Ugandan Bishops Support Anti-Gay Law, While Others Call Pope to Condemn It

Over the past few weeks, news about Catholic reaction to Uganda’s newly-enacted anti-gay law has shown how insidious homophobia can be within a culture.  The most recent story that caught my attention because is horrific, if true.  I make the qualification “if true” because I have only seen one report about it, which is from an independent blogger, not a professional news source.

Bishop Charles Wamika

The O-blog-dee-O-blog-da site, maintained by Melanie Nathan, a respected lawyer, LGBT advocate, and journalist, reports  that on Easter Sunday, Bishop Charles Wamika of the Jinja Diocese in Uganda

“called for a blessing for Uganda’s Christians who worked so hard to ‘free the land of gays.’  The Bishop also asked for parents to hand over their gay children to authorities, so they would be rewarded in heaven.”

Nathan cites an anonymous Ugandan gay man in hiding with reporting on Wamika’s statements.

A Ugandan newspaper, The Daily Monitor did not mention Wamika in its report of Easter Sunday messages, but it did note that other Catholic bishops in that country also supported the new anti-gay law on Easter Sunday.  The paper reported on the statement of Bishop Augustine Salimo of the Sebei Diocese:

In reference to the Anti-Homosexual Act, he also urged the government not to back down but to continue the right path pursued to protect values of Ugandans.

And a third bishop also praised the new law:

“In Tororo District, Bishop Emmanuel Obbo, the Archbishop of Tororo Archdiocese, urged every citizen who supported the anti-homosexuality law to lay down greed, corruption and ‘put them to death and let generosity rise up within us and flow out in abundance.

“ ‘In Christ, we have victory over dysfunctional relationships, bad habits, painful experiences, sexual temptation and devastating circumstances,’ he said.”

These statements show that Uganda’s bishops’ minds have been clouded by homophobia to the point that they ignore basic Catholic teaching on the human dignity of all persons–including towards LGBT people.

Catholic hospitals in Uganda are maintaining a non-discrimination policy toward lesbian and gay people, The Observer reported, though the attitude of the hospital’s administrator indicates a negative bias against them.  The news story stated:

“Dr Sam Orach, the executive secretary of Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau (UCMB), yesterday said although AHA [Anti-Homosexuality Act] criminalises homosexuality, which is also considered a sin in the Church, homosexuals would not be locked out of Catholic hospitals.

“ ‘In the current context of the aftermath of the anti-homosexuality law, no health worker in our facilities has expressed concern that service provision is being affected. That is what we believe as UCMB. We equate this to the post-abortion care we provide to a sick woman who has otherwise criminally and immorally committed abortion.

“We distinguish between a crime or a sin and the disease. Catholic health services are, therefore, non- discriminatory,’ Orach said at the opening of UCMB’s hospital managers’ workshop in Kampala.”

Meanwhile, around the globe, more and more commentators have been calling upon Pope Francis to make a clear statement condemning Uganda’s law and other laws like it that have been appearing in other countries.

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson cited the #PopeSpeakOut campaign as a way to encourage the pope to make a statement against these laws.  Manson wrote:

“Anti-homosexuality legislation is quickly becoming a global threat to human dignity. These laws do not simply violate human rights; they foster a climate of rage, scapegoating, and violence against LGBT people.

“This situation brings to the forefront the ongoing debate among progressive Catholics about the efficacy of the Pope Francis’ kinder, gentler papacy. Some believe Francis’ expressions of compassion will eventually lead to greater inclusion for LGBT Catholics while others argue that Francis’ words are not substantive enough to amount to real change.

“These repressive laws offer an opportunity for the pope’s now-legendary ‘Who am I to judge?’ comment to actually translate into action. No one is asking Pope Francis to change doctrine or create a revolution. We are only asking him to honor the catechism’s teaching that gays and lesbians should be ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’ “

And in Australia, the head of Rainbow Sash, a Catholic LGBT organization, last week called on Pope Francis to use Easter as the occasion to speak out against anti-LGBT laws. The Star Observer quotes Michael Kelly as saying:

“The whole experience of Easter is about moving from slavery to freedom for persecuted people.

“It would be the perfect time for Pope Francis to make a statement that could be heard around the world about justice for people being persecuted right now in Africa. . . .”

“You can see the seeds of what could be genocide so people abroad have to stand up.”

Ugandan religious leaders thank President Museveni (far right) for signing the nation’s anti-gay law. Catholic Archbishop Charles Lwanga stands next to Museveni.

Writing in The Atlantic Matt Ford pointed out that Arcbhisop Charles Lwanga of Kampala, the head of the Catholic Church in Uganda, offered a closing prayer at a rally staged by the country’s President Yoweri Museveni to celebrate the signing of the anti-gay law. Many other national religious leaders took part in the event, even giving a plaque to the president to thank him for support of the law.

