Papal Nuncio Responds to American’s Concern About Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

December 28, 2013

Archbishop Michael Blume

After learning the terrible news last week that the Ugandan Parliament passed a bill imposing heavy penalties, including life imprisonment, on anyone convicted of homosexual activity, a New Ways Ministry friend wrote to the papal nuncio (Vatican’s representative) to that nation.

On December 21st, Brother Brian McLauchlin sent an email to Archbishop Michael Blume, asking him to speak with the Ugandan bishops and Pope Francis about this abuse of human rights.  McLauchlin received a positive response from Blume the same  day, assuring him that his office is concerned about the situation, and that he would be working with Uganda’s Catholic bishops on the matter.

Blume’s message discusses the confusion which exists in Uganda about the bill:

“It was only this morning that I found out about the action of the Parliament. In fact the whole business caught many of us, including the bishops’ conference, by surprise as there had been no hints of it in the press nor on the site of the Parliament, which indicates legislation being discussed. The bill had been put on hold last February and seemed forgotten, but … You can view some articles on it from the government press (www.newvision.co.ug) and the opposition (www.monitor.co.ug). That the Prime Minister speaks about further consultation needed is something important to note. The Monitor also points out a problem of the quorum at the session that passed the law — without clearly stating whether it existed or not.”

Blume also noted that the Ugandan bishops had spoken out against an earlier version of this bill in 2009:

The bishops had pronounced on the bill already in 2009. Here’s just the paragraph that is a kind of résumé:

“The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue. The targeting of the sinner, not the sin, is the core flaw of the proposed Bill. The introduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for homosexual acts targets people rather than seeking to counsel and to reach out in compassion to those who need conversion, repentance, support, and hope. The Bible says in Luke 6:36-37 ‘Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.’     (complete statement at http://www.uecon.org/Publication.html , towards the bottom of the page).”

The papal nuncio also noted that he would be working with the bishops as they comment on the bill:

“It’s the general policy for nuncios to work together with the bishops conferences on questions of national interest. For that reason I was already in contact with the Secretary General this morning. . . . I’m sure there will be a lot of movement between the bishops’ conference and various institutions of the country. The bill will die if the President does not sign it within thirty days. We pray the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom.”

McLauchlin’s letter to the nuncio follows:

“Your Excellency:

“I am writing to you about a grave matter in terms of human rights abuses towards LGBT persons in Uganda. As you are probably aware, Uganda’s Parliament recently passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life
imprisonment for those considered ‘repeat offenders.’ In addition, this bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality. Once the President of Uganda signs the legislation, it will become law.

“I am gravely concerned that a number of human rights violations will occur if the President signs this bill. Although the
Catholic Hierarchy may not approve of same-sex relationships or a homosexual lifestyle, I believe the Hierarchy would agree
that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Imprisoning someone for life would clearly constitute
an abuse of his/her rights.

“The largest single denomination in Uganda is Roman Catholic. I ask that you use your influence as Papal Nuncio to get the bishops to speak out against this bill. When you speak with Pope Francis please inform him of this situation. I do believe he would want to see the dignity and respect of all people honored and kept sacred.

“I sincerely thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

Last week, when Bondings 2.0 reported the Ugandan news, we asked our readers to write to Pope Francis asking him to speak out against this bill.   We repeat that request now, and we also encourage readers to write to the Archbishop Blume.    His address is:

Archbishop Michael Blume
Apostolic Nunciature
P.O. Box 7177
Chwa II Road, Mbuya Hill
Kampala, UGANDA

email: nuntius@infocom.co.ug

It is so important to write  letters to both the pope and the papal nuncio.  Although Archbishop Blume is optimistic about working with the Ugandan bishops on this matter, it is very important that the pope and the nuncio hear from Catholics.  Though the Ugandan bishops spoke out against the bill in 2009, and although the portion quoted above is hopeful, the rest of their statement presents a very negative attitude toward homosexuality. Last year, there was a report that the bishops had reversed their opposition to the bill, though, because they have not spoken about it clearly, it is difficult to know where they stand currently.  It is hopeful that the papal nuncio supports their 2009 opposition to the bill, an indication that he may feel the same way.   Still, because the Ugandan bishops’ current position is unclear, it’s important that the pope and the papal nuncio hear from Catholics that they want church teaching on human dignity and respect to be upheld in this matter.

