The Zambian Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) has reaffirmed its support for laws that criminalize LGBTQ+ people, walking back comments days earlier in which a key official said they opposed such laws.
Fr. Francis Mukosa, the conference’s secretary general, issued a letter about the bishops’ position on homosexuality after there were alleged “misinterpretations that have recently flooded social media.”
The letter cites part of Catechism 2357 about the prohibition on same-gender sexual activity using boldface and underlined text for emphasis of the condemnatory parts. Mukosa continues by writing [emphasis in the original]:
“[T]he Church is called to provide appropriate assistance and accompaniment to all her erring children, including those with homosexual tendencies. . .Many forces in our society promote a view of sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular, that is contrary to God’s purpose and plan for human sexuality.
“The pastoral charge of the Church as stated above does NOT in any way, suggest the abrogation of the laws of the land. Practicing homosexuality constitutes a criminal offence in Zambia and the law has to be respected.”
The social media controversy began after Archbishop Alick Banda of Lusaka wrote an inflammatory letter accusing the country’s president, Hakainde Hichilema, and other government officials of becoming lax in their enforcement of anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
The letter claims there is “complacency from the State and the law enforcement agencies” because in the past year there was “an increase in the number of incidents and events that promote LGBTG+ tendencies.” The archbishop cites as evidence an increasing number of same-gender rapes, the Swedish and Finnish embassies flying Pride flags last May, an alleged drag party in July, and, most recently, supposed police repression of anti-LGBTQ+ protestors during an event. Banda continues:
“From the foregoing, it is necessary to act against the proliferation of LGBTQ+ and other vices which are averse and seem to be on the increase corroding the fabric of our society such as abuse of authority, abuse of state institutions, arbitrary disrespect of the rule of law, the hounding of the opposition members and constitutional office bearers perceived not to toll the line, the rise of nepotism, hybrid hypocrisy, deception, and lies, etc. . .
“11.May Mary the mother of the Child Jesus, intercede for us that our lives may become salt to avert moral degeneration and light to illuminate the world from the darkness of evil.”
This letter was viewed by many as primarily a political act, prompting protests, including from some priests in the Lusaka archdiocese. On September 26th, the Zambian Observer reported that Mukosa, the ZCCB’s secretary general, had initially “distanced” the church from the archbishop, who has advocated for LGBTQ+ people to be arrested. The outlet explained:
“In a meeting between the ZCCB and Vice President Mutale Nalumango, Fr Mukosa said that Homosexuality was unacceptable but Homosexuals must not be be criminalised.
“‘Although the Church does not accept homosexual tendencies, homosexuals are not criminals and they must therefore not be criminalised. They are still human beings even though we do not accept their tendencies’.”
The situation among the Zambian hierarchy over criminalization laws is disgraceful. Fr. Mukosa and the bishops’ conference were correct the first time when they distanced themselves from Archbishop Banda. The Holy See has made clear that the church opposes any effort to criminalize LGBTQ+ people, and it is a mandate in church teaching to oppose discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
Notably, the Catechism’s section on non-discrimination was missing in both the priest’s and the archbishop’s letters. It might be wise for them to brush up on their Catechism a bit more before making any further statements.
“A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination” is a new book published by New Ways Ministry that makes the case for why and how Catholics should support non-discrimination initiatives for LGBTQ people in both church and society. To order a copy, click here.
New Ways Ministry will also be hosting a webinar about Catholics and supporting LGBTQ non-discrimination on October 30th at 4:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time. To more information and to register, click here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, October 6, 2022