Money for prayers

Prophetess Lucy Nduta is among many clerics who’ve put a price on prayers

Although Nairobi preacher Lucy Nduta was charged with six more counts of obtaining money by fraudulent means, she is not alone in receiving money for prayer.

Ms Nduta of the Salvation Healing Ministry is in the dock charged with obtaining money by pretending to be in a position to cure HIV/Aids patients through prayers. She has denied the charges, that include obtaining Sh80,000 by pretending to be in a position to pray for a woman to conceive, and getting Sh21,000 from another by pretending to be in a position to pray for her to get a travel Visa to the Netherlands.

Nduta has meanwhile been freed on a Sh200,000 cash bail or Sh800,000 bond with two similar sureties.

But Nduta is not alone in placing a monetary value on spiritual services. Bishop Peter Njoka of the Anglican Church of Kenya received about US$22,000 for chaplain services for Nairobi City Council over a period of six months, a token that got him accused of obtaining it by fraudulent means.

The bishop was not only ordered to resign as the chaplain at the cash-strapped Nairobi City Council, but the church’s leader, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, while asking Nzioka to refund all the money he has been receiving acknowledged that the revelation had tainted the church’s image.

Njoka did not return the money despite the controversy that continued to portray the church negatively. But Nzimbi did not just apologise for the shame of the matter because receiving money was a serious thing, but because the act became public and had hurt the church.

Like Nduta, Bishop Njoka protested his innocence and defied orders by the Local Government ministry to refund the money to the council, arguing that his conscience was very clear about receiving the money, and until City Hall revoked his appointment, he would continue receiving the Sh54,000 ($710) monthly allowance.

Few months ago, archbishop Gilbert Deya, a London-based Kenyan preacher who claims to have helped infertile women conceive “miracle babies” by praying for them faced charges related to stealing babies from a maternity hospital. He is a millionaire UK evangelist who has been accused of using the ministry to steal and smuggle babies to couples in the UK–couples are said to have paid up to 5,0000 Sterling pounds.

In similar accusations, investigators probing the death of ‘God’s Banker’ Roberto Calvi on $70 million which went missing after the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, the private bank that Calvi chaired found out that a bishop was involved in the fraud.

When detectives traced the money to the Bahamas, it was established that one portion of $19m was paid into a bank account there in three instalments, while another $24m was transferred from Miami to Nassau, the Bahamian capital.

The $1.4 billion collapse of Banco Ambrosiano quickly followed Calvi’s murder in one of Italy’s biggest financial scandals and implicated the Mafia, the Holy See and P2, a clandestine masonic group. A woman, aged 42, was detained at her west London home over allegations that she plotted to hide the truth about the killing.

In his book, ‘In God’s Name’ (an investigation into the murder of Pope John Paul I), David Yallop argues that the evidence the Pope had acquired indicated that within the Vatican City State there were over 100 Masons, ranging from Cardinals to priests.

Yallop claims that Albino Luciani, as he was known, was further preoccupied with an illegal masonic lodge, which had penetrated far beyond Italy in its search for wealth and power. It called itself P2. The fact that it had penetrated the Vatican walls and formed links with priests, bishops and even Cardinals made P2 anathema to him.

He was murdered for, among other things, his resolve to excommunicate 100 top-ranking Vatican officials who were Freemasons. At the time, Church canon law forbade membership in the Freemasons.

Opus Dei on the other hand has been alleged to be one of the wealthiest Catholic organisations due to its link with Freemasons. This explains why in 2002 when thousands of pilgrims from around the world travelled to the Vatican when Pope John Paul II canonised the founder of Opus Dei, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, in a “fast track” process only 27 years after his death, the act was bitterly criticized. He also granted Opus Dei the status of “personal prelature”–which has given the group some independence within the Catholic Church.

Although it is against this background that some say Opus Dei grew more influential in the Vatican during the papacy of John Paul II due to its connection with Freemasons, Opus Dei’s spokesman Jack Valero denies it.

While the number of people from Opus Dei working in the Vatican is very reduced–five or maybe six people–critics say there are more clergymen with links to Opus Dei and that they have created a “Church within the Church”. The Vatican’s press spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, is alleged to be a member.

Founded in 1928, Opus Dei, a Latin phrase meaning “Work of God” has about 85,000 members worldwide including 3,000 in the United States.

In the history of the Church, several frauds have been highlighted in God’s name. Some bishops and popes were accused of selling a church office (Acts 8:18-24.) The act is referred to as simony.

Although Simony is a violation of the virtue of religion and a sacrilege, because it wrongfully puts a material price on spiritual things–which can be neither bought nor sold–in several occasions some clergy have used the church to acquire wealth.

In the late Middle Ages, in response to the wildly growing financial needs of the Papal Court, church institutions were forced to sell letters of indulgence as punishment for sin. St. Peter’s Basilica is said to have been constructed with the sale of indulgence.

Started by Pope Julius II in 1507, the sale was heavily condemned, especially by Martin Luther who denounced Catholicism for his reformed church. Christians were made to believe that the sale of indulgence would automatically enable their deceased relatives and friends to be removed from purgatory to heaven.

Purgatory was understood as a place of preparation for the deceased. Although Christians knew their dear ones would enter heaven after they have been cleansed, buying indulgence meant fast-tracked release to heaven.

Pope Leo X was also accused on his election of spending 100,000 ducats on his inauguration festival (1/7th of the Vatican treasury) and soon depleted the rest of the church’s money on various forms of entertainment and parties. He is the very Pope who excommunicated Martin Luther in 1521, denouncing him as a heretic.

Today many evangelical churches do not only depend upon members “tithing,” that is, giving ten percent of their income to the church, but in some cases it has become mandatory if one wants to be a member of the church.

Although one of the principle functions of the tithe was to maintain the priestly institution based on Israelite legal requirements as recorded in the ‘Law and the Prophets’, several evangelical churches have abused it. When Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek before the Law of Moses as an act of faith in thanksgiving for his victory, it was not about income as some evangelical churches have it today.

Owing to its origin in Genesis 14:20, the Hebrew word for tithe, ma‘aser, translated ‘tenth,’ ten percent does not necessarily mean money as many churches have it today. It means gift of fruit trees, crops, oil, wine, among others.

According to 2 Kings 22:15-18, tithe was not something you were forced to give but something you chose out of all you had which was one of the best things you had.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Kenya Times, Kenya
June 8, 2006
Fr. Joachim Omolo
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 8, 2006.
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