RELIGION
05/08/2013 04:29 pm ET | Updated May 08, 2013

Father Anthony Musaala, Ugandan Priest, Suspended After Decrying Sex Abuse, Celibacy In Church (VIDEO)

Father Anthony Musaala, a popular and charismatic priest in Uganda, awaits the final decision on his suspension following the publication of a letter decrying what he calls the "open secret" of sexual abuse and sexual activity involving African priests.

The controversy started earlier this year after media got a hold of the letter -- sent to Archbishop of Kampala, Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, in March -- that accused Ugandan priests of keeping secret wives, children and abusing minors, according to All Africa. The letter also suggested a change to the Catholic Church's policy of celibacy.

At the time, Lwanga noted that he takes any allegations of abuse seriously but said Musaala's letter "damages good morals of Catholic believers and faults the Catholic teaching," according to the outlet.

"I deeply think of the immense suffering caused by the article produced in the media authored by Fr. Anthony Musaala, that seemed to be casting a dark shadow of suspicion on all priests," Lwanga said in a statement.

Musaala said he did not mean for the letter to go public, explaining that it was leaked without his permission, according to Ugandan television program NBS. On the other hand, he said, the problems detailed in the letter stem in part from the church's impenetrable cloak of secrecy.

"It's wonderful to be loyal, like one should be loyal to ones family," Musaala told NBS. "But there is an unhealthy silence ... People don't want to talk in any other forum about what is going on under the table."

While he estimated that a very large number of priests defy the Vatican and are sexually active, an exact number is impossible to estimate. Nevertheless, he stressed the problem can not just be swept under the rug forever.

"We can bury our heads in the sand," Musaala, who admitted he had been abused as a Catholic school boy, said.

As pressure in the media intensified, Lwanga later acknowledged that some abuses had occurred but refused to give details about any internal investigations or rescind Musaala's suspension, according to Uganda's Daily Monitor.

As he awaits a final decision on his suspension, Musaala told The Los Angeles Times he has little to do but pray and read the Bible. Worried for his safety, he said he has even contemplated leaving Uganda.

"[Some media reports] have written that I'm masquerading as a Catholic priest but I am a devil worshiper who has to be stopped at all costs. I'm trying to take it day by day," he said.

As the The Los Angeles Times notes, Catholicism is the most popular religion in Uganda, where it flourishes in a particularly conservative vein.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, once a frontrunner to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, claimed in February that the African Catholic church does not have a sexual abuse problem like its European and Western counterparts, "because African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency."

Turkson went on to blame most priest abuse cases on homosexuality, something that is "taboo" in many parts of Africa.

In April, Pope Francis announced that taking action to identify and eradicate abusive priests is important "for the Church and its credibility," Reuters reports. While certainly a more controversial topic, someCatholics have also tentatively questioned the Church's insistence on mandatory celibacy.

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