Plagiarist Becomes Honest Witness
AT A meeting of the Manhattan Spanish congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses in January, 1956, a stranger was noted who obviously was enjoying the program. Apparently he was a witness, for he sang from his own Witness songbook and his laughter was uninhibited at the amusing parts in the dialogue of the demonstration on how to place the magazines the Watch Tower Society publishes.
However, had he been a witness at the close of the meeting he would have introduced himself. But, instead, this stranger rushed over to the literature counter, obtained thirty-six bound books and forty-seven booklets and then disappeared into the night. Who could he be? Some minutes later one of the witnesses revealed that this was his one-time pastor of a Spanish Church of Christ congregation, a Mr. Antonio Ochoa.
Almost all readers of The Watchtower will doubtless remember Mr. Ochoa’s name. He was the Churches of Christ minister who plagiarized so many articles from the Watchtower and Awake! magazines, they being published chiefly in a denominational paper, Gospel Broadcast. This plagiarism was exposed in the January 15, 1954, issue of this journal.
In behalf of Mr. Ochoa it must be said that he has come a long way. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on November 30, 1941, in Santa Rosa de Osos, Colombia, South America. For four years he served as a Catholic priest both in Colombia and in the Republic of Panama. Being of an inquiring mind he finally became convinced that the Roman Catholic Church was not preaching the gospel of Christ and so he associated himself with the Anglican Episcopal Church. He studied at one of its seminaries, graduated as a Bachelor of Divinity and was made pastor of an Anglican church in Panama.
In the course of his preaching he became acquainted with publications of the Watch Tower Society and freely borrowed from them for his sermons. After serving as an Anglican priest for four years he was required to resign because his preaching did not accord with that of the church.
Thereafter he came to New York city looking for a place to preach what he had learned. He found a group calling themselves “Churches of Christ,” who, learning that he had been at one time a Roman Catholic priest, welcomed him. For months he preached every day as the Catholic priest who had gotten his eyes opened, and in this way he learned to know many congregations of that denomination in various parts of the United States.
His “manager” was a preacher who was very adept at eliciting contributions from the audiences, and soon $40,000 had been collected, mostly from the Spanish-speaking population in upper Manhattan, with which money a four-story building was purchased. The “manager’s” English congregation had control of it and occupied all floors except the second, which was used by the Spanish congregation, of which Mr. Ochoa was the pastor.
After three years of his preaching at this Spanish congregation, those of the English church took steps to throw Mr. Ochoa out because of his not conforming to Churches of Christ teaching. They had no right to do this, however, as Churches of Christ are each independent units and the Spanish congregation had been the chief contributor to the $40,000 that purchased the building. That this action was arbitrary is further seen in that nearly all of his congregation signed a statement expressing full confidence in their pastor.
After this Ochoa was offered a three-months’ salary and reinstatement if he would renounce what he was teaching and return to the Churches of Christ group. Righteously indignant, Ochoa told the one making the offer that the Scriptures state that a dog returns to his vomit and that he was no dog! Various inducements were made to get members of his congregation to leave him, but with little success. In the end, all but two severed their connection with the Churches of Christ group and continued to study the Bible in their homes with the aid of the Watch Tower publications. At least ten home Bible studies were thus started, and one by one those participating in these studies began associating themselves with Jehovah’s witnesses.
And Mr. Ochoa? He returned to Colombia, where he was recently baptized, and where he continues to preach the good news of Jehovah’s kingdom.