Africa / Faith and religion

Ugandan priest won’t be seeing the Pope

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis will visit Uganda during his trip to Africa on Nov. 27 – 29. It is his first visit to Africa following his visits earlier this year to Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Cuba and his current trip to the United States.

But Fr. Anthony Musaala, a popular Ugandan priest, gospel singer and LGBTI supporter, won’t be seeing the Pope.

This is how Fr. Musaala explained his predicament recently on Facebook:

I WON’T BE SEEING THE POPE.

Anthony Musaala 12 2014 BPope Francis is coming to Uganda. How wonderful that is going to be – for many but not for some like me.

Like all his fans I was looking forward to attending the historical events which will take place in Kampala, but alas I won’t be doing so.

Why?

Because since my suspension two years ago, attending a Catholic church or going to Catholic events in Uganda has become a disorienting experience. Where once before I enjoyed everything Catholic now I don’t, or rather can’t.

This is because, not only can I not function as a priest, but also my presence at a church attracts too much attention for nothing. So I must also endure a de facto excommunication – not being able to fellowship or receive the sacraments. I no longer attend Mass because it’s too complicated or painful.

Once when I tried to do so, very many excited people wanted to talk to me or just greet me, or just look at me, which meant that I couldn’t enjoy the Mass I came to attend.

Some insisted on a blessing or a prayer or a selfie, which just added to the confusion.

So this is the downside of “celebrity-priesthood”, which I did not seek, but which I welcomed when it came not knowing that one day I would be suspended.

These are some of the questions and comments I get from ordinary lay-folk at Catholic places when I am seen

Fr. Anthony Musaala (Photo courtesy of Monitor.co.ug)

Fr. Anthony Musaala (Photo courtesy of Monitor.co.ug)

”Father did they forgive you, when are you coming back?”

“Why not go and kneel down and say sorry to the Bishop?”

“Father we love you, no matter what”
.
“Father where are you these days?” …

“We need some new songs please!”

The comments are mostly very encouraging I must say, which is quite humbling and reassuring, but I guess when I go to church it would be nice not to get all that attention, so I could just pray. So, sadly I just don’t go.

I guess it’s baffling to me to still be told … that ”the Church has not yet forgiven you”, which truth they are most assured of. Am I missing something?

Last year, before I petitioned the Holy See about my case out of sheer desperation, I made several attempts to be reconciled with the [local] Catholic church, by having dialogue with the Archbishop of Kampala himself and others.

In view of the inadvertent manner in which my paper appeared in the media, I had hoped for at least a “definite suspension” – a fixed time of “punishment” after which ministry might resume – but alas, to no avail.

I was given an “indefinite suspension, pending investigations” which investigations I am unsure of, since no judicial process against me was initiated nor were any other judgements made about me that I know of.

Instead, it seems an erroneous judgement was made, namely that I had placed something negative about the Church and unsound teaching in the media, when as a matter of fact I never did, somebody else did. Actually, most people believed that putting stuff in the media of that sort was the reason for my suspension.

I sought a meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio to shed light on this unclear situation but was turned down three times, so I appealed to the Vatican which returned my case without judgement.

I wrote a long and detailed apology to the Archbishop and the Church, which I thought was sincere, because I had not expected that my controversial comments would suddenly appear in any media where I had not sent them. All that did not yield any favourable response, which is why I am still at home.

And now the Pope is coming and I won’t see him physically but will have to gaze at him on my flat-screen which I suppose is better than nothing.

Meanwhile, I have not stopped praying and hoping for justice, forgiveness and a meaningful reconciliation which will bless everyone.

Faaza Musaala

Fr. Musaala has now posted a further clarification:

STILL SEEKING JUSTICE

Fr. Anthony Musaala (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Fr. Anthony Musaala (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Dear friends,

Your very supportive comments about my last post “I WON’T BE SEEING THE POPE” made my day, so allow me to gab on about my case to you a little more.

Firstly, I was under the distinct but vain impression that everyone except perhaps those at the North Pole, knew exactly why I was suspended from the priesthood two years back. Not so it seems from some of the [Facebook] comments.

Let me therefore offer a recap for those who have time and patience.

On the 19th March 2013, following the unauthorized appearance in the Ugandan media of an essay I wrote, in which I groaned about the failing celibacy of catholic priests, and about abandoned priests’ children and their mothers, and in which I weirdly proposed that the Church might consider ordaining married men, the Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese decided to suspended me from all my priestly duties, indefinitely. The good Archbishop further stated that an investigation into my statements and/or conduct would follow.

