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Ghanaian cardinal critical of Uganda’s anti-gay law

Cardinal Peter Turkson says ‘homosexuals are not criminals’

Cardinal Peter Turkson, of Ghana, has criticized Uganda’s anti-gay law at a conference in Slovakia, saying that “homosexuals are not criminals.” Credit: democraticunderground.com

A Ghanaian cardinal has criticized Uganda’s recently enacted anti-gay law at a conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, saying “homosexuals are not criminals,” the Catholic Herald reports.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, who was reportedly on the short list to succeed Pope Benedict XVI after the latter resigned, told the conference that gay people do not deserve to be imprisoned for life, one of the harsher penalties that the measure calls for in cases of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Turkson’s recent comments are being cast as a departure from remarks he made last year in an interview with Christiane Amanpour, who asked him if the sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Catholic Church could spread to Africa. In his response, Turkson conflated homosexuality and pedophilia, saying “African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency a little bit. Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa, homosexuality, or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind, are not countenanced in our society — so that cultural, if you want, the taboo that traditionally has been there, has served to keep this out.”

In 2012, Turkson, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, also took issue with United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s call for African nations to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality, arguing that there is a distinction between human rights and morality. “We [the Church] push for the rights of prisoners, the rights of others; and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights?” the National Catholic Register quotes Turkson as saying.

In Bratislava, Turkson appealed to the global community not to cut aid to Uganda in the wake of the World Bank’s decision to withhold a multimillion-dollar loan to the country and the announcements by the governments of Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark that they’d be redirecting or withdrawing aid because of the law.

The Catholic Herald notes that Uganda’s Catholic bishops have reiterated their stance against homosexuality, with the head of the country’s Episcopal Conference saying that the bishops support “compassion” for gay people and believe gay people can change. The bishops did not comment on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to sign off on the bill, except to say that they were against the penalties it provided for when it first came to light.