Yet, Ford also notes that, significantly, Pope Francis has turned down an invitation to visit Uganda to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs, who resisted a native king’s homosexual advances.   Perhaps it was good that Pope Francis rejected the invitation to the event since it could easily have been used to suggest his support for the new law.  But, as Ford points out, Francis can not be silent forever:

“This time around, it seems, Pope Francis is not taking Uganda’s Catholic leaders up on their invitation to visit the shrine—at least not yet. But regardless of whether he travels to the country, will he take a public position on the debate over homosexuality in Uganda—and similar debates taking place elsewhere in the world?

“The pontiff’s tenure, now in its second year, has so far been characterized by two themes: greater compassion on social issues in the developed world, and greater outreach to and inclusion of the developing world. Until now, these goals have rarely clashed. How he bridges the divide between the two in Uganda, if he chooses to try, will be one of the great challenges of his papacy.”

You can help urge Pope Francis to speak out by participating in the #PopeSpeakOut campaign.  Send him an email or a tweet today!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



17 thoughts on “Ugandan Bishops Support Anti-Gay Law, While Others Call Pope to Condemn It

  1. Charles Bolser April 23, 2014 / 8:24 pm

    I would hope that some day in the not too distant future, we might realize that bishops and priests are human beings – not infallible teachers nor necessarily leaders of any great wisdom or insight. They are like most of us a product of our own times and places – of our education and cultural formation. They are generally as blind as the rest of us – but don’t realize how blind they are. They are similar to most government and/or institutional leaders very tightly focused and interested in hanging on to their position of authority or prestige
    that they hold so dear. We keep looking for wisdom figures to follow, but forget that the living Word of God is right in front of us and we really don’t need someone to tell us what that Word conveys. When we confuse the Word of God with the so called wisdom of the culture – we get lost in the maze. The culture does carry some wisdom but it also carries a lot of baggage that blinds us and leads us into prejudice, fear, hatred, and violence. It separates and compares and the results are much like those of Cain and Able.

  2. Ruari McCallion April 24, 2014 / 9:54 am

    “Respected” Lawyer? She disseminates unfounded allegations and gets very angry when you ask her to substantiate them – or even provide corroboration. I have been in touch with the ‘accused’ and put these allegations to him – something Ms Nathan did not do. He has replied and come up with a couple of interesting facts in his rebuttal. I have sent the following post to the person who originally posted this mendacious poison:

    Dear Ms Nathan

    I have received a reply from Bp Wamika.

    You and your readers might be interested to learn that:

    There is no St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Church in Jinja Diocese.

    The nearest facility of that name is in Lusaka, Zambia, which is over 2500km away. That’s more than 1600 miles. And in both another country and a different diocese.

    Bp Wamika did not deliver a sermon at Easter Sunday Mass, anywhere.

    The person who did deliver the homily at the cathedral made no reference to gays at all – Bp Wamika was very clear about that.

    So – your ‘witnesses’ appear to have been in an empty field, as the church they claimed they attended does not exist.

    Whoever they heard, it was not the man they accused, as he did not deliver a sermon last Sunday.

    Whatever they heard, it had nothing to do with gays as the subject was not mentioned.

    One wonders where actually were they and what were they smoking? Maybe the voices in their heads told them to do it? (Assuming they exist, of course).

  3. Ruari McCallion April 24, 2014 / 10:01 am

    Exodus 20:16, people.

  4. RuarI McCalion. August 4, 2014 / 3:47 am

    In what way were these measures “implicitly supported” by the Catholic bishops? I know they were supported by other denominations but the a Catholic bishops explicitly opposed them. That is, they spoke out AGAINST them.

    But what does truth matter when you are on a witch hunt?

    • newwaysministryblog August 4, 2014 / 10:07 am

      Not a witch hunt. Read the post. There are several examples of explicit support for the law from the Catholic bishop of Uganda. When the bill contained the death penalty, the bishops opposed it. When the death penalty provision was removed, they said nothing, thus, offering implicit support. When the bill was made into law, they said nothing for a long time, and then came these statements of support.

      • Ruari McCallion August 4, 2014 / 10:17 am

        “There are several examples of explicit support for the law from the Catholic bishop of Uganda.”
        “When the bill contained the death penalty, the bishops opposed it.”
        “When the death penalty provision was removed, they said nothing,”

        This is self-contradictory; all three of these statements cannot be true.

        (I’ll give you a clue: the middle one is true)

        “When the bill was made into law…then came these statements of support.”

        I have already proved that there have been no statements of support. The person whose photo you have at the top of this column did not say anything in support – in fact, he said nothing at all on Easter Sunday, as has been established. When he has spoken, it has been against the extreme penalties and against creating an atmosphere of fear.

        Melanie Nathan is a liar, about herself, her family and this issue, and you are spreading her mendacity.

        However, as I said – what does truth matter when you are on a witch-hunt?

      • newwaysministryblog August 4, 2014 / 10:48 am

        The statements are not contradictory. They show that the bishops had different opinions at different times.

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