New Ways Ministry applauds Brian McLauchlin for his swift, passionate, and courageous correspondence.  We are so proud of his witness. We hope that many of you will use his letter as a model or will craft one of your own to send.  Lesbian and gay Ugandans are counting on us at this time to speak courageously and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill; Pope Francis Must Speak Out Against It

December 20, 2013

Uganda’s Parliament has passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life imprisonment for those considered repeat offenders.   It remains for the president of Uganda to sign it into law.

Sky News reported that the death penalty, which had been in the original draft of the bill in 2010, was not included in the final version.  The bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality.

The news article reports that David Bahati, the lawmaker who initiated the bill, used religious language to praise the bill’s passage.  Bahati stated:

“This is victory for Uganda. I am glad the parliament has voted against evil.”

“Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way.

“It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks.”

Frank Mugisha, the leading Ugandan gay activist, who is a Catholic, criticized the Parliament’s action, saying:

“I am officially illegal.”

Frank Mugisha

Because Catholics are the largest denomination in Uganda, making up over 40% of the population, it is imperative that Pope Francis speak out against this terrible human rights development.   Uganda’s Catholic bishops have been ambivalent about the bill, sometimes supporting it, sometimes speaking weakly against it.  So, it will take Pope Francis’ strong moral leadership to make any kind of impact on this very Catholic nation.  We need Pope Francis’ voice to stop the punitive measures against LGBT people in Nigeria, India, and other nations, too.

While it is a busy time of year for all, please consider taking a moment to write to the Pope to ask him to speak out against this bill.  His mailing address is:

His Holiness Pope Francis,  Apostolic Palace, Vatican City 11020

Please keep Uganda’s gay and lesbian people in your prayers during this holy season.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts

July 25, 2012: Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

August 13, 2012: Former Ambassador to the Vatican Speaks Out Against Ugandan Discrimination

November 14, 2012: Catholic Leaders Must Speak Out Against Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

December 6, 2012: Catholic Coalition Urges Bishops to Speak Out on Uganda’s Controversial Bill


Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Is Postponed

December 14, 2012

The Ugandan Parliament closed its session today without taking action on the controversial proposed “Kill the Gays” bill, which would have imposed severe sentences, including the death penalty, for lesbian and gay people in that African nation.

The Montreal Gazette reports the reaction of one of Uganda’s LGBT leaders:

Frank Mugisha

Frank Mugisha

“ ‘This bill won’t stop us,’ said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), . . . . ‘We will continue to fight until we are free of this legislation. We cannot have oppression forever.’ ”

According to blogger Warren Throckmorton:

“. . . the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will not have a second reading until at least February of next year.”

So the good news is that the bill has been forestalled.  The bad news is that the fight to prevent it from becoming law must still continue.

New Ways Ministry continues to ask you to write to your bishop to ask him to try to persuade the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican to speak against this bill.  The Ugandan bishops, whose record on this bill has been ambiguous, still have on their website a statement against the bill from 2009, when it was first introduced.   Though they oppose the bill, the language and argument of their statement is extremely negative toward homosexuality.

Please continue your prayers and advocacy on this important issue into the new year.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Uganda Anti-Gay Legislation Stirs Student Action at Yale and Notre Dame

November 30, 2012

The Ugandan Parliament will reportedly vote on the “Kill the Gays” bill in coming days and this development has stirred two university communities to take action against the infamous legislation.

In Connecticut, the LGBT Coalition at Yale Divinity School commenced a petition drive calling on Christian religious leadership worldwide to speak publicly against the legislation. The group’s statement addresses Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York among other religious leaders, and reads, in part:

“We urge you to call on your Ugandan counterparts to resist coopting Christian language in support of such a hateful cause. Claiming defense of religious values can never be an adequate justification for the degradation of human life. As we all know, faith in a loving God is wholly inconsistent with support for such cruel and malicious policies…

“Regardless of your place on the spectrum of theological opinion regarding homosexuality, please reject the unconscionable measures proposed in this bill which are antithetical to any conception of Christian morality.”

Alumni of the University of Notre Dame are similarly asking that institution’s administration to condemn the Ugandan bill with their own petition drive. The sponsors cite the University’s deep relationship with Uganda through study abroad programs and commitment to act justly with partner nations when engaging in educational initiatives.

Others, including several students interviewed by campus newspaper, The Observer, speak to the Catholic identity of the University as a driving impetus. Katie Day, class of 2009 and participant in a research project in Uganda, claims she’s “mystified” by the silence of Catholics and especially the praise of Uganda’s Catholic bishops for the bill. She told The Observer:

“‘As the universal Church, Catholic leaders elsewhere in the world need to let the Ugandan Catholic Church know this bill is completely contradictory to our faith’s core beliefs,’ she said. ‘I cannot think of anything more dehumanizing and degrading than this bill.’

