Matt Ford of The Atlantic poses a question on the minds of many human rights activists: will Pope Francis speak out against the harsh anti-gay law, and increasingly homophobic tenor of public life in Uganda?
He asks that question while examining how anti-gay ideology has become so powerful in Uganda politics and exploring how the legacy of Uganda’s Christian martyrs like St. Charles Lwanga are being used to advance homophobia.
When the Anti-Homosexuality Act was first proposed in 2009, [Catholic] Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga said it was “at odds with the core values” of Christianity. Pope Benedict XVI spoke out against the legislation as well, stating that he was “opposed to ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay men and lesbians.” Privately, Vatican officials told U.S. diplomats at the time that they opposed Uganda’s bill and the criminalization of homosexuality in general.
But when a similar bill came before parliament last year, Ugandan clerics came out forcefully in favor of it. Stanley Ntagali, the archbishop of Uganda’s Anglican Church, and Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, the archbishop of the country’s Orthodox Church, both supported the final version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. (Uganda’s Anglican Church had pushed for the death penalty to be removed from the initial bill in 2009; the law signed by Museveni last month limited punishment to life imprisonment.) “The Lord has the power to help us Ugandans to overcome the battle against homosexuality,” Ntagali told the crowd at Monday’s rally in favor of the bill.
Uganda’s Catholic conference of bishops, for its part, formally “reserved judgment” on the newest version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, but emphasized its opposition to homosexuality nonetheless. A 2012 pastoral letter from the conference casts homosexuality, along with polygamy and witchcraft, as one of many forces that undermine the stability of Ugandan families[.]
As always, it is worth remembering that the Anglican Church in North America, which heaped criticism on the Episcopal Church for consecrating an openly gay bishop and then broke away to start its own faux-Anglican denomination, has said little, if anything on the Anglican Church of Uganda’s support of the harsh anti-gay law, or the subsequent violence against LGBT people.