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Pope silent on Uganda's 'kill-the-Gays' law
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Pope silent on Uganda's 'kill-the-Gays' law

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Pope Benedict XVI gave a major speech to Uganda's Roman Catholic bishops on March 5 without once mentioning their country's proposed Anti-Homosexual Bill.

The proposed law provides for the death penalty for 'serial offender' Gays and for HIV-positive people who have sex, as well as prison terms for people who fail to inform on Gay friends, relatives, or neighbors.

The legislation has been condemned by many international religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury - titular head of the Anglican Communion - and even by U.S. evangelical leaders reported to be close to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

The Ugandan bishops were in Rome to hear the pope expound on topics related to their church's development. The pope typically meets with the hierarchy of each country once every five years.

The closest Benedict came to Gay issues was calling for Ugandan Roman Catholics to support social service workers who "care for people afflicted by poverty, AIDS and other diseases, teaching them to see in those whom they serve the suffering face of Jesus."

Like other African countries, Uganda is heavily affected by HIV/AIDS. Ugandan social service workers have said they are concerned that the Anti-Homosexual Bill will make Ugandans avoid HIV testing and treatment so as not to be identified as Gay.

Benedict called on the bishops to "encourage the Catholics of Uganda to appreciate fully the sacrament of marriage in its unity and indissolubility, and the sacred right to life."

In this instance, "right to life" referred to the longstanding Roman Catholic opposition to reproductive choice, not, apparently, to the right of Gay Ugandans to live.

Benedict also urged the bishops "to resist the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism which has taken root in so many countries," meaning Europe and North America.

Media observers speculated about why Benedict kept silent about the proposed law.

Possible reasons ranged from the unbelievable - that the pope simply was unaware of the legislation - to the political - that he did not want to isolate Roman Catholics in a country where they are outnumbered by evangelicals and Pentecostals.

However, Roman Catholic leaders in Uganda have previously criticized the bill.

Just before Christmas, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga of Kampala, the Ugandan capital, issued a statement reaffirming church teaching that homosexuality is immoral but saying the Anti-Homosexuality Bill "does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue."

"The targeting of the sinner, not the sin, is the core flaw of the proposed Bill," he said. "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."

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that LGBT people are "objectively disordered" but should be "accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity." Since Roman Catholic doctrine validates human sexuality only within the bounds of one-man-one-woman marriage, LGBT Roman Catholics are urged to remain celibate.

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