By Patrick B. Craine

KAMPALA, Uganda, January 11, 2010 ( – The Catholic Bishops of Uganda have spoken out about the highly controversial anti-homosexuality bill that is currently before the nation’s Parliament.

On behalf of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Cyprian K. Lwanga of Kampala writes that they support the government in its effort to uphold the natural family and traditional values, but they oppose certain of the harsher provisions in the bill, and believe that the current law against homosexuality is adequate.

“The Catholic Church is clear in its teaching on homosexuality,” the letter reads. The Church’s teaching “remains that homosexual acts are immoral and are violations of divine and natural law,” the bishops write, going on to quote Leviticus 18:22 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2357).

They then emphasize, however, that “the Church equally teaches the Christian message of respect, compassion, and sensitivity. … Homosexuals have the need of conversion and repentance. They also need support, understanding and love as all strive to be members of the Kingdom of God.”

According to the bishops, the anti-homosexuality bill does not meet the needed “Christian caring approach.” Having expressed the Church’s insistence on hating the sin, but loving the sinner, the bishops say that the bill’s “core flaw” is the “targeting of the sinner, not the sin.”

“The introduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for homosexual acts targets people rather than seeking to counsel and to reach out in compassion to those who need conversion, repentance, support and hope,” they write, quoting Luke 6:36-37 as support for their position.

They also point out the danger inherent in the clause of the bill that allows prosecution for failing to disclose information about homosexual acts. This clause, they write, “puts at risk of the breach of confidentiality and professional ethics of persons such as Parents, Priests, Counselors, Teachers, Doctors and Leaders, at a time when they offer support and advise for rehabilitation of homosexuals.”

“The criminalizing of such reaching out is at odds with the core values of the Christian faith,” they maintain.

Finally, they note that the bill is “not necessary,” given that sodomy is already illegal under section 145 of Uganda’s penal code.

Reaction against the proposed bill has been fierce, primarily from Western nations. Numerous governments have threatened to cancel or curtail development aid to the country should the bill pass.

Further, the bill’s author, David Bahati, has said that he’s received numerous death threats, which has led him to report to the Ugandan Ministry of Internal Affairs that his life is in danger.

Aston Kajara, Minister of State for Investment, has asked Bahati to withdraw the bill due to the potential loss of foreign investments and the damage it would cause to the country’s image.

But Bahati has refused, maintaining that the bill is needed to protect the country’s children from being “recruited” into homosexuality. “I stand by the bill,” he said. “I will not withdraw it. We have our children in schools to protect against being recruited into [homosexuality]. The process of legislating a law to protect our children against homosexuality and defending our family values must go on.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said that he opposes the inclusion of the death penalty in the bill, and the government has declared its intention to have it removed.

While pro-family advocates have also criticized the bill for its harshness, they have pointed out that the strongly pro-family country has been driven to such measures by the heavy external pressure on them from the West to accept homosexuality.

The bill is currently scheduled to appear before Parliament in late February or early March.

See the bishops’ letter.

See related coverage:

Author of Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill Fears for His Life

Int’l Pressure on Uganda to Accept Homosexuality Caused Over-the-Top Sanctions: Christian Activist

Only Two Kids? Ugandan Attitudes on Homosexuality Related to Their Attitudes on Fertility