By Henry K. Otafiire
Retired Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Stanley Ntagali has been banned from carrying out priestly duties following his alleged involvement in an extra-marital affair with a married woman.
It is one of Uganda’s most hysterical scandals that has struck the heart of Christian faith. It feels surreal, perhaps even unreal: a disturbing incident that has set tongues wagging across the country.
This is a scandal that has become a fodder for our rumour mill and uncensored, unregulated longing of new media and the greedy public longing for the next sensational tittle-tattle to consume as it unfolds.
Tabloids were anyway going to have a field day. Red pepper with it’s screaming headline ”Horny Spirit tempts Ntagali to eat Manna”
Photos of a lady at the centre of the controversy with the retired Archbishop were streaking across the internet like fire. There were relentlessly shared and examined in granular detail.
The following day, the story had pushed our highly charged elections off most of the nation’s leading newspaper front pages.
Ugandan tabloids have never needed much of an excuse and timing to publish salacious gossip than this. The sensational account of Jerome – a man who was caught on video in marital home a few months earlier had already stoked the public’s appetite for a sex scandal.
With remarkable speed, this scandal has polarised debate along extremely public moral battle lines.All of a sudden, everyone from social media users to highbrow commentators has had an opinion.
It has also touched on everyday motifs:voyeurism and morality, our sordid and irresponsible curiosity for what public figures do in the privacy of their own bedrooms.
The reaction was shocking but illuminating. There is something in our public psyche. We hold our clergy on a high moral pedestal.
We want them to be eternally infallible and perpetually faultless yet they are humans with flaws and stumble too in the face of temptations. Perhaps, it is why people react with such ridicule when a Reverend or an Archbishop commits adultery.
The idea that men of God are humans with flaws is to dangerous and complex for us to comprehend. Above all, what has largely been forsaken in the feeding frenzy and ongoing debate is any concept that this he is human, for all his faults, his life has been ripped to pieces just like many that have come before him.
Ntagali had risen to a position of extraordinary power and influence in the Christian faith: Archbishop of Church of Uganda, head of anglicans, one of the very few people with denominational credentials to guide and mentor the next cadre of evangelicals.
In a fleeting moment, his image has been irremediably and incurably tarnished, perhaps he will have his clerical robes stripped from him, his status as the Church’s most convenient villain cemented.
For this hapless woman who had an affair with the retired Archbishop, has already received a fair share of beating typical of the the way our patriarchal society treats women: the sex‑shaming, the humiliation, the public guillotine.
The way we regard women as male property, to be held and exchanged without agency. The way we frame them in terms of the male gaze, a framing that is then used against them. In one breath, she has been reduced to a sexual object and in another turn, her looks and appearance used to rationalise and justify Ntagali’s misdeeds.
Will this unfortunate incident inform how the Church should handle such scandals in the future? Does this scandal expose the magnitude of rot in sacred and holiest of all places?
How will the Church redeem it’s image that has been brutally bruised?
What are the ramifications of this scandal to an institution whose moral standing has diminished over the years? In the coming days and months these are questions that the Church will continue confronting while doing a moral reckoning.