Fr. Musaala, man in eye of the storm

Fr. Musaala speaks during an interview in Kampala yesterday. He says his aim was to help deal with issues of sex crimes and child abuse by Catholic clerics. PHOTO BY REBECCA VASSIE

What you need to know:

The celibate has previously been accused of homosexuality although not proved and is criticised for being secular.

The Rev. Fr. Anthony Musaala has been described by one journalist as, “jolly and social”, one man whose knack for speaking his mind can seldom go unnoticed.

It is a true statement. Only last year when former Forum for Democratic Change leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, was arrested at the height of the walk-to-work protests, he openly condemned the manner and spirit of the arrest.
Then, speaking to the press as an eye witness, he weighed in his opinion: “This is an infringement of people’s rights and of the rights of our brother. I am going to pray so that God intervenes ... We should be ready to fight for our freedoms. Our government should understand that this country is for all of us.”

This, he said at the heat of the moment, when appearing to be siding with people that the State perceived as planning to make Uganda ungovernable, could easily come along with consequences. But speak his mind, he did.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the Father wrote a letter, titled ‘An open letter to bishops, priests and laity: The failure of celibate chastity among diocesan priests’.

The letter
In the letter, he said: “It is an open secret that many Catholic priests and some bishops, in Uganda and elsewhere, no longer live celibate chastity.” This and other statements are presumably what have got Fr Musaala suspended.

It is not the first time though, that the Father has been in the limelight.

Two years into the 21st century, Uganda had no known priest in the gospel music world. Those who gave it a shot stuck to the conventional, hymnal and sermonic music of the church.

However, the soft spoken church minister, serving under the Rubaga Cathedral jurisdiction, ventured into what seemed a lonely and daring walk.

Before we knew it, he was a household name doing a cocktail of music ranging from ragga to RnB.

As his star rose, with a good many of his songs receiving impressive radio and television air play, some in the church condemned him for, “desecrating the robes which are meant for the altar.”

His response was to sing more and capture a wider audience. Some of his songs, like Endongo ya yesu, Tuli mu lugendo, Jesus is coming began to play in top night clubs and in 2005, he scooped the Pearl of Africa Best Gospel Artiste Award, thanks to his song, Tusimbe mu kisinde which was voted Best Song of the Year, along with his dance group, Gospel Groovers emerging Best Gospel Music Group.

As a cheerful man, who is in touch with the aspirations and tastes of the youth, it is evident in his videos, many of which have registered more than 13,000 views on the website, YouTube (a tall order by average Ugandan standards).

You will see him clad in neat black or white robes, swing his fairly thin body in any and every direction, throw his legs in the air and sway his hands. And this does not come as an accident; it has everything to do with the priest’s conviction.

“Society has changed drastically, which is why we must devise unconventional means of evangelising,” he said in a newspaper interview.

Throughout that time, the Father had a following. He was lauded by many and liked by even many more.

But in 2009, that bubble sort of burst. Musaala had a setback when investigations into allegations of homosexuality cropped up.
The allegations were never really proved either by the said investigations or his accusers.

In a way, a life that hangs in the balance of controversy and scandal seems to overshadow the other part of the priest in his late 50s.

Some prefer not to listen to what has been said about him and stick to Musala the, “charismatic, generous and down to earth preacher and gospel artiste.”

Perhaps, it is doing what he does that makes Fr Musaala, alluded to as, “a secular progressive” by KFM’s D’Mighty Breakfast host, Roger Mugisha, on Wednesday.

Whether the “secular progressive” in him will be his downfall or not remains to be seen.