As the voice of Uganda's gay community, Frank Mugisha has met scores of dignitaries from all around the world while fighting for equality. There's one he hasn’t met yet: the pope.
As a Catholic, he often feels conflicted about his religion's stance on his homosexuality—he holds on to his faith, but it’s not easy, said the 32-year-old, who is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, an NGO defending LGBT rights.
Mugisha had high hopes ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Uganda this weekend, a stop on the pontiff’s first visit to Africa, a five-day trip that included stops in Kenya and the Central African Republic. Along with other gay rights activists, he had requested an audience with the pope weeks ago but didn’t get one before the pope flew out of Uganda Monday. Instead, he had watched live broadcasts as hundreds of thousands flocked to see Pope Francis in person over the weekend and said he was not surprised he wasn’t granted a private papal meeting.
"But I think the Vatican missed the opportunity to start a conversation on protecting LGBT persons and addressing the critical issues of homophobia, [and what's] acceptable in the church," said Mugisha.
Silence. Silence — you are "included," but we cannot and will not call your name — speaks very powerfully, doesn't?
Silence. We have to address real problems. You are included as we talk about social justice and human rights, but our focus has to be, after all, on the real problems that demand the church's attention.
Not on you and your unreal problems.
Every lay Catholic and every Catholic journal now celebrating Pope Francis's brilliant political strategizing, his canny way of getting his message across, is participating in this strategy of silence which pretends that LGBT human beings and their problems — e.g., having Christian people discuss the feasibility of executing them — do not exist, are not worth attention.
That LGBT people are not worth even naming, as social justice and human rights are under discussion . . . .
If nothing else, this should give LGBT Catholics a helpful, eye-opening message, on the heels of a synod about the family that could not bring itself to mention LGBT human beings, about where they belong in the Catholic church, even under the "liberal" papacy of Francis and even in the thinking of "liberal" Catholic journals supporting Francis: they literally belong nowhere. They have no place in the Catholic church. It is a club for heterosexual human beings, according privileged status to heterosexual (or pretend-heterosexual) males.
In the Catholic club, LGBT human beings are not even worth mentioning as matters of social justice and human rights are discussed. Not even when they are susceptible to real violence and the possiiblity of their execution in Christian nations is being discussed by Christian leaders . . . .
Asking LGBT people to keep accepting all of this as some kind of sacrifical price they're expected to pay — the price of silence and invisibility — in order to help promote some "liberal" Catholic vision that cannot even acknowledge their existence or call them by name: what an act of colossal cruelty on the part of people who claim to stand on the side of social justice and human rights. What kind of moral system produces such monstrous lack of moral insight coupled with smug, self-congratulatory belief in one's own righteousness, I ask myself?
It's surely not one I want to have any part of.
The photo is from Frank Mugisha's Twitter page.