Saturday, June 03, 2017

The African Proto-Martyrs of Uganda

Blessed Pope Paul VI canonized Charles Lwanga and his companions 
on June 22,1964.

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions

"They left this life in triumph and entered God's eternal city with joy."

It is providential that the feast day of a group of martyrs who were put to death for refusing King Mwanga of Uganda homosexual advances is celebrated during what has come to be known as Gay Pride Month. Though many Christians were killed by Mwanga, a group of pages were sentenced to death not only out of hatred for the faith but for resisting homosexual relations with the King. Homosexuality is a cultural taboo in Uganda to this day, although it is thought the king learned and acquired the practice from the Arabs. (Source) Since certain cultural taboo accorded with European moral standards, practices such as polygamy were also condemned by Christian missionaries.  Hence Mwanga sought to rid the country of the new religion and all Christians.

The story of the martyrs is at once gruesome and edifying. Imagine accepting torture and death rather than committing a sexual sin which has become so commonplace in our day? The sacrifice of the martyrs demonstrates that conquering sin is indeed possible for anyone, and their witness offers the Christian great hope, reminding us how they "endured the opposition of sinners", thus encouraging us, "not to grow despondent or abandon the struggle." Their intercession is powerful before God, for their blood cries out on our behalf, encouraging us... "In your fight against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood." - Hebrews 12: 3-4

It is important that hagiographers do not rewrite the history of the martyrs guided by revisionist motives to make their deaths about something less politically controversial.  Saints are made saints because of their heroic virtue and because they exemplify the Christian life and teaching. Martyrs are martyrs because they suffered for the faith, their death is their witness to Christ and the Gospel. The Martyrs of Uganda are saints because they refused to renounce the faith and submit to homosexual sin. Though St. Sebastian has been adopted by gay people as a patron (the depiction of his physique plays a big part here), he was martyred out of hatred for the faith. Martyrs of chastity were killed because they resisted sexual sin, and so on.

It seems I mention these saints every year on their feast day.  I think it is necessary to remind people that homosexual acts are indeed sinful and cannot be approved, which pretty much cancels out any expectation that same sex marriage could ever be approved by the Catholic Church.  We don't have to beat people over the head about this, but it is important from time to time to affirm Catholic teaching on the subject, and the occasion of the Martyrs of Uganda feast day is an excellent time to do that.  I've several posts on the martyrs here.  Within that series I also discuss violence against homosexuals, why that in itself does not make them martyrs for the faith, and also the fact that Uganda and other African nations have criminalized homosexual acts and consider it as a a form of ideological colonization.

As I noted in the past, the cultural assault on Africa is very real, as expressed by the concern voiced by African Bishops during their Rome Synod in October of 2009:

"One of the major themes of the Synod has been the denunciation of Western anti-life and anti-family programs as a new form of colonialism and "cultural imperialism" from the West, which is trying to impose a set of alien values onto African society." - Archbishop Sarah, Source

In no way were the African Bishops suggesting, approving, much less promoting capital punishment for persons who engage in or promote homosexual activity, nevertheless they did note the cultural and spiritual threat it poses, especially by foreigners and NGO active in these regions.

St. Charles and Companions pray us.

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