“I apologize if my initial statement conveyed insensitivity as from your feedback, I have come to realize that there is much variation in thought and lifestyle within this community. I want you to know that I am not indifferent to your pain and frustration,” Archbishop William Goh said in response to his earlier open letter of June 21.
His latest letter written in a pastoral, soft and compassionate style is in stark contrast to that earlier letter where he had been harsh and even flippant and where he even called on the Holy Spirit to “restore them (gay people) to wholeness.”
“LGBT sexual relationships are not in accordance with the plan of God,” he said in his earlier letter, adding that “this kind of lifestyle should not be promoted by Catholics as it is detrimental to society, is not helpful to integral human development and contrary to Christian values.”
But in his second letter he apologizes for the “hurt, anger and disappointment” that his initial message caused.
He noted that the Catholic Church teaches that a sexual relationship between same-sex individuals it is not in accordance with the divine plan of God.
However, he pointed out: “As the Bishop of the local Church which is a part of the Universal Catholic Church, my primary responsibility is to instruct the Faithful in accordance with the teachings of the Universal Church. I am not at liberty to change the truth as revealed in sacred scripture and that which is taught by the Magisterium of the Church,” he said.
Archbishop Goh even went so far as to say that the Church does not disapprove of a loving relationship between same-sex individuals that is chaste.
“Same-sex inclination in itself is not a sin but as love often seeks to express itself physically, the challenge to be chaste and faithful to the divine plan of God is ever present. Difficult as it seems, we, as members of the Catholic Church, must accept her teachings on chastity in relationships, regardless of sexual orientation,” he said.
He then sited examples from scripture that the church uses to arrive at the conclusion “that sexual relationships between those of the same gender are not permissible” but concluded his letter by affirming LGBT Catholics.
“I am deeply edified by your courage and perseverance in spite of the challenges you face. Many of you are generous, caring and contribute to the common good of humanity by your good works. Some of you are amongst the most loving and lovable people I have come across,” he said.
Gay rights are a contentious issue in Singapore, with many Christian and Muslim religious groups wanting no debate on discarding a British colonial-era “Section 377A” law that criminalizes sex between men with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.