Friday, December 11, 2009
Readers of MoJ know that Michael Perry and I don't always see eye to eye, especially on matters of sexual morality. However, a couple of weeks ago Michael brought to our attention a piece of legislation now pending in Uganda that would impose outrageously harsh punishments for homosexual conduct, and rightly noted that Catholic leaders in Uganda who have so far been silent about this legislation have a responsibility to speak against it. In recent years, I have had the opportunity to build relationships with both Catholic and Anglican leaders in Uganda and other African nations. The same is true for my friends Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries and Timothy George, a distinguished Southern Baptist theologian and Dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. I shared Michael's information with Chuck and Timothy and we agreed that we, too, have a responsibility to speak. I will reproduce below a letter we have sent to Ugandan Christian leaders of all traditions. We have also written to His Holiness Pope Benedict respectfully but urgently requesting that Catholic leaders in Uganda be encouraged to speak strongly and clearly against the pending legislation. I hope our efforts will help in preventing it from being enacted. Chuck and Timothy join me in thanking Michael for calling this to our attention and the attention of other MoJ readers, and stressing the obligation to speak.
Beloved Christian Brothers and Sisters of
We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and embrace you in the spirit of his love. As we seek to follow his path, we are inspired by your fidelity to the Gospel and by the example you provide the world of courageous discipleship.
We especially commend your witness to the timeless moral truths that are of the essence of man’s dignity as a creature fashioned by God in his own image and likeness. In the West, many of these truths are under severe attack from those who believe them to be unwarranted impositions on the freedom of the individual to seek his own satisfactions and fulfillment in his own way. Nowhere is this clearer than in the domain of sexual morality, where actions condemned by divine authority and natural law as contrary to the dignity of the human person are celebrated as expressions of individual autonomy and even personal identity.
We know that it is with dismay that you have observed these attacks and with them a cultural erosion of moral understanding, and we are grateful to you for standing in solidarity with us as we have sought to bear witness to the truths of the Gospel and the dignity of man. We especially appreciate your support for our work to protect and defend marriage as the life-long, exclusive, and faithful covenant uniting husband and wife.
Brothers and Sisters, we approach you today about a development in your country that is a source of grave concern for us. We have learned that a bill has been introduced in your parliament that would penalize even a single act of homosexual conduct with life in prison. Repeated homosexual acts and certain other specified behaviors would be punishable by death. The harshness of these proposals is, we believe, inconsistent with a Christian spirit of love and mercy. We urge our brothers and sisters in
In a spirit of Christ-like love, let us recall that many men and women who experience same-sex attraction struggle to live chaste and holy lives. Many succeed; yet many sometimes falter. Is the same not true of all of us? We are all tempted by the lure of sin, be it in the domain of sexuality or in other areas of our lives. And none of us is perfect in resisting temptation. All of us from time to time fall short of fulfilling God’s intention for us, and we therefore stand in need of the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. Surely, no one guilty of a single act of homosexual conduct (or fornication, adultery, or other sexual offense) should spend the remainder of his life in prison as a consequence of his sin. Such harshness, such lack of mercy, is manifestly contrary to the example of our Lord and cannot be given the support of those who seek to follow Christ. In response to a proposal to punish consensual sexual crimes with such extreme penalties the Christian must surely echo the words of Jesus: “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”
We recognize that the scourge of AIDS has been devastating to the people of
Brothers and sisters, we do not reproach you or hold ourselves out as your teachers. In so many ways today, you are our teachers. We recognize that in view of the moral crisis of the West, we are scarcely in a position to lecture to people in
Charles W. Colson
Founder, Prison Fellowship &the
Dr. Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence,
Dr. Timothy George
Dean and Professor of Divinity,