Saturday, March 30, 2013

Catholic church leaders on trial (in Uganda)

Ian Katusime
The Independent (Uganda)
March 28, 2013

Vatican is watching how Archbishop Lwanga deals with the Fr. Musaala saga

“It is a good point for reflection but it will not change the fundamentals of the church.” That is how one practicing Catholic assessed the impact of recent revelations by renowned celebrity Catholic priest, Father Anthony Musaala of sexual impropriety in the church. That belief in theinvincibility of the old Catholic Church might be similar to the Biblical house built on quick sand, without a foundation.

What one hears in conversations on the street and in the media across the country is that Fr. Musaala’s letter has sparked unprecedented public debate of what some have called the “double standards and hypocrisy’ of the Catholic Church that the letter points out.

It is without doubt that depending on how the leadership of Uganda’s biggest religious congregation of 14 million Catholics in four archdioceses and 19 dioceses handles the Fr. Musaala saga, the church could be changed; perhaps irrevocably. The man on whose shoulder lays the task of steering the church through the storm is Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala diocese.

A stocky man, with a disarming smile and unusual aggressiveness for a clergyman, the 60-year old Archbishop has in the past shown he is not one to shirk the sometimes tough calling of his office. He has spoken out firmly against bad governance, child sacrifice and corruption.

Few were surprised when within days of Musaala’s letter going public, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, who is the head of the church, suspended him from all priestly duty.

Critics have said it is unlikely that the highest ranked priest in the Catholic Church in Uganda, the mild Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala who has not commented on the Musaala saga yet, would act so swiftly.

Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, like his predecessors, has eyes set on being ordained cardinal. That process has been almost automatic. Depending on how he handles this saga and how his performance is judged by his superiors in the Vatican, his fate and that of the Catholic Church could shift.

Part of the problem is that since Father Musaala on March 12 released a letter addressed to bishops, priests, and laity, the Catholic community can no longer shrug off tales of priests in Uganda fondling penitents in the confessional, bishops molesting young women, paying for abortions, and fathering children.


In the letter entitled, “The Failure of celibate chastity among diocesan priests”, Father Musaala described the Catholic Church in Uganda as a “sick system which has lost its integrity in this one area but won’t admit it.”

“A campaign for optional married priesthood in the catholic church is now required,” he writes, “This campaign is primarily a form of education and purification. It is not to be construed as a rebellion against established doctrine but a reading of the signs of the times.”

Archbishop Lwanga will not make the allegations disappear by suspending Fr. Musaala and banning priests from discussing them. He needs to do more.


Although the Musaala saga has shed light in a dark chapter of the church, the clergy and laity in interviews with The Independent says what he is talking about is “nothing new”.

Many Ugandans do not know that the Catholic Church allows married people to serve as priests in some places such as Ukraine.

Many Ugandans also do not know that the requirement for Roman Catholic priests not to marry is relatively new, from 1123 when the First Lateran Council introduced it. Since 1980, the Catholic Church has allowed married priests from the Anglican Church who joined to stay with their wives.

Father Stephen Msele, the head of the Jesuits in Uganda, says the issues Fr. Musaala points out are pertinent and that a priest found to be with children should be ex-communicated.


Pope Francis has been quoted in international media saying the celibacy rule could change although he stated that he would still vouch for it on a personal note. That view is based on an interview the Pope gave when he was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.


History of celibacy in the Catholic Church

First Century

Peter, the first pope, and the apostles that Jesus chose were, for the most part, married men.

Fourth Century

306-Council of Elvira, Spain, decree #43: A priest who sleeps with his wife the night before Mass will lose his job.

325-Council of Nicea: Decreed that after ordination a priest could not marry. Proclaimed the Nicene Creed.

385: Pope Siricius left his wife in order to become pope. Decreed that priests may no longer sleep with their wives.

Fifth Century

401: St. Augustine wrote, “Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman.”

Sixth Century

567-2nd Council of Tours: Any cleric found in bed with his wife would be excommunicated for a year and reduced to the lay state.

580-Pope Pelagius II: His policy was not to bother married priests as long as they did not hand over church property to wives or children.

590-604: Pope Gregory “the Great” said that all sexual desire is sinful.

Seventh Century

France: documents show that the majority of priests were married.

Eighth Century

St. Boniface reported to the pope that in Germany almost no bishop or priest was celibate.

Ninth Century

836: Council of Aix-la-Chapelle openly admitted that abortions and infanticide took place in convents and monasteries to cover up activities of non-celibate clerics.

St. Ulrich, a holy bishop, argued from scripture and common sense that the only way to purify the church from the worst excesses of celibacy was to permit priests to marry.

Eleventh Century

1045- Benedict IX dispensed himself from celibacy and resigned in order to marry.

1074-Pope Gregory VII said anyone to be ordained must first pledge celibacy.

1095-Pope Urban II had priests’ wives sold into slavery, children were abandoned.

Twelfth Century

1123-Pope Calistus II: First Lateran Council decreed that clerical marriages were invalid.

Sixteenth Century

1545-63-Council of Trent states that celibacy and virginity are superior to marriage.

Twentieth Century

1930-Pope Pius XI: Sex can be good and holy.

1951-Pope Pius XII: Married Lutheran pastor ordained catholic priest in Germany.

1962-Pope John XXIII: Vatican Council II; vernacular; marriage is equal to virginity.

1966-Pope Paul VI: Celibacy dispensations.

1978-Pope John Paul II: Puts a freeze on dispensations.

1980: Married Anglican/Episcopal pastors are ordained as catholic priests in the U.S.; also in Canada and England in 1994.

Archbishop Lwanga criticised

Archbishop Lwanga has banned priests from discussing this subject but the Canon law of the Catholic Church on which Archbishop Lwanga based his suspension of Fr. Musaala has also come under scrutiny. According to knowledgeable interpretation, it is not clear about the issue of clergy speaking out and raising issues within the church.

Archbishop Lwanga who said Fr. Musaala’s allegations “tarnish the image of the church and threaten to derail believers from their spiritual journey” has been criticised for his speedy action. Tough action from the Catholic Church is not unheard of in Uganda. The Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Fr. Simon Lokodo, was ex- communicated from the Catholic Church by the former Pope Benedicto XVI when he joined politics.

Fr. Musaala’s letter has also sparked public debate of the “double standards and hypocrisy’ of the Catholic Church that the letter points out.


Fr. Musaala, who was ordained after the age of 30 in England, has said he has no interest to marry.

Full article at the Independent

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