That, dear ones, in a nutshell, is how I got suspended.

Allow me to also explain what ”suspension” means for a priest, since there is plenty of misinformation about that as well. Some are not sure whether I am still a priest or not.

Do you remember when you were at school and a classmate or you yourself got suspended and had to go home? You were still a student but you couldn’t attend classes, or be on the school compound until the suspension ended.

Well, when I was suspended from priesthood, I still remained a priest but one who is not allowed to perform specifically priestly tasks, which in the Catholic church means ministering the seven sacraments (like celebrating Mass, anointing the sick or hearing confessions) until the suspension ends.

Also, it meant that during suspension I couldn’t hold a priestly office in the Catholic church – for instance, that of being a chaplain to a school or a hospital, or being a parish priest – which also means that I ceased to have an income.

Now I had thought, perhaps naively, that following all the Archbishop’s investigations and following a balanced evaluation of all the good and bad said about me, the good Archbishop would consider reinstating me, or at least telling me when the suspension would end.

But alas, changing water into wine would have been easier. Despite pleas and apologies by myself and many others, the Archbishop insists that I stay out.

So the question in my mind is, what was the Archbishop’s intention of the “indefinite suspension”? Was it in order to give him time for further investigations as he stated, or was it in fact a penalty? Or both?

If it was a penalty, that’s OK, but then it ought not be an unending one for that is unjust. Judges, for instance should not give indefinite prison sentences to convicts because that is simply not justice. If the word ‘suspension’ means any thing, it means ‘something hanging’. Nothing hangs forever; or, if it seems to do so, then it is not ‘hanging’ at all but it is ‘fixed’.

So the question I have in my desperate mind is, have I been “fixed” rather than suspended? (pun intended) In other words, am I being dismissed from the priesthood stealthily, without being told this ?

Certainly I am getting jittery, having spent two and a half hungry years in the wilderness.

But ah, you say, were there not greater priests, and truly more saintly ones, summarily suspended by our dearly beloved [church] for five, ten years or more, before being gloriously restored, shamelessly to the pealing of bells and proclamations about heroic faith by those who suspended them?

Take the famous Padre Pio, for instance, now loved by all, who had the rare if awesome gift of bi-location. He suffered suspension at the hands of ignorant, even callous ecclesiastical authority for many years, but was later happily re-instated and then canonized! Of course I’m praying for that too you know. Miracles do happen.

Yet seriously, there is something very amiss about my case here in Uganda.

Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga (Photo courtesy of Instablogs.com)

Roman Catholic Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga (Photo courtesy of Instablogs.com)

When I appealed to the Holy See and to the Pope through the Nuncio in Kampala (and which appeal was later terminated without judgement for “technical reasons”), a thirty-page secret document purporting to give factual and sympathetic insight into my entire “troubled” existence, replete with scurrilous ”newstories” from the ‘Red Pepper’ and other horrific local tabloids, was rapidly sent to the Holy See by Archbishop Lwanga and his Judicial Vicar, Fr Kato, as a mooted “defence” against the specific petition I had sent to the Vatican.

They claim in this file that their view of Fr Musaala as depicted represents the “broader truth” of the matter which needs to be addressed, not the suspension. In other words they presented a case for potential dismissal.

The contents of this amazing file which I was once permitted to see, but was forbidden to copy, were salacious, speculative and bizarre to say the least, but importantly they had absolutely no bearing on the case I was bringing for unlawful suspension whatsoever. This meant that they were going to try and have me dismissed for bringing a legitimate complaint against them.

The good Archbishop now says that the Holy See has clearly told him (but not me), by way of response, that he himself should have initiated my dismissal from the priesthood long, long, long ago, since I was so terrible a person. The terrible characterizations and allegations drawn up by the Archbishop himself (and his vicar) in that secret file sent to the Vatican, proved it!

To me, this is a form of power abuse and manipulation which gives Catholic bishops a bad name.

There is, of course, a proper judicial process for dismissal from the clerical state, if a priest has gravely violated the law and will not amend.

The Archbishop, Dr Cyprian Lwanga, is a doctor of Canon (church) law and knows very well what must be done. He is now in a pickle. It is unjust to keep me indefinitely suspended, it is no longer acceptable. Either he must re-instate me or initiate a proper judicial process to dismiss me from the clerical state, as required by law. There can be nothing in between… Let’s all say that loud and clear from the hilltops …