A Ugandan Catholic priest who has been barred from celebrating the sacraments is calling for a worldwide refugee program for LGBT people fleeing discrimination and violence in their home countries, as he witnesses hundreds of such Ugandan individuals fleeing across the border to Kenya.
Father Anthony Musaala, a priest from the Ugandan capital of Kampala, was speaking at an LGBT ministry forum at All Saints Catholic Parish, Syracuse, New York. A Religion News Service story published on The Christian Century website said Musaala spoke of rapes, evictions, beatings, and job losses for people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or because they support LGBT people.
Musaala called the exiles “sexual refugees,” and said he recently met with United Nations officials to discuss ways to support those who flee their countries. For Ugandans who go to Kenya, life is not that much better, Musaala observed. One reason is that Kenya already is housing 650,000 refugees from other African nations, but another reason is the Ugandans’ LGBT status. The priest noted:
“When their status is revealed, the police are quite brutal.”
Unfortunately, Musaala’s work is not supported by his archdiocese. The news report explained a bit of his background and experience with church officials:
“He was ordained in 1994 in the Archdiocese of Kampala and began ministering to gay and lesbian and people in 1999. His archbishop considered that work ‘not in step with the church,’ Musaala said.
“In March 2013, Musaala wrote a paper challenging priestly celibacy and criticizing African priests who abuse minors or father children and abandon them. His archbishop, Cyprian Lwanga, said the paper ‘damages the good morals of the Catholic believers and faults the church’s teaching.’ He suspended Musaala indefinitely from priestly duties, which means the priest cannot celebrate the sacraments. . . .
“Musaala now works with Ark Communes, which creates safe housing communities for LGBT people in Kenya, and he used his talk as an occasion to ask for donations for the organization.”
The record of Catholic officials in Africa supporting anti-LGBT legislation in Africa is shameful. While there have been a few who have spoken up courageously to defend human rights, the great number are often on the side of repressive lawmakers.
Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest who works for Political Research Associates, has examined how the role of African Catholic leaders and of political leaders here in the U.S. have had in anti-LGBT measures in Africa. In his report entitled, Kaoma stated:
“Much blame has been placed on the shoulders of conservative American evangelicals, but U.S. Roman Catholic right-wing groups are equally guilty of exporting homophobia and sexism to Africa. This was illustrated in February 2015, when Roman Catholic Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of the Diocese of Oyo in Nigeria claimed that Nigeria’s failure to rescue the kidnapped girls (the Chibok girls taken by the Islamist group Boko Haram) was due to lack of support from the Obama administration, resulting from its opposition to an anti-LGBTI law passed in Nigeria in 2014. While the media cited Bishop Badejo for this statement, the claim was originally made by a U.S. conservative: Rep. Steve Stockman, who in August 2014 argued, ‘We have information that would help the Nigerian military take back their country and get back those girls. The mistake on our side—the United States’ side—is that we have laws preventing us from sharing that information with the Nigerian military. And one of the reasons is that we don’t like some of the social policy of the Nigerian government.’
“The passage of Nigeria’s 2014 anti-LGBTQI law, which applies a 14-year jail sentence for same-sex marriages and prohibits advocacy of sexual minorities’ rights, was celebrated by Nigerian Roman Catholic Bishops. The bishops commended the government for its ‘courageous and wise decision’ to fight ‘the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices that have continued to debase the purpose of God for man in the area of creation and morality, in their own countries.’ Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama went as far as saying ‘thank God that this bill was passed.’ The failure of the Vatican to oppose or counter such statements implies approval; its hide-and-seek game essentially sanctions the persecution of sexual minorities in Africa and other parts of the world.”
Kaoma has called on Pope Francis to use his platform at the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September to speak out for the human rights of LGBT people. Kaoma stated:
“As the World Meeting of Families draws near in Philadelphia, human rights advocates anxiously await a public statement from Pope Francis on human sexuality. If the event centers on the definition of ‘family values’ promoted by U.S. Roman Catholic and evangelical conservatives, then the Pope’s visit will further sanction the demonization, scapegoating, and persecution of LGBTQI individuals around the world. U.S. conservatives—from lesser-known characters like Matt McLaughlin and Scott Lively to big name leaders like Franklin Graham and Rick Warren—are awaiting the Pope’s visit to advance their global anti-human rights agenda.
“The Pope’s upcoming visit to the U.S. provides another opportunity for the advancement of human rights for all people. The persecution, violence, and trauma caused by religiously sanctioned homophobia demands a statement from Pope Francis on LGBTQI rights. His words have the potential to either sanction continuous violence, rape, criminalization, persecution, and killings—or bring long-awaited and desperately needed acceptance of sexual minorities across the globe.”
New Ways Ministry has been calling on the pope to speak out on human rights abuses against LGBT people for a while now. Perhaps it is time that we revive our #PopeSpeakOut campaign where we asked people to tweet to Pope Francis messages which ask him to speak out against repressive and discriminatory laws. Find out more by clicking here. Please send a tweet today!
Finally, many thanks to All Saints Catholic Church for hosting Fr. Musaala’s talk. Their example shows how important it is to have LGBT ministries in Catholic parishes. New Ways Ministry is proud to include them on our gay-friendly parish list.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry