The Ugandan martyrs

The Ugandan martyrs

Today is the feast of St Charles Lwanga and companions.

Between 1885 and 1887, King Mwanga of Buganda (in modern-day Uganda) executed several dozen royal pages for who refused to renounce their Christian faith.

The king nursed many grievances against Christianity, but one of them stands out. Mwanga was a pedophile and ephebophile who resented the sexual mores of the new Christian religion. The Christians among his court — which was basically intended to be a harem — consistently refused his sexual advances. In the months leading up to the ‘Namugongo holocaust,’ Charles Lwanga is reputed to have protected several boys from the predatory king.

On the morning of Thursday 3 June 1887 — the Feast of the Ascension — Charles was cruelly burnt to death. Several dozen young men and boys joined him in death, though the means of execution varied: some were burned alive, some speared, and others hacked to death.

A photo of many of the martyrs

A photo of many of the martyrs

In light of today’s feast, I offered all my prayers and sacrifices for the survivors of clergy abuse.

When I sat in the gallery of the Parliamentary Inquiry a few months ago, one of the most heart-rending testimonies I heard came from a man who grieved his loss of faith. He cited two reasons for this loss:

1. The Catholic religion had become repugnant to him, because it was so closely related to the abuse he suffered from ‘men of God.’

2. Even more tragically, in his darkest hours, he is still susceptible to the lie that the abuse he suffered is his sin. The rapes he endured are his crimes, which causes God to turn away from him in disgust.

Would that he and others survivors had a Charles Lwanga who could have shielded them. But I am sure St Charles’ prayers, and the prayers of Charles’ companions, intercede for him and other survivors.

2 Comments

  1. Carmel Righetti
    Jun 4, 2013

    Thank you Father John for showing us all how not to feel helpless in the face of this momentous tragedy by praying to our Holy Trinitarian God, who will not give us a stone when we ask for bread for our abused brothers and sisters.

  2. Robert
    Jun 4, 2013

    How horribly numerous are Mwanga’s devotees in our time …