Bishop says sorry to sexual abuse victims

Monday April 1 2013

The Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, with Vice President Edward Ssekandi

The Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, with Vice President Edward Ssekandi shortly after Easter prayers at Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala yesterday. Archbishop Lwanga appealed to the government to change the name of the Marriage and Divorce Bill to Marriage and Family Bill. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE. 

By TABU BUTAGIRA

Some Catholic priests in Uganda are involved in sexual liaisons contrary to their celibacy vow and others have in the process secretly begotten children, a senior church official has admitted.

Speaking on Holy Saturday, Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, who about a fortnight ago suspended Fr Anthony Musaala for expressing similar sentiments, unequivocally apologised to the victims.

“It’s sad that there has been some misbehaving by some as alleged,” he said, “we apologise to [those] who may have fallen victims of what happened, but I assure you that the church is doing its duty and don’t give up hope.”

The otherwise controversial subject of sexual shenanigans by priests, most of them allegedly clothed from sanction by their superiors, has rattled the Catholic Church in the West, resulting in a plethora of lawsuits and public apologies.

Ugandans were known to discuss such exploits only in private until mid-last month when Fr. Musaala’s March 12, 2013 dossier on “failure of celibate chastity among diocesan priests” leaked, offering an arresting insider’s perspective, which has since provoked countrywide debate.

In the missive, Fr. Musaala cited five cases – including one of a priest in Kampala Archdiocese celebrating mass with his son he calls nephew on the pulpit as an Altar Boy - to peel the layer off what he called hypocrisy in the church, and resurrecting the debate on allowing priests to marry.

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The priest disclosed that one of his friends sired by a White Father 58 years ago is suffering an identity crisis, even when he received “minimum compensation” from him. The mother was not paid.

In another case, Fr. Musaala noted that a colleague snatched from his youth group a needy girl at Old Kampala, who was seeking school fees, and started a family with her. Another woman appearing for confession reported that the priest instead fondled her, according to Fr. Musaala, who alleges a Brother sodomised him at 16 while he was still a secondary school student.

“Unfortunately, there is an ominous unhealthy conspiracy of silence about these matters among the Ugandan clergy and faithful alike…,” he wrote. “Thus the unnecessary and unpalatable deception about celibate priests; that they are chaste when they are not, is clearly contradicted by what is on the ground. The deception is of course not tenable for much longer.”

In his Saturday rejoinder, the most comprehensive and penitent so far, Archbishop Lwanga said anecdotes about sexual exploits by some priests is “correct”, but their indiscretions should not be generalised as being condoned by the Catholic Church as an institution.

“Nobody commits a sin on behalf of an institution, he said, “I would like to tell everybody that it is sad when people commit sins. Jesus Christ loved the sinners, but not the sin.”

He took issue with Fr. Musaala for raising his concerns in the wrong forum – Internet and media - instead of cascading them through internal Church structures.

Fr. Musaala has denied publishing the document. He recently said on NTV’s flagship talk show, On-The-Spot, that a journalist whom he requested to edit his dossier betrayed his confidence and leaked its contents online from where the media picked it.

Fr. Musaala was in 2009 investigated for allegedly being gay, but whatever findings of that inquiry have not been made public.

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com

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