A Catholic priest found himself in trouble with the law for blessing a stolen baby taken to his church for consecration, a lawyer has said.
The lawyer, Tomi Vincent, is the legal adviser to the Lagos State Executive Council of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN). According to churchtimesnigeria.net, Vincent, who has been the legal representative of many church leaders, narrated this story of the priest’s ordeal while addressing PFN officials during a recent session in Lagos.
“There was yet another pathetic case of a Catholic priest who blessed a stolen baby brought by a woman to the church,” churchtimesnigeria.net quoted Vincent as saying.
He explained that the woman who brought the baby claimed she had just delivered and took the baby for consecration.
“Unknown to the priest, the baby was stolen by the woman. The police came to the scene and asked the priest if he ever saw the woman pregnant,” Vincent was quoted as saying.
During the session, Vincent, using various examples, brought to pastors’ attention various legal traps into which they could fall without knowing. He advised pastors to be familiar with the law, saying many of them treat basic legal issues with levity.
“Many pastors are ignorant of the law and many of them are being sent to jail due to a crime that was not their fault. As we speak, Yongi David Cho ( a South Korean preacher) is in prison and except he gets a presidential pardon he may remain in prison for a very long time. And this is because of a business deal run by his son that went awry. It was not his fault but he is suffering for the sins of his son,” the lawyer said.
He explained that pastors are easy targets because of the need to keep their reputation unblemished
In one of the examples he gave, Vincent told the story of a pastor who offered accommodation to a pregnant woman being physical abused by her husband. Overnight, he said, the woman fell into labour. She, however, died before the pastor could get her to a hospital and the pastor got into trouble with the police.
He also cited an instance of a Lagos-based church that bought a multi-million property in the Lekki area only to discover that it was situated on a government-owned land, a development brought about by the surveyor who had presented the pastor of the church with a different survey plan.
Vincent also said a former president of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) in Nigeria has been making court appearances over the issue of the certificate of incorporation of the church, which he claimed was missing, a claim later found to be untrue.
He similarly stated that there are pastors who stand sureties for people and got into trouble with the law.
Vincent, who is a Faculty member of the Daystar Leadership Academy and lecturer at the Pan-African University in Lagos, noted that a CAC pastor go into a jam for paying scant attention to the youth of his church, who sought his permission to use a church bus for a picnic they organised. At the picnic, he said, one of the young people died and one of them died and the pastor had to be prosecuted.
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According to the lawyer, another pastor was jailed for unauthorized banking.
“He started what is known as esusu (contribution like cooperative where people could borrow money). He allowed non-members of the church to join. In the process of running this illegal banking activity, there was a problem on who gets what and some of the members wrote a petition to the police and then the pastor had to answer for the charges,” he said.
He warned pastors against joining couple in marriage after 6pm.
“Pastors should know that marriage, according to law, should only be contracted between 8 am and 6pm. And the couple should have filed in application at the registry 21 days before the ceremony. And the marriage should be contracted in an approved place of worship. Any marriage that is conducted without following this law is no marriage and the pastor who joined such couple could be charged to the court,” he warned.
He equally warned church trustees to avoid being paid by the church, as trustees are prohibited from getting money from the church.
“The trustees are not meant to get any money from the church. If a pastor is a trustee of the church, he is not supposed to draw salaries from the church because everything about the church is kept in his trust,” explained.