Kenya’s Catholic bishops confronted the growing issue of polygamy among Christians in the country, saying that God forbids the practice even if it is legal.
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement saying that polygamy “is against the will of God and we must desist from it” and that “we should uphold human dignity, and especially the dignity of the woman,” according to Crux Now. The statement comes as many Christians in Kenya have not only taken multiple wives, but also actively promote polygamy, like former Catechist Gilbert Wandera. (RELATED: Catholic Church Denounces Ancient Heresies In Modern Forms)
“Getting a second or third wife is not a sin before God,” Wandera said, according to Crux. “Men should go ahead and marry multiple wives like the biblical Solomon, who married many wives candidly.”
Wandera has three wives and 12 children. He served as a Catechist, or teacher of Catholic theology, for 10 years until the church expelled him in 2013.
Polygamy is a common traditional practice in East African countries, but the practice has risen in popularity in Kenya, even among Catholics, since the government legalized it in 2014. Proponents of polygamy in Kenya claim the practice of polygamy helps alleviate the problem of single parenting, while others say that it helps address the disparity between women who want to marry and the lack of men who want to settle down and commit.
“If you can sustain five wives, have them,” said Gathoni Wa Muchomba, a Kenyan lawmaker and aide to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, according to Crux. “If you are a man and you are in a position to bring up many children, do it.”
“We need to be honest,” she added. “These children who are raised by single mothers, where are their fathers?”
Everlyne Wekesa, Wandera’s second wife, said having children and a home is a necessity for Kenyan women — one that is hard to maintain without a husband.
“We need to have homes and children,” she said, according to Crux. “It’s not easy to get men in Kenya who are ready to marry, and most women have to make do with those they get.”
Some Christian leaders in Kenya also support the practice, like the Pentecostal Rev. Vincent Mulwa of the Christ Pilgrim Restoration Centre in Nairobi. Mulwa said polygamy should be “no problem” for Christians since the Bible has instances of “holy men with many wives.”
“The number of wives or concubines that one has does not matter and is not a standard of holiness,” Mulwa said, according to Crux.
A priest who asked not to be named told Crux the practice of polygamy is common in Kenya’s Catholic church, but not openly talked about since the church overtly opposes it.
“They don’t want to do it openly because the Church doctrine doesn’t allow it,” he said, according to Crux. “They know they will be expelled from the Church and condemned by everyone.”
Kigochi Waimiri, chairman of the Gikuyu Cultural Association, affirmed that perception to Crux.
“Those opposing polygamy are hypocrites, and some of them are in several secret relationships,” Waimiri said.
Kenya’s bishops said, however, that the social problems of single parenting and the lack of available husbands are no excuse to engage in polygamous relationships.
Bishop Philip A. Anyolo said it is “not proper for some of our leaders to purport to propose solutions (to social problems) by suggesting alternative forms of family,” according to Crux. “The dignity of the family must not be distorted by any human power, nor be changed for personal or social pleasure.”
Anyolo added that protecting the dignity of the family is “a responsibility of the state and the church.”
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