Kampala — Uganda's Catholic bishops reaffirmed their opposition to homosexuality, but reserved judgment on a recently ratified bill imposing harsh punishment for homosexual acts in the East African nation.
"Our reaction from the Church is very clear, we don't support homosexuality," Msgr. John Baptist Kauta, secretary-general of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, told Catholic News Service (CNS) on February 26.
He said that when the anti-gay bill was first discussed, the country's bishops had been against the harsh penalties it involved for homosexual acts, including the death penalty.
"The bishops were not in favor of that," he said. "We were for compassion, and we believe (homosexuals) can change."
He said Uganda's bishops were in a retreat and would not be available to comment on the new law until early March.
"We normally don't want to overreact," he said.
Uganda's anti-gay bill was signed into law on February 24 by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
The bill originally proposed the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," but first-time offenders will now face life in jail, instead of an originally proposed 14-year prison term.
Western donor countries and international rights groups have termed the new law an abuse of human rights and are asking for its repeal.
"The United States is deeply disappointed in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.