“Day said Notre Dame’s mission statement pledges that the University looks to nurture in its students, ‘a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.’

“‘As the students and alumni of Notre Dame stand up to the injustice of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we are fulfilling this part of Notre Dame’s mission,’ Day said.”

If you would like to sign either petition, Bondings 2.0 provides links below, as well as our previous coverage on Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Petitions

Petition to Religious Leaders from the Yale Divinity School LGBT Coalition

Petition to Fr. Jenkins at the University of Notre Dame

Previous Posts

November 14, 2012: Catholic Leaders Must Speak Out Against Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

August 13, 2012:  Former Ambassador to the Vatican Speaks Out Against Ugandan Discrimination

July 25, 2012:  Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

July 25, 2012:  New Report Identifies Catholic Suppport for Africa’s Anti-Gay Movement

June 15, 2012: More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 11. 2012: Uganda’s Catholic Bishops Reverse Their Stance to Support Anti-Homosexual Bill

March 29, 2012: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ‘Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church’

March 4, 2012: When Will the Pope Speak Out, Too?

December 26, 2011: Breaking the Catholic Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations

December 23, 2011: A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks; Cardinal George Should Listen


More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 15, 2012

Earlier this week, we reported on a statement released by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical group which includes Catholic Church officials, in which they expressed support for that country’s notorious legislation which proposes severe criminal penalties for homosexuality.   At that time, there were scant details about the present incarnation of the bill, which in the past had included the death penalty as a punishment.

ReligionDispatches.com has published an essay by Peter Montgomery, their associate editor and Senior Fellow at People For the American Way, which offers a few more details. Montgomery confirms that the news of the UJCC’s support

“is especially noteworthy since Roman Catholic Bishop of Uganda Cyprian Lwanga previously denounced the bill’s death penalty and imprisonment provisions as contrary to ‘a Christian caring approach to this issue,’ though he also said ‘We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values.’ “

You can view video of Lwanga’s earlier (2009) denouncing of the bill here, and you can read the text of that earlier statement here.  Around the same time, the Vatican made oblique reference to the bill in a statement denouncing anti-gay violence to the United Nations, which you can read here.

Montgomery offers some insight into the recent confusion about whether or not the death penalty is included in the current version of the bill which Lwanga and the UJCC now support:

“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was shelved last year, but reintroduced this February by its sponsor, Member of Parliament David Bahati (the same month the government shut down a conference of LGBT activists). Some news reports at the time said the death penalty had been removed from the bill. But Warren Throckmorton noted that the death penalty in fact remained.

“A BBC report quoted Bahati saying the original bill was reintroduced for procedural reasons, and that the death penalty would be removed in committee. ‘However,’ notes a commentary on Care2.com, ‘readers familiar with the legislation’s history will know that such assurances have been made before only for the bill to go to the voting stage intact and without the death sentence deleted.’ ”

Montgomery also notes that the bill still includes:

  • A 7-year jail sentence for consenting adults who have gay sex;
  • A life sentence for people in same-sex marriages;
  • Extradition and prosecution of LGBT Ugandans living abroad;
  • The death penalty for adults who have gay sex with minors or people with disabilities, consensual or no, or who communicate HIV via gay sex, regardless of condom usage or consent;
  • Jail for anyone who doesn’t report suspected gay people within 24 hours;
  • A ban on the “promotion” of homosexuality so open-ended that it would endanger HIV/AIDS treatment and sexual health clinics in the country and could effectively exclude gay people from petitioning the courts by making those representing them liable for criminal action;
  • A mandate to break all ties with international commitments and laws opposing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Since about 42% of Uganda’s population is Catholic (the largest denomination in the country), the influence of Catholicism can be very strong there.

The story of Archbishops Lwanga’s reversal of stance on this bill highlights how dangerous it is when Catholic leaders do not take seriously the church’s condemnation of discrimination and violence against LGBT people.  A commenter on Twitter noted that perhaps Lwanga’s support may be intended to prevent the more draconian aspects of the bill. Even if that were the case, such an ambiguous position is irresponsible in such a highly volatile and dangerous political situation.  Moreover,  Lwanga’s “defense of traditional family and values” rhetoric certainly makes it difficult to interpret his message in a way that is other than anti-gay.

When it comes to condemning same-sex relationships and marriage equality proposals, Catholic bishops often claim that they must be clear, strong, and consistent in the denouncements.  Why doesn’t the same clarity, strength, and consistency apply to their denouncements of proposed legislation which is such a gross violation of the human rights of LGBT people?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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