A Ugandan catholic priest has said the church should do away with the vow of celibacy, saying it was time for "common sense to prevail" as many clergymen were already living with wives and children.
Father Anthony Musaala, a popular priest in the East African nation, recently wrote to the archbishop of the Catholic Church in Uganda alleging that most of his colleagues had secret families, while others had forced their lovers to abort.
A fair number of priests' and bishops' children are scattered around the nation
Musaala, also a well-known musician, wrote a letter entitled: "An open letter to bishops, priests and laity: The failure of celibate chastity among diocesan priests", said the celibacy vow must be revisited as it had become archaic.
"I believe it is a matter of time before common sense prevails and marriage for the clergy in the Latin rite church is accepted," reads the letter, which has thrown the church into turmoil.
Musaala said there are already a lot of priests in Britain and the United States who had been allowed to marry and the church in Uganda should follow suite.
Catholic clergy are required to take a vow of celibacy and are not allowed to marry and Musaala's letter is likely to cause further confusion in the church which has seen several high profile sex scandals in recent years.
"It is an open secret that many catholic priests and some bishops, in Uganda and elsewhere, no longer live celibate," he wrote, in the letter that appeared in several newspapers.
"A fair number of priests' and bishops' children are scattered around the nation."
Musaala further alleges that the amorous priests made sure their children "are carefully hidden from view" while in other cases the unborn "are aborted at priests' behest".
But the Catholic Church has reacted swiftly, suspending Musaala and saying his statements were regrettable.
"Father Anthony Musaala is suspended from celebrating sacraments and sacramental and from the powers of governance to the law of church," Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga said.
"It should, however, be clear that the value of the choice of priestly celibacy according to catholic tradition still stands and the need for solid human and Christian formation is underlined, both for seminarians and those already ordained."
He indicated that Musaala's allegations that there were priests living with families will be investigated.
Musaala's allegations have generated excitement in Uganda, with opinion polarised between those who support him and others who say his approach is wrong.
Lilian Nalongo, a housewife believes most of the allegations are true and Musala's suspension to be unfair.
"We are aware of many catholic priests who have wives and children. It is unfair that he has been suspended for speaking the truth," she said.
Henry Kizza, a lay leader in a Catholic parish in Kebago, Kampala, the capital, said "Father Musala should not impose his thoughts on the entire Church. If he feels it has become too much for him, he should quit."
John Male, a school teacher in Kampala said the matter should have been handled discreetly.
"Father Musaala's letter is shameful. He should have reported priests with wives to the Archbishop in confidence," he said.
Meanwhile, Father Musaala has reportedly announced his intention to appeal his suspension.