- Renewed Universal Church is headquartered in Nyeri
- It is similar to the Roman Catholic Church in every way except observing the celibacy rule for priests
In April 2013, Nyeri residents were treated to a rare spectacle: The wedding ceremony of Catholic Father Titus Kimathi of Nkubu parish, Meru County, and his longtime girlfriend, Rhoda Wanja.
The wedding was presided over by Bishop Njogu Kibutu, a father of three and a former catholic priest.
Njogu, who is also a lecturer at Kenyatta University, heads the Mt. Kenya Diocese of the Renewed Universal Church, a splinter group of the Roman Catholic Church.
Headquartered in Nyeri, RUC boasts a membership of over 20 priests who have rebelled against the catholic church’s celibacy rule that demands absolute abstinence from sexual affairs. It has branches in Nyeri, Meru, Nakuru, and Nairobi.
Njogu termed the celibacy rule as ‘hypocrisy’ and called upon Pope Francis to repel it to give priests the freedom to marry.
According to him, the rule has contributed to child abuse allegations that have plagued the catholic church in the past.
In an interview with Nation, Njogu revealed how he met his girlfriend, a nurse, when he had just graduated from seminary school in Rome. The two gradually fell in love.
However, his vow of celibacy as a catholic priest prevented them from marrying.
It was not until he returned to Kenya and consulted fellow priests that many of them confided to him how they had wives and secret families. Njogu was shocked.
He was disgusted by their hypocrisy and decided to join the Renewed Universal Church, which was founded by Zambian priest Emmanuel Milingo — the former Catholic Archbishop who made headlines by marrying Maria Sung in 2001.
Fear of losing priviledges
According to Njogu, some of his fellow priests admired his move but feared to join him for fear of losing the privileges they were enjoying as catholic priests, which include good housing, job security, and a vehicle.
All priests who have broken the celibacy rule have been excommunicated by the catholic church in the past.
The rule is a cornerstone of the Roman Catholic Church, dating back to its establishment in the first century. However, the church ordains married priests in remote parts of the world where there is a shortage of priests.
According to Njogu, the rebel sect, which is similar to the catholic church in all ways except for the celibacy rule, has a membership of over 20 priests and 2,000 congregants.
Some of his followers said they broke away from the mainstream church after doubting their priests’ morals.
Margaret Kimondo, one of Njogu’s first followers, told the Washington Post “As a parent, I had to fear that a priest would impregnate my daughter if I took them to my old churches. In front of the altar, they may look one way, but at night, you don’t even want to hear those stories.”
Philip Muiga, 78, had been a catholic priest for decades until he encountered a stone-drunk fellow priest at night.
“When I went home and looked at myself in the mirror, I just saw darkness. I could not justify continuing to call these men my colleagues.” He said.
Rev Mathew Theuri, 73, had been a Catholic catechist for over 40 years before joining Njogu’s church as a priest.
“The Bible, in Genesis, commands all human beings to be fruitful and multiply. Are priests not human beings?” he said, justifying his actions.
The catholic church of Kenya has distanced itself from the sect, saying Njogu and his fellow rebels are insincere and are pursuing personal interests.
Bishop Philip Anyolo, who chairs the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church was not worried about the few defectors, and they could do whatever they wanted.
According to its website, the Renewed Universal Church was registered on 27 March 2012 in protest of the celibacy rule imposed on priests by the Roman Catholic Church.
It also states its reason for establishment as: “The (Roman Catholic) church has forgotten the poor. It is forcing widows, widowers, orphans, and the poor to pay 10% monthly contributions, and to make matters worse, exchange money for the services rendered yet vocation to priesthood is Free and God-given.