05 March 2014, The Tablet

Vatican's Turkson weighs in on Ugandan anti-gay law

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said this week that “homosexuals are not criminals” and should not be sentenced for up to life in prison.

He was speaking at a human rights conference in Bratislava, where he was asked about new legislation in Uganda that bans funding, recruitment and promotion of homosexuality.

Cardinal Turkson said the Vatican also called on the international community to keep providing aid to Uganda.

The World Bank has suspended a US$90 million loan for that would help fund maternal health, newborn care and family planning because of the legislation.

His intervention directly contradicts the country’s bishops’ conference, which along with Protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Muslim leaders last week welcomed the law saying it would promote morality, describing homosexuality and lesbianism as “part of human weakness” that had to be addressed through repentance.

Today the secretary-general of the Ugandan Bishops' Conference told the US-based Catholic News Service that the bishops had just returned from a retreat and would be studying the legislation to provide an "educated response".

After President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law late last month, a spokesman for the World Bank said: "We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law."

The bank’s decision follows an announcement by Norway, Denmark and Holland that they would hold back donations to Uganda because of the law. Other donors have also threatened to do likewise, and the United States said it was reviewing its relations with Uganda.

The Ugandan shilling has fallen in the wake of outrage from Western nations over the new law.

The Uganda-based Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law said they supported aid cuts such as Holland’s to areas such as the justice sector, but urged donor nations not to cut aid destined for health projects. “We do not support general aid cuts to Uganda. We do not want the people of Uganda to suffer because of the unfortunate political choices of our Government,” they said.

In late January the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and Ugandan-born John Sentamu, wrote to Anglican Primates and President Museveni crticising the legislation. But this week the country's most senior Anglican, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, said the Church of Uganda would consider breaking away from the Anglican Communion over the matter.

"The issue here is respect for our views on homosexuality, same sex marriage as a country and church. If they are not willing to listen to us. We shall consider being on our own," Uganda's top Anglican, told AFP.

Read Cardinal Turkson's speech on the Catholic Church and human rights.

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