03 June 2013

The Martyrs of Uganda and the current scandal in the Church

Today, 3 June, is the Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs.

On 18 October 1964 Pope Paul VI canonised 22 young males - one, Kizito, was only 14 - martyred by King Mwanga II of Buganda, now part of Uganda, between 1885 and 1887. These men and boys were all pages of the king. In his homily at the canonisation the Pope spoke of some of the great saints of north Africa and of the Anglicans who were also martyred: Who could have predicted to the famous African confessors and martyrs such as Cyprian, Felicity, Perpetua and—the greatest of all—Augustine, that we would one day add names so dear to us as Charles Lwanga and Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their twenty companions? Nor must we forget those members of the Anglican Church who also died for the name of Christ.

In 2010 there were more than 33 million people in Uganda of whom 41.9 percent were Catholics and 35.9 percent Anglican.

The Word Among Us carried an article by Bob French, The Uganda Martyrs; Their Countercultural Witness Still Speaks Today, in its August 2008 issue. Here are some extracts, emphasis added.

Unlike some missionaries of the day, the White Fathers took their time preparing people for baptism. They wanted their new converts to understand what it means to enter into new life with Jesus and to follow him.
Many Bugandans were hungry for their teaching and responded eagerly to this approach. “They were offered the living word of God, not just the historical facts of salvation,” says Caroli Lwanga Mpoza, a historian from Uganda. “They grabbed onto it, and it changed them.”
The depth of their faith became obvious during a three-year period when Mutesa’s hostility forced the White Fathers out of the country. The priests returned from exile after Mutesa’s death in 1884 and were pleased to find that their converts had taken it upon themselves to bring their families and friends to the Lord. Many had renounced polygamy and slavery and were devoting their energies to serving and caring for the needy around them.
Hero of the Faith. One exceptionally active convert was Joseph Mukasa, who served as personal attendant for both Mutesa and the new king, his son Mwanga. He had brought Christ to many of the five hundred young men and boys who worked as court pages, and they relied on his leadership and his clear grasp of the faith . . . 
Joseph Mukasa reprimanded the king for killing Anglican Bishop James Hannington, an Englishman.
Mukasa could have played it safe and chosen not to cross the king again. Instead, he enraged Mwanga even more by repeatedly opposing his attempts to use the younger pages as his sex partners. Mukasa not only taught the boys to resist but made sure they stayed out of Mwanga’s reach.
The Kabaka finally decided to make Mukasa an example, ordering him to be burned alive as a conspirator. But here, too, Mukasa proved the stronger and braver. He assured his executioner that “a Christian who gives his life for God has no reason to fear death… . Tell Mwanga,” he also said, “that he has condemned me unjustly, but I forgive him with all my heart.” The executioner was so impressed with Mukasa that he beheaded him swiftly before tying him to the stake and burning his body.
A Terrible Vengeance. Now on a rampage, King Mwanga threatened to have all his Christian pages killed unless they renounced their faith. This failed to intimidate them, however, for Mukasa’s example had inspired them. Even the catechumens among them followed Mukasa’s bravery by asking to be baptized before they died.
Among them was Charles Lwanga, who took over both Mukasa’s position as head of the pages and his role of spiritual leader. Like Mukasa, Lwanga professed loyalty to the king but fell into disfavor for protecting the boys and holding onto his faith . . .
The article concludes with these paragraphs:
Against the Grain. The martyrs of Uganda were young, but they were not seduced by the values of the royal court. They took a stand for God’s law, even when it meant defying the king himself. Out of allegiance to a higher king and a nobler law, they rejected the earthly security that could have been theirs had they given in to the king’s lusts.
Their example is extremely important today, Caroli Mpoza points out. It shows how faith can become a “rudder” that sustains us in times of trial and temptation. It also shows how critical it is to instill godliness in our children. If they learn to honor God and put him first, he says, they too will stand firm against the seductive values of our culture.
Like the parable of the sower, the story of the Uganda Martyrs invites us to examine our commitment to the Lord. Here are young people whose whole life of faith was marked by simple, luminous, joyful trust in God—even in the face of a gruesome death. They were “rich soil” indeed—not just for Africa, but for the whole church.
In 2010 there were more than 33 million people in Uganda of whom 41.9 percent were Catholics and 35.9 percent Anglicans.
The Murphy Report (2009) by the Irish Department of Justice examining the sexual abuse of minors by priest in the Archdiocese of Dublin was based on complaints in respect of over 320 children against the 46 priests in the representative sample. Substantially more of the complaints relate to boys – the ratio is 2.3 boys to 1 girl. [Emphasis added here and below.]
The John Jay Report of sexual abuse of minors by priests in the USA listed the main characteristics of the sex abuse incidents reported. These included:
-- An overwhelming majority of the victims, 81 percent, were males. The most vulnerable were boys aged 11 to 14, representing more than 40 percent of the victims. This goes against the trend in the general U.S. society where the main problem is men abusing girls.
-- A majority of the victims were post-pubescent adolescents with a small percentage of the priests accused of abusing children who had not reached puberty.
-- Most of the accused committed a variety of sex acts involving serious sexual offenses.
-- The most frequent context for abuse was a social event and many priests socialized with the families of victims.
-- Abuses occurred in a variety of places with the most common being the residence of the priest.

I thank Fr Ray Blake for this photo, which I found on his post today on the Ugandan Martyrs after I had published my post.
O God, who have made the blood of Martyrs 
the seed of Christians,
mercifully grant that the field which is your Church,
watered by the blood 
shed by Saints Charles Lwanga and his companions, 
may be fertile and always yield you an abundant harvest. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.

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