I was raised Catholic (for the most part) but no longer consider myself as belonging to any particular religion.
It is not that I don’t believe in God – I do. It is just that despite, perhaps because of, countless masses I attended as a child, I developed a deep skepticism about aspects of the Catholic religion that I likely will never shed. The focus of my skepticism coalesced around Primary 5 (roughly fifth grade), in the ritual of confession that we were told we had to undergo if we had to receive the ‘body and blood’ of Christ during mass.
When, during confession, I admitted to a real “sin,” meaning a failing I had actually fallen foul to, I got absolution from my priest. But at that age one can only sin so much and with daily masses to attend, one sometimes ran out of sins and was forced to make something up in the confession booth. In such circumstances, I still received forgiveness for my imaginary sins and was directed to chant so many Hail Marys as part of my penance.
It gradually dawned on me that the priests didn’t actually have any power to forgive my sinning. That fueled my disinclination to attend confession which I increasingly saw as pointless. Receiving the body of Christ during mass logically became a no-no (something to do with the sin of receiving Christ without going to confession) and by the time I was 16, I saw myself more as a Christian and less as a staunch Catholic. I eventually made a conscious decision to let my hitherto unquestioning Catholic dedication lapse when I was about 16 years old.Today, I believe in God but not in any formal religion.
But this is not meant to be about my lack of religious fervor, rather the rules of any faith and whether there is any obligation on anyone to belong to any faith.
It is not lost on me that I was able to do that because belonging to any faith is voluntary. In addition, we can exercise independent volition and change faiths. So, one can at various times in their life be a Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Buddhist, Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness etc. Religion is thus not a straight jacket that we are locked into.
As a gay man, the Catholic religion has little attraction for me unless my right to exist as a Catholic gay man is accepted. Since, as each successive Pope has made it a point to remind me, there seems little chance of that happening, I remain free to exercise my choice to keep Catholicism at arm’s length.
But what about priests and other men and women of the cloth who choose to join a faith with already set rules and then knowingly violate them?
Though it was/is all just rumor and innuendo, the accusations of homosexual activity leveled against Father Musaala, Pastor Kayanja and the rest highlight a conundrum that is hard to ignore. Any aspiring Catholic priest has to accept the premise that they should never have any sex whatsoever for the rest of their lives. If they feel that this might be an impossible demand, they have the choice to opt for pastoral work that doesn’t demand celibacy and, under current Catholic diktat, this must be away from the priesthood. Yes, they might join the calling in the expectation that they will resist temptation but once they fail to resist their base human instincts it becomes a different kettle of fish. The same goes for clergy with homosexual inclinations that they feel they might act upon during the course of their vocation.
While it is understandable that one might join a calling without being aware that the vicissitudes of life will lead them to carnal temptation, it is less so when people with choices stay within the confines of a calling whose demands they know they cannot adhere to or, worse, they are not interested in adhering to.
To this end, the story of Father Alberto “Cutie” is instructive. He failed to live up to his vows of celibacy and was photographed cavorting with a woman on a beach. When the scandal broke, “Father Cutie” (real name Gonzalez) resigned from the Catholic priesthood, changed to a faith that didn’t demand celibacy and eventually married the woman in the photos. Almost all commentaries agree that the Catholic Church lost more than Father Cutie did since his pastoral work spoke for itself, and Father Cutie has already moved on, continuing with his ministering but this time with a wife, and presumably happiness, to go home to at the end of the day.
Where then does that live those who seek to have religion(s) embrace elements of humanity that the religions themselves don’t want to embrace? In the dog-house I fear.
If a religion demands that its priests must not have any kind of sex, so be it. Any would-be priest has the choice to join or not. Indeed any priest has the option to leave that faith just as Father Cutie did. If they don’t leave, and insist on carrying on their amorous ways, they can and should be excommunicated. That is why it is mystifying that the Catholic Church in Boston and Ireland chose to move priests around after they were accused of (and many proved to have) sexually molested children. Why on earth didn’t the Church just excommunicate them and give them up to law enforcement authorities to answer for their crimes?
Obviously, I am on precarious ground here because Father Musaala (in particular) is well known to me and I have the deepest affection and respect for him. That said, if he is indeed gay, it seems to me that he owes it to his conscience to decide whether it is tenable for him to continue practicing as a Catholic priest given the accusations that have been labeled against him. Is staying in the priesthood the more honorable position to take for a man who cannot, perhaps will not, give up partaking of what his Church forbids? Men like Pastor Kayanja and Kiwewesi, both of whom have been accused of homo-sodomy by a retinue of young men and whose names have been bandied about in Ugandan gay circles for years are in a slightly different category albeit for a different reason.
|Kayanja’s palatial lakeside home
Kayanja and Kiwewesi are more or less accountable to no one since they set up these Pentecostal churches and practically created the rules along which they would run them. Their amassing of astonishing fortunes is also well known, so one expects that if they have no compunction about using money collected from their gullible and/or vulnerable followers to build ostentatious lakeside homes, they will not have any guilt about luring young men into their vestries and sodomizing them or asking the boys to sodomize them. Their cynicism barely disguised, there is ample evidence to suggest that these two men went into the pastoral vocation for their own selfish ends above everything else.
But Father Musaala is a modest man and there is no doubt in my mind that he joined the priesthood to do God’s work so that he can help others achieve spiritual fulfilment. That he remains without the trappings of wealth and ostentation that Kayanja and Kiwewesi openly flaunt also goes to confirm his selflessness as far as his priestly vocation is concerned. Yet, since the rules of the Catholic Church were well known to him when he joined, and the rules have not changed to date, it stands to reason that Father Musaala’s position as a Catholic priest has to be untenable if indeed he is actively gay. Father Cutie showed that there is a second and third way. It seems to me that Father Cutie’s was the high road that many priests who fall short of their celibacy vows must consider sooner rather than later.
The solution then is a simple one; either the Catholic Church relaxes its stand on celibacy or any priests that cannot abide by the celibacy demands should find an alternative avenue for their pastoral service. One suspects that if enough priests were bold enough to vote with their conscience (and loins), the Catholic Church would be forced to take a serious look at the whole celibacy stipulation, a stipulation that is not demanded by Biblical fiat, and which doesn’t make the least bit of sense in this day and age when there are so many options for anyone who might want to be a priest but who doesn’t understand why serving God should be at the expense of one’s own worldly happiness.