Kenyan Christians Who Support Polygamy at Odds With Catholic Church

Bishop Joseph Mairura of Kisii, Kenya, and a representative of the apostolic nuncio to Kenya wave to the congregation at Gusii Stadium Feb. 23. The Catholic Church rejects polygamous marriages. (CNS photo/Doreen Ajiambo)
Bishop Joseph Mairura of Kisii, Kenya, and a representative of the apostolic nuncio to Kenya wave to the congregation at Gusii Stadium Feb. 23. The Catholic Church rejects polygamous marriages. (CNS photo/Doreen Ajiambo)

There are over 9 million Catholics in Kenya, and not all of them support the Church’s (and the Bible’s) official teaching on marriage.

While polygamy is a common African ancestral practice, surprisingly, many Kenyan Christians also support the tradition, and are not afraid to say why. As Catholic News Service reports:

Flanked by his three wives and 12 children in his grocery shop in Kenya’s biggest slum, Kibera, Gilbert Wandera said men should marry multiple wives to prevent single motherhood and to ensure that children have fathers in their lives.

“Getting a second or third wife is not a sin before God,” said Wandera, 38, who was a catechist, or Catholic religion teacher, for 10 years before the Church expelled him in 2013. “Men should go ahead and marry multiple wives like the biblical Solomon, who married many wives candidly.”

Kenya’s openly Christian president, Uhuru Kenyatta, probably has something to do with this. In 2014, he signed a law legalizing polygamy in the country. Since that time, there have been public calls for men to marry multiple wives.

One of Kenyatta’s aides, Gathoni Wamuchomba, said, “If you can sustain five wives, have them. If you are a man and you are in a position to bring up many children, do it.”

The Catholic Church understandably is not happy with this development. The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a recent statement: ‘Polygamy is against the will of God and we must desist from it. We should uphold human dignity, and especially the dignity of the woman.”

Speaking at a recent press conference, conference chairman 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.’

–Joshua James

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