Easily the most charismatic and best known Catholic priest in Uganda, you would think Fr. Anthony Musaala would be the last person the Church would want to suspend. Yet that is just what happened last month to the young clergyman whose singing talents earned him and his dance group the Pearl of Africa Best Gospel Artiste Award in 2005, with his song "Tusimbe Ffena Mu Kisiinde" (see video below) winning Best Song of the Year.
On March 12, 2013, Fr. Musaala, tired of the hypocrisy around sexual issues in the Catholic Church in his country, wrote an open letter to his clerical colleagues and superiors, about the sexual abuse and celibacy violation issues in the Ugandan Church.
Fr. Musaala starts out by saying that "it is an open secret that many catholic priests and some bishops, in Uganda and elsewhere, no longer live celibate chastity...The church, however, still maintains the fable that most catholic priests persevere in celibate chastity fairly well, which fiction begs belief." And he opines that "now more than at any other time, we must begin an open and frank dialogue about Catholic priests becoming happily married men, rather than being miserable and single, either before or after ordination."
The letter goes on to mention specific cases known to Fr. Musaala of inappropriate sexual conduct by priests, without mentioning the names of the victims or the perpetrators, except the last case in which he himself, at age 16, had a sexual encounter with a teaching brother at his Catholic secondary school, which the brother initiated after inviting the young Musaala to his room on the pretext of doing some extra chemistry study.
Fr. Musaala's letter also expresses his frustration with uncorroborated allegations that surfaced in 2009 "that I must be a homosexual, because I had homosexual friends and went to homosexual gatherings." In the letter, he says that he "pointed out that I didn’t actually recall having had homosexual relations with any of my rabid accusers, neither did they; which meant that hearsay alone became the evidence." But in spite of the absence of proof or any convictions, Fr. Musaala writes that "I was being treated, by my superiors as the biggest sinner in Nineveh."
In an exclusive interview on March 20th with blogger Melanie Nathan, Fr. Musaala went further, telling her that "one key reason I had to speak up was because of the subtle blackmail I was undergoing at the hands of the church." He said that every time he inquired about a new posting or permission to travel "the Archbishop would gently remind me of all the allegations of homosexuality made against me in 2009, and according to him still being made now." He said the Archbishop told him that it was up to him to prove that the allegations against him were untrue. In the meantime, he told Ms. Nathan that the Archdiocese of Kampala had placed him in a fairly remote parish, making it difficult for him to continue with his music work, which he says was frowned upon by conservative elements in the Ugandan Church. He laments that he has never been afforded the opportunity to confront his accusers and concludes that all of this is "good old fashioned catholic prejudice towards homosexuality, those who seemed to be homosexual. The unspoken text was 'You really do not belong here, but can be tolerated.'"
In response to Fr. Musaala's letter, Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga suspended the popular cleric on March 19th, issuing a statement that "because of the publication of his article in the public media which damages good morals of Catholic believers and further expresses a wrong teaching against the Catholic Church’s teaching and that this stirs up hatred and contempt against the Church, he incurs a Ferendae sententiae penalty as prescribed by Can.1314. This means that Father Anthony Musaala is suspended from celebrating sacraments and sacramentals, from the powers of governance in accordance to the law of the Church Can.1335 and 1336 §1n.1, 2 and 3 as investigations are being carried on."
Later, on Holy Saturday, Archbishop Lwanga apologized publicly to those who have been victims of inappropriate sexual conduct by members of the clergy. The archbishop acknowledged that some of the anecdotes were "correct" but that the indiscretions should not be generalised as being condoned by the Catholic Church. He later told the press that he was forming an ad hoc commission to inquire into the matter. “Nobody commits a sin on behalf of an institution," Lwanga said.
As for Fr. Musaala, he is no longer discussing the case, citing an "agreement" he has reached with Archbishop Lwanga. Kampala's Judicial Vicar, Fr. Andrew Katto-Kasirye, has said that Fr. Musaala remains on indefinite suspension pending the investigation into the contents of his letter but that he is free to appeal. Fr. Katto-Kasirye added that "the responsibility now remains in the hands of Fr Musaala, to amend the damage he has caused to the Catholic faithful" and he advised him to "duly explain" to catholic believers the doctrine of celibacy in its rightful manner and context.
Fr. Musaala has told Uganda's NBS TV that he plans to challenge the suspension under canon law. He says that his letter was not intended for public consumption but was leaked to the press by someone who had shared his experience (presumably his sex abuse by a member of the clergy). He says in the interview that he wants the Church to learn to differentiate between abuse and consensual homosexuality. But on such issues, at least for now, Uganda's "singing priest" must remain silent...
Tusimbe Ffena Mu Kisiinde
Other music videos by Fr. Anthony Musaala