Church Leaders Should Calm Down!

By Ofwono Opondo

Jan. 05, 18

Two weeks after parliament concluded debate on the constitutional amendment, dubbed “age limit bill”, Kampala Catholic Archbishop, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, and Orthodox Church Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga are still angrily lashing out their tongues mainly at NRM MPs and politicians who supported the amendment. Archbishop Kizito Lwanga, whose opposition to the amendment began before the bill was tabled and might not have fully read, has been steadfast but would now like to frame a narrative of an innocent commentator guiding in accordance with his pastoral calling, which we beg to disagree with.
Had they been impartial arbiters in the on-going political hubris, they would have been encouraging democratic and civil debate on these issues and not sided with an aggressive, outlandish and violent opposition that had sought to plant and spread hate politics in our midst. The reason they appear vexed at the pulpit and media is because a few critics to their approach to political issues have been bold enough to challenge and expose their bias, partisanship and intolerance to dissent, and proving that they wanted to tilt this debate towards one side but failed.
Their current attempt is to frame the discussion as if government is opposed to them and other religious leaders from talking about Uganda’s future and politics, and giving guidance where government is going astray. Unfortunately, they haven’t been as bold to name names, although their pointed barbs leave no room at whom they are directed, which is all well. While we respect religious freedom, rights and authority, we in equal measure challenge its wisdom on our individual and collective destiny particularly where the national constitution has left no ambiguities.
It is true as Archbishop Kizito Lwanga states that the Uganda constitution gives every citizen the right to participate in political affairs including agitation for change, but it isn’t blanket amnesty, the reason, religious and cultural leaders, civil servants, military and police officers have limitations. The same constitution limit the president, speaker of parliament and chief justice, and their deputies what they say or do publicly. The constitution gives every citizen right to criticise their government, equally empowers them to criticise every leader including religious ones, and therefore they should accept public criticism from those who disagree with their approach or even contents of what they say. There are, no two ways about it, democracy is a double aged sword.
The attempt to portray government as seeking to gag religious leaders from directly participating in politics is intended to show they are either feared, or government is extremely afraid and intolerant of innocent criticisms, which isn’t true, and will fail on its path. Our democracy engendered by the NRM has now reached levels where no one, leader, or institution, religious or temporal should expect to be beyond vigilant watch. Those religious leaders and institutions that grew and flourished during the medieval era when there was no public accountability need to change fast to accommodate democracy. The time for priests picking offertories and alms at funerals without accountability is fading. Equally, religious institutions should be obliged to pay taxes like any other property holder and business, which they have resisted to-date. After all, government now provides most social services, while those by religious institutions aren’t free of charge. They should put the same zeal in combating social evils like homosexuality, drug abuse, child sacrifice, and domestic violence.
 he time when religious leaders and institutions dished out unverified dictums purportedly from God in heaven, through his anointed Son, Jesus Christ and his descendants since Saint Peter is fast losing appeal, perhaps the reason Pope Francis recently advised that the daily prayer be revised. I know that catholic priests quote the Vatican as their authority on almost every subject including science and life itself, although they have been proven wrong countless times over the centuries.
Archbishop Kizito Lwanga’s reference to the church’s duty to ‘guide’, has its origin in Famuli vestrae pietatis, written by Pope Gelasius I, and much later, the Vatican Councils I and II which says the Church has a proper “role in guiding and informing consciences, natural law, judging the moral integrity of the state, and thereby a check to the power of the state.” But to do this effectively, the church much have sufficient and effective self-introspection, which hasn’t been the case so far.
However, Uganda is not ruled according to the Vatican Council regulations, but the constitution of the Republic of Uganda, as from time to time amended by parliament. The notion that religious leaders know it all is plain wrong and bankrupt as well, and unless they are naïve it could further erode our religiosity if not exposed early enough.
Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther led the formation of Protestantism from the Catholic Church disagreeing over “indulgencies” among others where repentant sinners paid money to church leaders in order to have their punishments atoned. While many, Ugandans adhere to ‘modern’ religions of Christianity and Islam, we should reject religious teachings on matters of politics, state and law because it will be our shortest route to decay, anarchy, and disintegration similar to Syria, Somalia, and Israel-Palestine.