Pope Francis’ representative to Uganda has expressed his shock at lawmakers passing a bill that would see people imprisoned for life for having gay sex, reiterating the church’s opposition to the bill.
Papal Nuncio to Uganda Archbishop Michael Blume was written to by Divine Word Missionaries Brother Brian McLauchlin on 21 December, asking him to speak to Catholic bishops in the country about the law’s potential to abuse people’s human rights.
‘I am writing to you about a grave matter in terms of human rights abuses towards LGBT persons in Uganda,’ McLauchlin wrote.
‘Uganda’s Parliament recently passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life imprisonment for those considered “repeat offenders.” In addition, this bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality. Once the President of Uganda signs the legislation, it will become law.
‘I am gravely concerned that a number of human rights violations will occur if the President signs this bill. Although the Catholic Hierarchy may not approve of same-sex relationships or a homosexual lifestyle, I believe the Hierarchy would agree that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Imprisoning someone for life would clearly constitute an abuse of his/her rights.’
McLauchlin urged that Catholics use their influence in Uganda to make sure the bill does not become law.
‘The largest single denomination in Uganda is Roman Catholic,’ McLauchlin wrote.
‘I ask that you use your influence as Papal Nuncio to get the bishops to speak out against this bill. When you speak with Pope Francis please inform him of this situation. I do believe he would want to see the dignity and respect of all people honored and kept sacred.’
Archbishop Blume wrote back to McLauchlin the same day, saying he was indeed concerned by the bill and reiterating the Catholic Church’s opposition to it.
‘It was only this morning that I found out about the action of the Parliament,’ Blume wrote.
‘In fact the whole business caught many of us, including the bishops’ conference, by surprise as there had been no hints of it in the press nor on the site of the Parliament, which indicates legislation being discussed … That the Prime Minister speaks about further consultation needed is something important to note.
‘It’s the general policy for nuncios to work together with the bishops conferences on questions of national interest. For that reason I was already in contact with the Secretary General this morning … I’m sure there will be a lot of movement between the bishops’ conference and various institutions of the country. The bill will die if the President does not sign it within thirty days. We pray the Holy Spirit ... give him wisdom.’
Archbishop Blume directed McLauchlin to a statement released by Uganda’s Catholic bishops in 2009 when the bill was first proposed.
‘The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue,’ the bishops wrote in 2009.
‘The targeting of the sinner, not the sin, is the core flaw of the proposed Bill. The introduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for homosexual acts targets people rather than seeking to counsel and to reach out in compassion to those who need conversion, repentance, support, and hope.’
The bishops then quoted Luke 6:36-37, which says ‘Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.’
Blume and McLauchlin’s correspondence on the issue was made public by New Way Ministries – an LGBTI affirming Catholic group.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has so far delayed signing the bill. However he is under mounting pressure from lawmakers and religious leaders to allow the bill to become law.