Catholic bishops oppose gays Bill

Tuesday January 12 2010

By Rodney Muhumuza

The titular head of the Catholic Church in Uganda has weighed in on the proposed anti-homosexuality law, saying he rejects it because it is “at odds with the core values” of Christians. But while Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga’s opposition to the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill is based on compassion, the cleric retains the view that homosexuality is immoral and violates God’s will. “The Bible says homosexuality is strictly forbidden,” Dr Lwanga said in a statement made public yesterday.

“However, the Church equally teaches the Christian message of respect, compassion, and sensitivity. The Church has always asked its followers to hate the sin but to love the sinner… In our view, the proposed [law] is not necessary considering that acts of sodomy are already condemned in the Penal Code.”

The cleric offers a solution that homosexuals normally find unpleasant, too: rehabilitation. “The proposed (law) does not contain clauses encouraging homosexuals to be rehabilitated,” the statement said. “As (the) Catholic Church, we have a mission to reach out to all of the people of God. As Christ showed, no one is beyond God’s mercy and love.”
Still, in a country where homosexuality is taboo and where many preachers have condemned gays, Dr Lwanga’s comments will be seen as unlikely opposition to a piece of legislation that proposes death or life imprisonment for gay people.

Essentially, however, Dr Lwanga’s views run counter to the position of Uganda’s Anglican community, whose leaders have supported the proposed law but opposed the death penalty, and alienate junior priests who have expressed contrary views. In Uganda’s Pentecostal community, where pastors like Martin Ssempa have supported the proposed law in its current shape, homophobia is even more intense.

Mr Bahati, who says he wants to protect traditional family values, denies being in a hate campaign. But critics say he lacks evidence to back the claims that inspired him to propose such a tough law. In his statement, Dr Lwanga criticised the part in Mr Bahati’s proposal that would punish those who fail to report homosexuals to the authorities.

President Museveni has not spoken out on the subject, although a recent report, quoting US officials, said he had assured the Obama White House of his intention to veto the proposed law.