The Archbishop of Gulu, John Baptist Odama has suspended Rev. Fr. Charles Onen, the second curate of Holy Rosary Catholic parish from exercising sacramental ministry following his decision to join active politics.
Rev. Fr. Onen is part of the crowd of eight aspirants with interest in representing the newly created Gulu East Division in the 11th Parliament.
He hopes to run as an independent candidate in the race that has attracted among others Nancy Atimango (NRM), Christopher Okidi (DP), Emmanuel Mwaka Lutukumoi (Independent) and John Bosco Uhuru (Independent).
In an October 5, circular addressed to all priests in Gulu Archdiocese, Odama announced that because of his political ambition, Onen is no longer allowed to exercise priestly ministry.
“As a shepherd of the people of Gulu Archdiocese, I have the painful duty of communicating to you that, on September 23, I had to issue a decree of suspension ‘a divinis’ for our brother, Rev. Fr. Charles Onen,” Odama wrote adding that, “Consequently, Fr. Charles is no longer allowed to exercise his priestly ministry, specifically, he is forbidden to exercise all the acts of the power of order, all the acts of the power of governance and any right or function attached to any diocesan office.”
Odama stated that he had had a series of meetings with Onen over the past three months in which he (Onen) requested to be relieved of active priestly ministry to enable him engage in politics.
“I tried to dissuade him from taking such a step and I told him that the Law of the Church does not permit a priest to be involved in active politics and that a priest who does so would be suspended.” Odama stated.
Odama further said that Onen “turned this down and went on making choices contrary to the nature and requirements of his priestly status and the Law of the Church. Eventually, because of the public scandal caused by this serious offence, a formal canonical process of warning was started.”
Onen received two canonical warnings on August 21 and September 7 urging him to desist from active involvement in politics and reform his life according to his priestly vocation.
“Since the time prescribed by the Canon Law to answer the warnings and to have recourse against the decree of suspension has abundantly expired and no written answer or reaction from Fr. Charles has yet reached me, I had no alternative left other than to obey the Law of the Church, which asks pastors to try disciplinary measures like the suspension from exercising the sacramental ministry as a last resort and attempt to correct those who go astray in order to make them reflect, repent and reform their lives.” Odama said.
“I now ask all of you, and all the faithful of your parish, whom you will duly inform with discretion and prudence, to pray for our brother Fr. Charles Onen, so that the Lord may help him to reflect on his situation, repent and reform his life according to the gifts and demands of our common priestly vocation,” the Archbishop wrote.