John Allen Jr. warns of a bill in Uganda that would further criminalize homosexuality and even introduce the death penalty for homosexuals under certain circumstances. Part of the bill includes encouraging turning in homosexuals to the government. He goes on to say:
To date, there’s been little public comment from Uganda’s Catholic leadership.
In some ways, the bishops are between a rock and a hard place. They may not like the harsher elements of the bill, but they also share the suspicion that Western forces are trying to cram a liberal social agenda down Africa’s throat, and they don’t want to discourage efforts to defend African values. (In truth, bishops across Africa feel this way, including many seen in the West as “liberal” on matters such as the environment, trading relationships and armed conflict. Assertion of a Western campaign to subvert Africa’s family values loomed large during the recent Synod for Africa in Rome.) [reference]
I don’t agree with the rock and a hard place analogy. I see no reason the Uganda bishops can’t talk about this issue. As then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote and as John Allen Jr. notes persons with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” The bishops can certainly protest on these grounds while also stating that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” It certainly would not be Western liberal pressure to preach the truth which must be preached in and out of season even if misinterpreted by some.
John Allen Jr. also notes it is difficult to determine the actual chances the bill has of going through. Maybe the bishops there see this as not going through, but they should be speaking up regardless about Catholic teaching on this subject.
The question facing Ugandan Catholics is how to apply those principles to the debate sparked by Bahati’s bill. One thing seems clear: Whatever stand they take has to be their own choice. Efforts from the West to force their hand are likely to be counter-productive, as the Anglican reaction illustrates.
Historically, Africa’s bishops and other Catholic leaders haven’t had a particularly high global profile. From time to time they might complain about international neglect, but they came to accept it as the way of the world. Today, however, demographic change has turned the Catholic church upside down, putting a global spotlight on Africa.
Now that they have the world’s attention, the question is: What will Catholic leaders in Uganda have to say?
“Whatever stand they take has to be their own choice.” Sounds pretty relativistic to me. I don’t see what other possible stand could be taken. If they decide to say nothing and the bill has a good chance of success I can hardly see that as nothing but failing to do good and to allow unjust persecution.
There is some irony here of this being published in the National Catholic Reporter where John Allen Jr. certainly seems to want to bishops to speak up while the rest of the staff wants the bishops to shut up when it comes to health care here in the states.
Hat Tip Fr. Ray Blake