Fr. Anthony Musaala’s missive is not news to anyone, anymore.
As I wrote this he had been suspended from perfoming sacraments in the Catholic Church and it’s my opinion that the suspension was the right thing to do.
Fr. Musaala’s open letter didn’t break any new ground.
I believe it only came to make news simply because the allegations were being retold by a priest, who is famous.
As someone who has lived very close to the Catholic Church, (our village home is less than a mile from the Parish and we are immediate neighbors to the Bishops retirement home. We actually used to pick for our enjoyment, mangoes and grapes from the Bishop’s compound, I learnt to play tennis and basketball with Priests, Brothers and Deacons, I spent two years in a preparatory seminary and many of my closest friends are ex seminarians) I can say I have heard more stories about priests and the Catholic Church than most ordinary people.
Priests and the clergy are mystical people and many people in society can’t help but gossip about them about almost everything they see or hear or fear about them.
But I must add that hearing about stories about people who lead the Church doesn’t make me an expert at all.
What I can say is that what Fr. Musaala wrote in his missive is what I have heard a million times. And frankly speaking, I do not have any idea whether any of the allegations raised by are true or false.
Before going further let me reproduce what my friend and ex seminarian Innocent Nahabwe shared with his pals on facebook.
‘Dear Friends, this is a personal note about something I feel very strongly about-faith. Please bear with me:
I have read with gladness the news that Fr. Musaala has been suspended from active service.
I was angered by his utterances. It pains me as a Catholic and a former seminarian to hear someone trying to make a quick shot at fame by uttering outrageous allegations.
The 2000-year church cannot change traditions now because some horny priest somewhere wants to bonk unhindered. It’s in a church, a communion of willing believers who have faith and belief in a certain way that matters of faith should be handled. If one doesn’t feel the church fits well in their beliefs (he/she) is free to move and join the “advertised churches” and buy their pastor a Hummer or Jeep Cherokee.
Fr. Musaala is a populist preacher who would do well as one of the pastor/ Bishops in Kampala, I am sure. He could marry and bonk whomever he so pleases at will without anyone complaining. It’s his choice to remain in the church. Just as you can’t eat your cake and have it, you can’t be a priest in the Catholic Church and marry.
Sin happens and no one is innocent. So Fr. Musaala and those he says he advocates for will once in a while stray and father a kid or two. These priests are from our community. The same community that has thieves, pedophiles, murderers. So, much as there is scrutiny in the seminary, some hypocrites manage to go through and become priests. They are pretenders that shouldn’t have become priests in the first place.
The same reason, I am not one after spending five years in the seminary.
Does marriage stop men from preying on children under their care? No. We have heard of people with three or four wives who still go ahead and defile minors, sometimes their own kids.
Its not that they have been denied the right to marry! We have heard of ministers who can’t take care of their kids yet they are millionaires. Anglican priests marry but a few bad ones prey on their flock.
Now for Fr. Musaala and those of his ilk, marriage for Catholic priests won’t help much in as far as solving the concerns he is raising. Fr. Musaala, if you are digging, and you get tired, you don’t tell the land to go away, you go away yourself.’
I completely share Nahabwe’s opinion.
Now my views:
Do I think priests, sin? Yes. Like Nahabwe ably puts it, priests are not from planet Mars. They come from the same communities that you and I come from. We all commit sin sometimes.
But when we sin, the church gives us the opportunity to confess and be forgiven or be damned.
I could read from Fr. Musaala’s letter a confessional tone. But confessions must be pure and sincere. To me Fr. Musaala’s expose is neither honest nor sincere.
The church has channels and avenues through which priests can raise their grievances, their concerns and have them sorted. The church also has its own ways of punishing its own clergy and hundreds have gotten punished for various transgressions.
The media isn’t one of these channels. Fr. Musaala chose to write an open letter, not a letter to his Bishop or Archbishop. Fr. Musaala wrote to the whole world. Did he expect the world to change what is wrong in his Church?
