Wednesday, February 26, 2014

America Editorial Calls on Catholics to Oppose Anti-Gay Legislation in Nigeria, Uganda, Etc.

In its latest editorial, the Jesuit magazine America notes that though Pope Francis's "Who am I to judge?" has offered a "fresh embodiment" of Catholic teaching that gay people are to treated with sensitivity, respect, and compassion, nonetheless "[t]ragically, we live in a world where people are not only judged harshly for their sexual orientation but are also targeted and punished for it." And then the editorial goes on to discuss the recent decision of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to sign into law a bill that criminalizes homosexuality.

As the editorial notes, laws of the sort that the Ugandan president just signed have resulted in "a wave of violence" in Nigeria, where a similar law was promulgated recently. America's editors find it particularly troubling that Uganda is 40% Catholic, and that its Uganda Joint Christian Council, which includes Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox bishops, supports the new legislation. As the editorial notes, in Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos has praised President Goodluck Jonathan for his “courageous and wise decision” to sign into law the bill criminalizing homosexuality in that country.

The editorial concludes by noting the recent statement of the Catholic bishops of South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland calling on African Catholics to "sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalizing homosexuals," and then it states:

We add our voice to this swelling chorus. Pope Francis has described gay people as "socially wounded" because "they feel like the church has always condemned them." Catholics must examine how we contribute, perhaps even inadvertently, to a culture of fear and shame. In a field hospital after battle, a basic responsibility of the caregivers is to "do no harm." The church must oppose violence against gay persons and should strongly advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality. No one should be subject to a criminal penalty simply for being gay. If laws like these do not constitute the "unjust discrimination" against gay people that the church rightly denounces, then what possibly could?

In Uganda, a portent of things to come: the day after Museveni signed the ugly new legislation into law, the Ugandan newspaper the Red Pepper published a list of the "top 200" homosexuals in the country. It will only get worse.

In a nation 40% of whose citizens are Catholic--about the same proportion of Catholics found in Germany as the Nazis rose to power . . . .

(I'm very grateful to Roberta Desalle for bringing this America editorial to my attention.)

P.S. Box Turtle Bulletin is making available outstanding resources to understand what's happening in Uganda right now--if you can stomach reading/watching: these include video coverage of the history of the anti-gay bill by Ugandan television; video coverage of the notoriously anti-gay pastors Martin Ssempa and Michael Kyazze celebrating the new bill; video coverage of a debate about the bill (again with Ssempa) on Ugandan television as the bill was signed into law; Ugandan television coverage of the bill's signing; and Museveni speaking to reporters after signing the bill.

The video at the head of the posting: British actor Stephen Fry speaking with Craig Ferguson on the CBS "Late, Late Show." Fry recounts to Ferguson a conversation with former Catholic priest Simon Lokodo, Minister of Ethics and Integrity, who told him that child rape in Uganda, which is epidemic, is "the right kind of child rape." Because it involves men raping girls. See Michael Stone about this interview.

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