Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana
Catholic Cardinal: 'Homosexuals Are Not Criminals'

By Michael O'Loughlin

Originally published on Advocate.com March 04 2014 5:01 PM ET

The head of the Vatican's peace and justice office today criticized the recently enacted law criminalizing homosexuality in Uganda.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana said that “homosexuals are not criminals” and do not deserve incarceration, according to the U.K.'s Catholic Herald. He made the comments to reporters at a human rights conference in Slovakia.

Roman Catholic bishops in Uganda, however, have not come out either way on the new law, which provides for prison sentences for homosexual acts, in some cases life imprisonment.

"Our reaction from the church is very clear, we don't support homosexuality," Msgr. John Baptist Kauta, secretary-general of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (which is Catholic, not Episcopalian), told Catholic News Service late last month, adding that the believe gay people "can change."

In February 2013 another high-ranking Vatican official also criticized the criminalization of homosexuality.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said that the church believes that gay people “have the same dignity as all of God’s children.” He noted that there are "countries where homosexuality is a crime" and said that he "would like the church to fight against all this,” according to Religion News Service.

The East African nation is currently reeling from the diversion of $115 million in international aid as a result of the law's signing, according to an earlier report in  The Advocate. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the State Department is reevaluating its relationship with Uganda. 

Turkson, who appeared on many papal short lists in the the runup to Pope Francis's 2013 election, said Vatican leaders hope nations will continue to send aid to Uganda in spite of the law.

Contributor: 
Michael O'Loughlin