I believe in openness, but I also believe in institutions. Fr. Musaala was not ordained priest yesterday, he has served in the Church longer than I have been an adult. He went there willingly and no one has forced him to stay.
He knows the channels through which to raise concerns and he knows very well that the media; the internet is not one of them.
I believe Fr. Musaala chose to write and leak his ‘open letter’ because he has something sinister against the Church. It’s his secret. And for this I say he deserves to serve his punishment.
Fr. Musaala wasn’t even truthful in his letter. If he knew what he was writing about, why didn’t he drop any names. Why not say Priest this or this Bishop this is living with a wife and they have kids?
The church doesn’t want priests or any of its clergy washing their linen in public but as a person I have no problem with someone being truthful, honest and sincere.
I believe if someone has genuine concerns about any thing, they are better off expressing themselves than suppressing themselves. If Fr. Musaala was sincere and he wanted action taken, why didn’t he address his letter to any authority?
What Fr. Musaala has achieved is not reopen debate about the centuries old question of celibacy in the Catholic Church. No, Fr. Musala has simply tarnished all the priests in Uganda and beyond.
Fr. Musaala is blind to the goodness of thousands of honest and God-fearing priests doing God’s work across the country.
By writing an anonymous letter alleging grave sins and crimes, Fr. Musaala has, as Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga put it, cast ‘a dark shadow of suspicion’ over all priests’ some of whom he has never met.
It’s very easy to say priest so and so is having sexual relations with this or that woman. But it’s almost impossible to prove it beyond reasonable doubt unless you are the priest or the woman.
It’s easy to allege that this priest has produced a kid but it’s almost impossible to prove minus DNA tests. Many women are not sure who is the father of their kids.
I have heard stories of priests having sex with women, with young girls a thousand times but I have never confirmed any. I also know of priests who have gotten arrested by police for allegedly defiling girls.
Fr. Musaala retelling the old rumours and innuendos without providing any evidence doesn’t make them less of rumours.
Reading Fr. Musaala’s letter gives the impression that all priests are sinful and this simply isn’t true.
Of course there could be priests engaged in criminal activities and if any one knows any of these it’s their duty as citizens to report them not to the Bishop but to the Police.
I believe there could be priests who may have strayed and broken their obligation to celibacy (I don’t know any myself) but priests are men and like a husband can stray, so can a priest.
Those priests who have fallen short of God’s glory have sinned as persons and not on behalf of the whole church.
Now let us assume one priest commits this terrible sin and the woman gets pregnant and delivers a child.
Should the priest be excommunicated from the church because he has done wrong, should the woman also be excommunicated for falling for the priest’s sinful advances or should the kid be killed because he/she is a product of a sin?
Does committing a sin make one less of a priest? Does it diminish one’s ability to do God’s work? I don’t think so. Didn’t Jesus say he was on earth because of sinners?
Does becoming a priest make you less of a man who is completely unattracted to the fairer sex?
And because some have fallen victim to fatal attraction, and because some have fallen victim to Satan’s evil scheme, should the Catholic Church’s doctrines on celibacy be forfeited or scrapped?
Should priests be allowed to get married because, as Fr. Musaala says some of them are living like married men with wives and children?
Is marriage the silver bullet that will stop priests from falling short of what is expected of them?
Do we as society expect too much from these priests and he clergy?
Fr. Musaala, reading from his letter, has lost his belief in the vocation of priesthood and could be living in terrible sin himself. His failure to stay celibate is his own failure as a person and not that of the whole church in which he is a priest.
If Fr. Musaala has lost interest in the church, it’s only fair that he exercises his options which are readily available to him and calls time on his priesthood and goes to live the life he finds more uplifting, not the double life he is living right now.
You can serve God in so many ways; you don’t have to be a priest.
Fr. Musaala has done his part and am sure God is grateful. Let him now confess his sins and move on and stop living a lie.
But let him not, because of the weaknesses in his heart, bring to shame, Gods Holy Church.
Priesthood is a vocation that is undertaken willingly and is never forced on anyone. It is not a prison sentence.