It was a little bit of a shock, somehow. Partly because I could hardly take seriously the idea that human beings would treat one another with such pointless brutality. I think, too, I had sort of hoped that if I didn't pay attention to it, somehow nothing would happen. Not that I imagine things would've gone differently if I'd just thought about it hard enough. But I certainly might have prayed more for Uganda than I have done; and I might have tried to see if there was some organization I could have supported a little financially, someone doing something to either advocate against the bill, or get people out of there before the law brings its fist down upon them.
Yesterday, the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, signed the infamous anti-gay bill into law, making anyone found guilty of attempting any homosexual conduct, or even contact, liable to life imprisonment. (At least they repealed the part making it punishable by death.) Dr. Warren Throckmorton's site links to a PDF of the bill itself if you don't believe me.
Life imprisonment. For something as small as a hug or a touch on the arm.
This is bullshit. This is insanity. If you think gay people are merely being paranoid when we advocate for legal reforms -- this is what we're scared of. Maybe in this country that fear isn't exactly rational, but don't talk like we're going into hysterics over somebody looking at us cross-eyed. That doesn't mean everything the LGBT community advocates for is right or necessary, either, but if you can contemplate this bill and its consequences with anything resembling approval, then please keep the hell away from me, because I am straight-up frightened of you.
All, all, Catholics should oppose this. I am deeply relieved to know that the Archbishop Lwanga of Kampala has spoken out against the hideous cruelty contained in this bill; though it is with bitterness, tears, and anger that I relate that Cardinal Onaiyekan of Nigeria has supported, and indeed praised, the similar bill passed in that country. The Vatican itself, by contrast, has made its own views fairly clear in a statement to the United Nations, to say nothing of the Catechism. It is a grave discredit to the Church's witness, both in America and internationally, that Catholics have not spoken more universally, more consistently, and louder about this bill and those like it as violations of the intrinsic dignity of man.
I realize and accept that there is, and may validly be, diversity among Catholics on how best to integrate gay people into society. I will even go so far as to acknowledge that supporting legal penalties for homosexual acts is not, in itself, an un-Catholic stance (though it has a shakier pedigree than proponents of such laws probably imagine: Catholic countries were ahead of the curve in abolishing sodomy laws). I will freely criticize views of this subject if I think they are wrong -- that being the only adequate and necessary reason to oppose anything in my book -- but I won't accuse anybody of heresy or dissidence merely on that account. And as a believer in the separation of Church and state, I accept that the Church cannot force either her views or her methods upon any government, which is probably one reason why she tends to speak in generalities even when condemning something specific.
But this? I can't imagine viewing this as tolerable even if I were okay with sodomy laws, which I consider shocking in their cruelty as well as dangerously intrusive. And don't think for a moment that life in jail is the only thing Ugandan gays are being put at risk of. This is a witch hunt. This is a pogrom.
This is not about justice or decency. If it ever even was, it's not anymore. This, even according to the fairly rigorous definition I use, is pure homophobia. Homosexual conduct was already illegal in Uganda; even on the view (which I utterly reject) that sodomy laws are just, this wasn't needed. And it isn't only Uganda and Nigeria -- this poisonous atmosphere lies over half the African continent and more. Only days ago, President Jammeh of Gambia referred to homosexuals as "vermin" and compared us to mosquitos carrying malaria. This is a targeted dehumanization of a tiny minority, who are being stripped of legal protection in a group of societies that already hate and despise them.
I implore anyone and everyone who reads this to stop and pray for Uganda: for the safety and, if necessary, escape of Ugandan lesbians and gays; and for repentance and conversion on the part of the people in general, especially their political leaders. For the moment -- I hope not to leave it here permanently -- I don't specifically recommend anything further. This isn't because I don't want people to do any more than pray, but because I for one don't know what the wisest course of action is. I'm too ignorant of politics in general and of Ugandan culture in particular to have an opinion on that. Opposition to these laws from western powers has been labeled as "colonialism" by some Ugandans, and it is hard to know what practical effects sanctions and so forth would have; it could easily devolve into even worse demonizing and scapegoating of LGBT people than is already happening.
If by some chance there is anyone reading this who has supported these laws, or still does, I beg you to examine your conscience. This is not defending traditional marriage or the family. This is an assault on the human dignity of people who happen to be attracted to the same sex. They too are somebody's sons and daughters. And you too are subject to human frailty. Consider for a moment that, under the terms of this bill, a single slip-up, even by someone trying to conduct a celibate life, can be punished by being shut up in a jail cell until they die. If you propose to support this on Christian grounds, I should like to know if that is how Christ treats you when you make mistakes -- or when, as we all sometimes do, you throw your sins in His very face. And, if you are in support of the Scriptures being applied to the lives of every person, I would remind you of one of the more terrible things they contain: not a condemnation of this or that sexual sin, but a promise and a warning: Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Prayer of Humble Access (said before Communion)
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.