’ characterizing Roman Catholicism in Ghana today.

He noted that globalization of superficiality affects so profoundly the thousands of young people entrusted to the Church in its institutions and does not facilitate serious, critical thinking.

A section of participants at the seminar

Lack of self-confidence

On account of all this, Fr Kpanie opined that the Church in Ghana today depicts a paucity of self-confidence. This is reflected in the growing concern the church shows in it’s diminishing numbers. As evidence of this, the AJI Director cited such news items as ” Bishops in Ghana concerned about dwindling population of Catholics in the country,” “Catholic Bishop bemoans falling numbers as Asutuare Catholic Church chalks 80 years,” “Our parishes will be empty in 30 years if we don’t pay attention to the youth – Fr. Michael Mensah,” and “Catholics have abandoned holy hour for alpha hour – Bishop Narh Asare”.

Remedial measures

Fr. Kpanie proposed the recovery of historical consciousness as a key remedial measure for the Catholic Church’s current anaemic state. He noted that a rediscovery of the Church’s history, imposes the responsibility to safeguard one’s heritage, provides inspiration and elicits commitment to advance the legacy of one’s forbears and offers assurance on the reliability of tried, tested, and proven methods and practices. He further proposed that candidates for the priesthood in Ghana should have as required reading the accounts of the missionary beginnings of existing local churches as contained in books like “Great Things Happen” by Remigius McCoy, M.Afr, and “The Story of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Accra” by Alphonse Elsbernd, SVD.

Yet another remedy Fr Addy identified was the rediscovery of the Catholic Church’s intellectual tradition. He urged the seminar participants to help in this rediscovery of depth and analysis by using the SEE, JUDGE and ACT methods, popularized by the Movement of Christian Workers (MCW) and the Young Christian Students (YCS).

This, he argued, would align with the recently made call by Most Rev. Anthony Narh Asare, one of Accra’s auxiliary bishops, for introspection by the church in view of her declining numbers. Fr Addy proposed that the Catholic Church’s recovery of a historical consciousness and rediscovery of depth and analysis will help her replace her current lack of self-confidence with enthusiasm for the future. With her confidence regained, the Catholic Church will apply herself more energetically in fulfilling her evangelization mission.