The Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ (ECCC), which operates outside the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, has received Frs Bateng Motshwane and Gregory Nkosi of Johannesburg and Fr Patrick Molise of Bethlehem had joined Cape Town’s Fano Ngcobo in affiliating with the ECCC.
A canon lawyer has advised bishops to issue a public declaration to explain the status of four South African priests who have joined the new church, the Southern Cross, a Catholic weekly, reported. There has been no reaction from the Catholic bishops of Southern Africa.
The ECCC’s leader in Africa, Kenyan Archbishop Godfrey Shiundu Wasike, visited South Africa in late October and conferred the sacrament of confirmation in Langa, Cape Town.
“I was a priest who had a girlfriend and I felt I could no longer live in hiding,” Siundu said, according to a South African newspaper. He would see his girlfriend on Friday and officiate at mass on Sunday.
“But I felt it could no longer go on like that.” During his 18 years as a priest before his marriage he had encountered many priests who were not living up to their vow of celibacy. “On a Sunday they look very holy on the altar.”
A number of Roman Catholic priests in Kenya have already defected to the ECCC. In July 15 married priests celebrated a well publicised mass in Nyeri, central Kenya.
The ECCC was founded by Dr Karl Rodig, the primate archbishop who left the Catholic priesthood after three years in 1989 because he was convinced that the priestly vocation “should not be dependent on celibacy, rather it should be optional”.
The church’s website claims that “for over a thousand years there were married clergy, including 39 married popes”.
The group claims to be committed to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church, including the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, Holy Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, ordination, and matrimony).
Archbishop Wasike, who is married to a former nun, came to Cape Town to launch the ECCC for the Province of South Africa.
The South African hierarchy of the group comprises Fr Ngcobo as apostolic administrator, Fr Molise as vicar-general, Fr Nkosi as financial administrator, and Fr Motshwane as communications officer.
Fr Motshwane said the four priests will issue a statement before the end of the year about the future of the ECCC in South Africa after a series of consultations.
Fr Molewe Machingoane, rector of the St John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria, warned that the status of the priests will confuse many lay Catholics, especially in terms of the validity of the sacraments administered by the breakaway priests.