Burdened with the rate of influence yielded by religious bodies in Nigeria politics through political communications in the Church, the researcher went into a study to identify the extent of political communication in catholic churches in Awka North Local Government Area, examining the effect of political communication on parishioners in Awka North Local Government Area and identifying the challenges of political communication in Awka North Local Government Area. From these objectives, the researcher formulated his research questions which he used in gathering the opinion of 156 respondents who were administered the questionnaire from the entire population of the study using the purposive sampling method. Findings revealed that the catholic clergy through political communications often rendered in their sermons had a great influence on the parishioners in Awka South Local Government Area and that this influence determines the extent to which the parishioners accept or reject a politician. The findings further revealed that clergy’s are often compromised in their function as political communications due to fear of abuse or financial compromise. From the conclusions above, the researcher recommended
The Roman Catholic Church, an institution boasting over a billion members worldwide, is arguably the world’s largest organization. While it spans myriad cultures, languages, races, political and social ideologies it remains, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic” (1994). Despite its claim as the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church faces many challenges in today’s world. In just about every form of media, the Church is frequently under attack, questioned, or undermined for its religious doctrines or stances on contentious political and moral issues. Between questionable depictions in popular literature (i.e. Hitler’s Pope, The Da Vinci Code) to unflattering representations in television or film (i.e. Religulous, Doubt, Dogma), the Church has faced numerous challenges to both its identity and relevance in recent years. This study however is bothering itself with the relevance and need for political communication in the church and how this has affected parishioners in Awka South local government area.
1.1 Background of the Study
The elections constitute a mechanism which allows for the review of politicians’ actions and verification of pre-election promises. It is worth noticing that elections and the campaign are not only a way to enforce political responsibility, but also to gain legitimization, shape public opinion and reinforce the elite (Heywood 2009). The functions of the elections and the accompanying electoral campaign are different and engage many entities. Elections can be referred to as the political communication channel, which engages (among others) politicians, the society, journalists and the mass media. Involvement of participants in political communication processes is diversified and, what is more, the reciprocal influence of the political players is not uniform. One of the most powerful political communication channels in the world is the church of which the catholic church plays the most powerful role from around the globe (Kate, 2014).
Andrew, (2006) the Catholic Church interacts regularly with politics or with politicians and governments in three broad areas – in the articulation of its social teaching, in discussions arising from its involvement in schools, hospitals and welfare and in debate over particular moral issues as they arise from time to time. Each of these carries its own special character and so can be considered separately. There are, however, common underlying principles to do with whether or not the church can speak in the public domain and how it best speak if it does. Indeed, when a political issue involving proponents within the church blows up in the media, the boundaries are often not very clear.
Catholic social teaching is a tradition that has its roots in the gospel and in centuries of theological development but which in its current form is captured by a series of papal encyclicals beginning with Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891. O’Brien, (1998) these encyclicals and the writing that has followed them have tended to address pressing social issues of the moment not so much in political terms, either as addressed to particular governments or as proposing specific political solutions, but rather in terms of the character of the human person and of what is justly due to it. Widely disseminated and taught, they have become an effective source of principles for Catholics acting in the public arena. One who knows this tradition, for instance, cannot have failed to see it coming instinctively through the words and actions of Sir William Deane (Muray, 2009). The Catholic Church’s involvement in schools, hospitals & welfare has constantly brought it face to face with governments in the areas of policy, regulation and funding. While much of this interaction has been conducted by negotiation and through appropriate institutions, from time to time issues arising from these activities have become politically volatile. In these instances, the church has found itself in the roles both of an interested party and of a teacher of an understanding of human life and action.
