Bishop Bibi Under Scrutiny

News: World News
by Jay McNally  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 3, 2022   

Prelate cancels priests, confiscates bank accounts

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BUEA, Cameroon (ChurchMilitant.com) – Catholics in Cameroon were shocked when, on April 21, they saw a priest who had been suspended for raping multiple young girls (including one who aborted the priest's child) participating in ordination ceremonies in the diocese of Buea.

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Fr. Hilary Ngome Enang

The rapist, Fr. Hilary Ngome Enang, was suspended from all ministry in 2018 by Buea's now-retired bishop, Immanuel Bushu, after Ngome admitted to the rapes and the abortion. Bushu then sent Fr. Ngome home to Ngome's family while his case for laicization was handled by the Vatican.

But now, Fr. Ngome lives with Bp. Michael Bibi, Buea's new ordinary, and is a pastoral associate at Regina Pacis Cathedral.

Bushu, 77, was the ordinary of the diocese of Buea from 2006 until his retirement in December 2019. He was replaced by Bibi, 50, who began as apostolic administrator of the diocese before being installed as ordinary on Feb. 25, 2021.

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Bp. Immanuel Bushu

Bushu was interviewed by Church Militant via video conference this month. The former ordinary related his distress that Bp. Bibi had "exonerated" Fr. Ngome and had "restored him" to full ministry as a parish priest "against the mind of the Church."

Neither Bp. Bibi nor any of his representatives responded, as of press time, to Church Militant's inquiries, made through the Chancellery of the Diocese and via the bishop's official email.

According to several sources with long ties to the Church in Cameroon, Bp. Bibi's exoneration of the priest is only one of multiple scandals to rock the diocese since he took charge in 2019.

Sources tell Church Militant that both the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura and the Propaganda Fidei (now called the Congregation for the Evangelization of People) opened investigations into Bp. Bibi's behavior, citing complaints from priests of the Buea diocese, the Africa E5 Foundation (an American nonprofit involved in education for children and the care of orphans) and canon lawyers.

News Report: Rapist Priest Back on the Job
 

An attorney with knowledge of the matter confirmed that video and photos provided to Church Militant that show Fr. Ngome participating in the ordination ceremony are authentic.

The complaints involved in the investigations note that Bp. Bibi has publicly done the following:

  • Canceled 78 priests, deacons and religious since 2020 and ordered them to immediately depart from his diocese
  • Decreed that religious associations be suppressed and threatened to laicize the priests if they do not leave these associations
  • Successfully colluded with a local bank manager to illegally take control of the financial assets of the Catholic University Institute of Buea, a local Catholic college founded during the tenure of Bp. Bushu
  • Witheld money intended for orphans
  • Illegally withheld money from salaried employees at the college
  • Canceled esteemed educator Fr. George Jingwa Nkeze, who resides in the United States, and demanded that he shut down Catholic schools that serve orphans
  • Caused ongoing litigation against his own office and the diocese for alleged bank fraud, theft and breach of contract

Canceling 78 Priests

In 2020, Bp. Bibi, without discussion, consultation or warning, stated on social media that he was removing the faculties of 78 priests and deacons during an investigation into the validity of their religious associations. The priests complained to Rome after Bibi further decreed that the six religious associations be suppressed.

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Bp. Michael Bibi

The decree specified that all the priests he had canceled were Nigerian and ordered the priests and religious to leave their associations or be laicized (the highest punishment a priest or deacon can receive within canon law).

Canon lawyers representing the priests and deacons stated in their filings with the Vatican that the priests cannot be laicized for this purpose, and that there is no basis for the suppression of their associations.

For the most part, the priests have been without salaries since they were suspended. One told Church Militant that "we are surviving by begging."

Financial Disputes

The Catholic University of the diocese of Buea and the Africa E5 Foundation held their funds at the NFC bank of Cameroon. Father Jingwa was a shared board member with fiduciary responsibility over both organizations — and has been targeted for ruin by Bp. Bibi. He is now stranded without faculties, pay or employment.

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Fr. George Jingwa Nkeze

According to documents supplied to Church Militant, it appears Bp. Bibi strong armed his way through the bank procedures While the COVID-19 lockdowns were in place in 2020, Bibi sent a strident letter to the manager, a friend of his, stating that he "must" have control over the bank accounts of Catholic University.

