A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks; Cardinal George Should Listen
Amid the hubbub of Cardinal George’s insensitive comments yesterday comparing the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan, a New York Times op-ed column by a gay Catholic man from Uganda was overlooked.
Frank Mugisha, who is the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, wrote movingly about the oppression against LGBT people which exists in this African nation whose population is almost 42% Catholic–the largest denomination in the country.
As you may be aware, in 2009, the Ugandan government tried to institute the death penalty for people who are lesbian or gay. Though the bill was tabled, it has been revived recently. Even if the bill is not passed, its revival has already caused damage, Mugisha explains:
“. . .the bill’s influence has been felt in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, all of which have recently stepped up enforcement of anti-gay laws or moved to pass new legislation that would criminalize love between people of the same sex.”
A common argument to support anti-gay repression in Africa has been that homosexuality is an import from the West. Mugisha turns that argument on its head:
“Many Africans believe that homosexuality is an import from the West, and ironically they invoke religious beliefs and colonial-era laws that are foreign to our continent to persecute us.
“The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia.”
It is bad enough that Catholic leaders have not spoken forcefully against this obvious right to life issue. What makes matters worse, however, is that the verbal abuse exemplified by Cardinal George’s comments the other day fuel the homophobia that leads to such hateful and violent attitudes.
Cardinal George, and other Catholic leaders, could learn a lot from Frank Mugisha.
At the close of his essay, Mr. Mugisha calls on world leaders to stand with LGBT Ugandans
“Political leaders like Mrs. Clinton and religious leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu are willing to publicly state that being gay is just one of many expressions of what it means to be human. I call on other leaders — particularly my African-American brothers and sisters in politics, entertainment and religious communities — to come to Uganda, to stand with me and my fellow advocates, to help dispel harmful myths perpetuated by ignorance and hate. The lives of many are on the line.”
Cardinal George should go to Uganda.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
I am sorry for the Catholic attitude towards homosexuality and homosexuals…i really should amend that statement to say “of some Catholics and some Catholic clergy”. There are many in the Church that are supportive but they are, unfortunately, not members of the hierarchy. Real change, I’m sorry to say, will come only in the poliitcal realm, e.g. Governor Cuomo of New York leading the way to gay marriage in his state. Let us use the ways open to us and quit waiting for official Church teaching to change. Look how long it took the Church to apologize for its treatment of Galileo!
I think Mr. Mugisha really hits the nail on the head when he says, “The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import.” In fact, I have gone so far as to call THEM (the homophobes) to be the “Ku Klux Klan” of today. Gays are hunted down, whispered about, set up for attack; even those who are not, but are thought to be gay are in dire danger. I have also compared it to the Witch Hunts in Salem.
We do not seem to have improved very much. Our knowledge and education has paid off in science and technology, but we’re WAY BEHIND with our “humanity to man.” We need to not only enact laws for gays and all people to have their respect and rights, but also pray for those who “don’t get it.”
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I would imagine that Cardinal George and his catholic clergy cohorts would be paying attention to explaining and resolving the pedophile cases in the Catholic Church than picking on people who are just trying to live their lives without harming anyone. People like Cardinal George should not usurp God’s authority. As African LGBT activists, I believe now is the time we stopped narrowly looking at homophobia as a merely political issue. Homophobia is largely a religious issue. We need to observe that without anti-Apartheid activists in South African engaging religion it would have been close to impossible to end their oppression. When we ignore the power of religion (simply because some of us despise it), we become silent participants in our oppression.
Thank you fir writing this piece.