The political experiment of modernity seeks a situation in which both the church and the state are confronted with limitations to the extent of their powers. The rule of the state does not encompass every aspect of society. People are free to form their own associations and to practice religion. Morality and custom are separated from law. The church, on the other hand, is denied authority in matters of state and is not able to enforce the practice of religion. The simplicity of the phrase, ‘separation of church and state’, hides the complexity and variety of settlements that were worked out through conflict and revolution from the seventeenth century on. The point at issue here is that although these settlements do change, their roots are centuries deep, so that any attempt to overthrow them is likely to bring disaster. It is not hard to generate arguments for why the church may engage in political debate (Murray 2005), but it is more important to think about how it might do so effectively. A church leader who enters a political debate faces two disadvantages that are not normally faced by politicians themselves. First, a church leader must speak truthfully, and that in the sense both of seeking the truth before speaking and of properly articulating the truth when speaking. Politicians move on quickly from what they have asserted and changing circumstances alter apparent realities. Besides carrying a moral expectation of truthfulness, a church leader ordinarily expects to be bound by previous assertions. Secondly, a church leader who speaks on political issues must be able to move from the ecclesial forum, in which authority is assumed and very strong, to the public forum, in which an opinion may be regarded as interesting or as standing for the institution but not as authoritative over those who hear it in that forum. Two things flow from this. First, the church’s goals are necessarily longer term than those of politicians.
Viewed positively, though, they mean that we generally believe someone whom we judge to be knowledgeable, virtuous and of good will. (Murray 2005). There are much sensitivity around religion and politics, but the thoughts offered here are a guide to what they are and how they might be handled. For church leaders to engage in public debate on issues understood to be political is difficult but not impossible and certainly not forbidden.
Church leaders in Nigeria constantly engage in political communication. The catholic church for one has so much influence that one priest alone can entirely alter the course of an election as witnessed in the case of Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka of adoration ministries whose prophesy had being very instrumental in decision making among congregants and followers on who they supported during the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. In fact, many believe his prophesy had emboldened a Buhari campaign and brought about the eventual defeat of the then President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Mbaka’s case is but one as in their various parishes, priests of the catholic order hold strong on the opinion of their congregants through constant political communications subtly passed during sermons. It is believed even that in Anambra for instance, the question of who becomes relevant in the secular politics of the State is largely dependent upon the Catholic Bishops choice and opinion. This study sets to inquire in to the role of the catholic church in political communication and the effect it has on parishioners in Awka North local government Area, Anambra State.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The rate of societal decay and free will of politicians to toy with and rule in a manner so harsh and derogatory on the nation’s economy and growth has had an abysmal effect on the lives of the people of Nigeria. The lack of credible voices to question the status quo has remained a great challenge. Issues that are political related had earlier being greatly decided by the church before the 20th century when the church got polarized in Nigeria compromising the church role as a political communication agent in the society. However, one of the churches that still manages to retain its sanctity and sway on peoples opinion , social and political behavior is the catholic church. The church no doubt has a burden of straightening the moral decay in the polity of Nigeria and has battled to do this without seizing but for the compromise and integrity of certain people in the church itself, the sabotage by the congregants and the politicians themselves. The concern of many is whether the churches involvement in political communication is still effective and productive as used to be and required, if the people still take such messages passed by the catholic church on political issues and consider same strongly in making their political decisions, if the church itself has remained honest and objective in the messages she passes to her congregants and what can be done to ensure the church does not lose her place in the political communication in the society.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this research work is to examine the Catholic Church and the role in plays in political communication among parishioners in Awka North Area.
The specific objectives are;
- To identify the extent of political communication in catholic churches in Awka North Local Government Area.
- To examine the effect of political communication on parishioners in Awka North Local Government Area.
- To identify the challenges of political communication in Awka North Local Government Area.
1.4 Research Questions
From the research objectives raised in 1.3 above, the following research questions are put forward;
- What is the extent of political communication in catholic churches in Awka North Local Government Area?
- What are the effects of political communication on parishioners in Awka North Local Government Area?
- What are the challenges of political communication in Awka North Local Government Area?
1.5 Significance of the Study
With the church going through a face where secularization threatens her place and role in the society, this study will serve as a motivation and path redirection for a derailing catholic church and reiterate for her the role she is obliged to perform in the political communication and sensitization of her congregants. It would also enlighten the parishioners, politicians and government about the role the church plays and is obliged to play in political communication. The challenges of the political communication of the church will be identified and tackled heads on.
On the other hand, students and scholars will find this material quite revealing and enlightening. It will serve as reference material and basics for further research on church involvement in political communication in Nigeria.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study on the Catholic Church and political communication will be centered on parishioners in the various Catholic Church parishes in Awka North Local Government Area.
1.7 Definition of Terms
- The Catholic Church:
- Political Communication