Sources told Church Militant that manager reached out to the existing signers to inquire as to whether Bibi could be added to the account. Although the signers did not consent, the manager added him anyway and removed the original signers. This gave the bishop total control of the funds — an estimated $100,000.

After taking control of the money, Bibi refused to pay at least seven employees of the college, according to multiple lawsuits.

After taking control of the money, Bibi refused to pay at least seven employees of the college.

Bishop Bibi then withheld the funds from the orphans, according to lawsuits and public complaints from the Africa E5 Foundation. During this time, the Africa E5 Foundation and contributors raised additional funds to continue services for the orphans in lieu of what was taken by Bibi.

A nine-minute video published in February by the Africa E5 Foundation and titled "Criminal Complaint Of Fraud and Abuse of Power Against Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi of Buea Diocese" explains some of the concerns.

Youtube: Criminal Complaint Of Fraud and Abuse of Power Against Bp. Bibi
 

The nonprofit and its board of trustees attempted to resolve matters privately with Bishop Bibi, but he refused to meet with them All parties took the matter to civil court in 2020.

The courts of Buea initially sided with the board of trustees on bank fraud, theft, abuse of power and breach of contract. However, the bishop appealed and won based on the judge's claim that the college fell under the governance of the bishop.

The parties took the matter to civil court in 2020.

In an interview, Bp. Bushu said the college was formed to be financially independent of the diocese. The board is now appealing the second ruling, alleging conflict of interest and the incorrect application of law. The employees who were underpaid are still fighting their own legal battle.

Cancelling Fr. George Jingwa

Father Jingwa, a revered figure in Cameroon and priest of more than 30 years, is the founding president of CUIB and served for eight years there between his presidency and chancellorship. He is also the first African priest to be voted to the position of vice president of the International Federation of Catholic Universities.

In his role, Fr. Jingwa established networks and partnerships with Catholic universities in the United States, such as the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as in the Philippines and Costa Rica.

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Bp. Thomas Olmsted

While Bp. Bibi was taking control of the money in 2020, he withdrew his permission for Fr. Jingwa to serve in the diocese of Pheonix, Arizona, where the priest was on a permanent assignment as a professor and a fundraiser for private Catholic colleges and schools for orphans in Africa. When Fr. Jingwa wasn't able to return to Africa (owing to ongoing hospitalization and concerns for his safety), Bp. Thomas Olmsted responded by removing Fr. Jingwa's public faculties within his diocese of Pheonix.

Bishop Bibi stated in correspondence that he would return Fr. Jingwa's compensation and permission to serve in the diocese of Pheonix (essentially returning Fr. Jingwa to active ministry) if he shut down a school that serves orphans and refugees. Without a suitable alternative for their education, Fr. Jingwa told Church Militant he has refused the request and appealed it to the Vatican's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura.

Although Fr. Jingwa is without compensation, he continues to serve as Africa's representative and one of three executive vice presidents of the IFCU.

Response by Bp. Bibi & Abp. Nkea:

On Mar. 11, Bp. Bibi responded to public charges of corruption with a pastoral letter calling all accusations against him baseless.

Instead of investigating whether the civil, criminal and canonical lawsuits have merit, the archbishop of Bamenda (Bibi's direct superior, Abp. Andrew Nkea) joined Bibi in mid-February by declaring the complaints to be mere "aspersions."

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Abp. Andrew Nkea

Some of the controversies Bibi created stem from long-standing jealousies and animosities against Bp. Bushu. The diocese of Buea is known to be one of the most affluent within the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda, which is comprised of Kumbo, Mamfe and the archdiocese of Bamenda. Buea includes the only seacoast in Cameroon, along the Atlantic Ocean.

Fidelis Jingwa Nkeze, who is the brother of Fr. Jingwa and a long-time advocate and supporter in the United States of the CUIB, gives the following testimony:

The creation of the Catholic University Institute of Buea and the apparent success this nascent university was gaining both nationally and internationally under the leadership of Fr. George Jingwa generated further envy and conflict in an already-fragmented ecclesiastical province, in which some prelates believed the Bishop's seat to this Diocese was owed to them.

Crux, and other alternative media organizations, have repeated the talking points of Bp. Bibi and Abp. Nkea without mentioning the litigation over bank fraud and theft.

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