Catholic LGBTQ+ Advocates Express Concern Over Bishops in Kenya and Uganda

Global Catholic LGBTQ+ advocates have expressed concern about church leaders’ actions in two African countries, whose recent statements are seemingly at odds with Pope Francis’ condemnation of laws that criminalize homosexuality.

Christopher Vella and Marianne Duddy-Burke, co-chairs of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, issued a statement of concern regarding anti-LGBTQ+ developments in Kenya, Uganda, and other African countries. The co-chairs stated:

“It is deeply distressing that the Catholic bishops in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa, as well as other Christian denominations continue to insist that LGBTIQ people are an ‘ideology’, when modern Science itself is showing that diversity in gender and sexual orientation are variants in nature. We invite church leaders to look closely at the lived experience of LGBTIQ people and start a genuine and sincere dialogue with these people before issuing statements that are deeply harmful and dangerous. We appeal to people of good will to protect the human rights of LGBTIQ people and not tolerate any violence and discrimination.”

Kenyan Bishops Object to Court Ruling on LGBTQ+ Groups

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has objected to a recent court ruling that would allow LGBTQ+ groups to register as NGOs. The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reported that the bishops released a statement criticizing the Supreme Court decision that they see as promoting homosexuality. The bishops seek to overturn the ruling. 

Referring to LGBTQ+ organizations, Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa, chair of the KCCB, stated:

“‘This ideology is an attempt to undermine the family and cultural values which are rooted in the very nature of humankind. . .It also undermines the dignity of life which is at the core of our beliefs as a nation. . .It is an attack on humanity.'”

While the Supreme Court ruled that the Kenyan constitution gives everyone the right to association, including LGBTQ+ groups, the bishops appeal to the constitution’s protections of the family, which they see threatened by the decision, according to The Standard. KCCB’s statement was read at Mass in churches across Kenya, where same-gender relationships remain illegal.

Bondings 2.0  previously covered Catholic responses to the Kenyan court ruling and the way LGBTQ-negative rhetoric impacts the queer community, with increased violence and discrimination. Notably, Fr. Ambrose Kimutati, a diocesan priest in Kericho, spoke in support of the anti-discrimination ruling and advocated for love and respect for the LGBTQ+ community in stark contrast to the recent bishops’ statement.

Ugandan Bishops Muted in Response to Highly Anti-Gay Law

In Uganda, the country’s legislature passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in March which further criminalizes being LGBTQ+. Simply identifying as lesbian or gay could lead to life imprisonment, and people convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” could face the death penalty. The country’s president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, is expected to sign it into law.

In response, Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere of Kampala stated that members of the Uganda Episcopal Conference would “come together to discuss that Bill” and then issue its position on the legislation, reported The Monitor. Ssemogerere, however, opined further on the issue of homosexuality in quite negative terms. He made his comments at an event celebrating the tenth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election, claiming the pope’s condemnation of criminalization laws earlier this year had been misunderstood:

“‘There are so many sins that we commit every day that don’t take us to prison. Many of the people in society have eloped with other people’s wives, how many are in prison?’ . . .I think when you are homosexual and you are enticing this young person, you do the act and using all the money you have and you make him sick, the poor person goes to the hospital because of what you have done, that is a crime then. It is child abuse.'”

In addition, Bishop Christopher Kakooza of Lugazi has warned that homosexuality is a major problem in the country’s boarding schools. Francis Ziiwa of St. Paul Catholic Parish, Lwanyonyi read the bishop’s message at his institution, adding that teachers’ low pay was a cause of same-gender child abuse, reported The Monitor.

Ghanian Bishop Rebukes Country’s President on Criminalization

Finally, in Ghana, Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu of Konongo-Mampong released an open letter to the country’s president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, criticizing him for not being sufficiently LGBTQ-negative, according to Pulse. During a recent visit by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Akufo-Addo claimed Ghana does not criminalize being LGBTQ+, though an anti-LGBTQ+ law has been enacted.

The bishop responded to Akufo-Addo’s misleading claim by writing, “I would also be most grateful if you could state unequivocally what your position on LGBTQ+ is. I request this because many Ghanaians are not sure of your position on this matter. . .” The bishop also asked the president to reiterate the same-gender sexual relationships remain criminalized in Ghana and stated that LGBTQ+ rights “cannot be included in the list of human rights,” per Modern Ghana.

Sadly, in too many cases church leaders are indeed high-profile antagonists towards LGBTQ+ rights, including when criminalization laws are being considered. It is incumbent that LGBTQ+ advocates worldwide, like the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, keep demanding from the grassroots an end to criminalization laws in the nearly 70 countries where they remain on the books.

Angela Howard McParland (she/her) and Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, April 19, 2023

1 reply
  1. Glenn Slocum
    Glenn Slocum says:

    Please allow me to make the following suggestion: Given Pope Francis’s public support of Sister Jeannine, Frank DeBernardo and NWM, would she consider a personal message to the Pope calling his attention to these three instances in which HIS Catholic Bishops are issuing such public statements clearly at variance with the Pope’s own position? The Ghana bill has been “out there” for at least two years, and the recent visit of VP Harris raised this issue, but it seems to me that these outspoken statements by three groups of national Catholic Bishops cries out for a reaction from the Vatican, be it public or private.


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