September 20, 2021

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The “Kissing Priest”, Anglican Church Celibacy Rule and Matters Arising

Claim: A priest kissed some students of St Monica College of Education publicly on the lips

Verdict: True! The priest kissed the students on the lips during a ceremony to honor some students who had served on the chaplaincy board throughout their stay in the College. 

Full Text:

A viral video of a priest kissing some student of the St Monica College of Education, Mampong in the Ashanti Region of Ghana has raised concerns among citizens on social media.

In the video, the pastor is seen directing three students to remove their nose masks, after which he kissed each of them on the lips. 

The video, which was posted on Angel Fm Kumasi Facebook page and subsequently posted by bloggers like  Zionfelix, Ameyaw Debrah, was widely shared by over two hundred people as at the time of filing this report. 

While some condemned the act, others opined that as an Anglican Priest, he is free to marry if he wishes to.

Aside from the confusion over whether or not the act is right, there was a banter in the comment section over whether he is a Catholic or Anglican priest.

Dubawa sought to end the confusion by running a fact-check on the claim.

Verification 

Is St Monica a Catholic or Anglican School?

A brief history about the school indicates that the College was started in the early 1930s by Nana Agyemang Prempeh I, Asantehene, who appealed to the then Anglican Bishop of Accra Diocese, Rt. Rev. John Offeur Anglionby, for the establishment of an institution of higher learning for women in Ashanti. In response, the Bishop invited the Sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete (OHP) who had started schools in Cape Coast to transfer to Mampong, Ashanti.

The three pioneer Sisters, Sister Lillian, Sister Dorothy and Sister Gertrude, were accompanied by Mother Margaret, Founder and first prioress of the Order. They moved out of Cape Coast the same year with the entire population of fifty students to Mampong to form the nucleus of the present Training College. Land was made available to them for the establishment of the College by Nana Osei Bonsu I.  The College was named St. Monica after a saint of Africa and a type of faithful Christian Motherhood who was chosen as the patron of the institution.

What does the Anglican church’s clerical celibacy rule state?

The Anglican Communion and Priestly celibacy document written by David Michael Hope, Bishop of London in a publication on the Vatican website, states that ‘the requirement for celibacy in the clergy was formally abolished in the Church of England in 1549. Since that time and continuing to the present time, there is no requirement for celibacy even among single clergy within the Anglican Communion. The point has been made again only very recently in the report from the House of Bishops, on Human Sexuality, that celibacy cannot be prescribed for anyone. What is needed is that single  priests should live in the form of chastity appropriate to their situation.’

The Anglican Compass website also answers ‘yes’ to marriage of Anglican Priests, Bishops, Deacons. Article 32 of the 39 Articles of Religion puts it: “Of the Marriage of Priests, Bishops, priests and deacons are not commanded by God’s law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.”

Did the Father Really Kiss the students?

According to Sandra Ankomah, a student of the College who spoke to Dubawa, the incident happened on Sunday, August 15, 2021 during a short ceremony after church service to honor students who had served on the chaplaincy board throughout their stay in the College. 

She said three students are the main readers during Mass service.

Some of the students, according to Sandra, were given certificates, an undisclosed amount of money, while others were mutually kissed as a sign of appreciation.

“We are level 300 students entering our final semester, and this appreciation ceremony is usually done as a send off. Again the girls seen in the video are our main readers too,” she added.

A contact number of Father Obeng Larbi has been off since 12pm when Dubawa tried contacting him on the incident. 

Also, efforts to contact authorities of the college have been in  vain as they have remained tight-lipped until work of the investigating body is completed.

Who is the priest in the video?

According to Sandra Ankomah, our source in the school, the priest in the viral video goes by the name Reverend Father Baltharzar Obeng Larbi. She says his close allies nicknamed him “Father Ricky”. 

He is an Anglican Father and is listed on the Ghana Bar Association(GBA) portal as a Commercial Lawyer.

Father Obeng is a Chaplain and doubles as a Lawyer for St Monica College of Education. 

He was listed on the Archdeaconries, Guild of servants of the sanctuary Anglican Diocese of Ashanti Mampong as Venerable Baltharzzar Obeng Larbi (Archdeacon of Mampong/Chaplain St Monica’s College of Education, Mampong) on 25th November 2019.

He is a member of KAB Legal Consult Chambers and a member of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA).

Balthazar Obeng Larbi became the Registrar of the Diocese when the church was raised to cathedral status in November 2014, as the Cathedral Church of St Michael and All Angels, Mampong and the centre of mission for the Diocese.

He is currently the Head of legal unit of the Ashanti Regional Directorate of the Ghana Education Service (GES).

Anglican Church issues statement 

Following the incident, leadership of the Anglican church expressed shock about the whole incident in a statement issued Tuesday morning and signed by Venerable Dr. George Dawson Ahmoah, Executive Director to the Metropolitan Archbishop of Ghana. 

“Thorough investigation has immediately been instituted into the matter and action of the said Priest would be dealt with in accordance with norms and values of the Anglican Communion where morality is extremely revered in the Church,” portions of the statement read.

The church said it is also making efforts to seek psychological help for students involved in the matter through counselling sessions.

Dr George Dawson-Ahmoah in an interview with Dubawa said, there are no given timelines to the work of the committee investigating the incident and could not readily tell the current state or whereabouts of the Priest.

He, however, said investigations are underway and the church would make findings public. 

Father Obeng Larbi relieved of post

An update of the incident published on Myjoyonline indicates that father Obeng Larbi has been relieved of his post following a crunch meeting by school authorities. Reporter for Joynews, Ohemeng Tawiah, says the school has withdrawn all duties assigned to the Priest. 

His position as a Lawyer and  Chaplain for the school ceases until further notice. This the reporter said was confirmed by Acting Principal, Dr Okyere Korankye. 

By Nana Yaa Nyarko