Father Anthony Musaala is called “the Dancing Priest” in the central and east African countries where he has earned a popular following as a gospel music performer. His music brims with joy, but he has deep concerns about the future of the Church he serves.
Now that a letter he wrote about those concerns was leaked onto the Internet, Musaala faces censure from his higher-ups in the Church and indefinite suspension from his priestly work.
In March of this year, Musaala wrote a letter urging the Church to recognize “the failure of celibate chastity among diocesan priests.” In the letter, he alleged various violations of the Catholic rules governing priests’ sex lives: mistresses, trysts with nuns, prostitution, abortion, even coercion and rape. The problem in Uganda largely centers around assaults on female minors, he says, but he also acknowledges homosexual action of the kind North American audiences know far too well:
When I was at secondary school, it was common knowledge that various Brothers were having sexual activity with the boys. It was called ‘jaboo’. As a pubescent teenager, my first sexual encounter was actually with one of the brothers who invited me to his room on the pretext of doing some extra chemistry equations. I was sixteen at the time. Later I heard that several others had been through the same thing, with the same brother and with other ones. Some are still alive to this day.
Musaala took a risk in speaking up about these experiences; since 2009, he has faced accusations of homosexuality, which he has recently described as “unjust accusations and blackmail at the hands of the Archdiocese in Uganda.” Anyone who follows the state of LGBTQ rights internationally knows that such accusations are no small matter in Uganda, where the controversy over whether gays deserve the death penalty rages on. Leading African Catholic cardinals, like recent papabile Peter Turkson, continue to insist that priestly rape of Catholic boys is a white-people problem; same-sex desire is something that just doesn’t happen to Africans.
Even so, the Church went ahead and set up a commission to investigate the truth in Musaala’s accusations. However, they’re not exactly grateful to have their dirty laundry aired in public, even if it means children will be protected from abuse. Archbishop Kizito Lwanga decreed Musaala indefinitely suspended from his priestly duties (without pay, of course). The archbishop has publicly stated this of Musaala’s letter:
[It] damages good morals of Catholic believers and further expresses a wrong teaching against the Catholic Church’s teaching… 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 from the powers of governance in accordance to the law of the Church.
In other words, allegations of child rape against Catholic priests tend to make people think less highly of the faith. Thus, Musaala ends up saddled with a harsher penalty than the priest-rapists he’s accusing. It’s a clear message to the next priest who considers blowing the whistle on misconduct in his diocese: keep your mouth shut.
Musaala has made plans to travel in the U.S. and U.K. over the summer, hoping to find work in the West where he was educated. (Presumably his notoriety in Uganda precludes a successful job search there.) He continues to seek public support in an attempt to get his suspension overturned, calling on supporters to send petitions to Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Vatican official overseeing his case, as well as to Archbishop Lwanga.