THE head of the Catholic Church in Singapore yesterday apologised for a statement he made last month on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues if it had been considered insensitive.
But in his latest letter to the faithful, Archbishop William Goh maintained the church's stance against LGBT sexual relationships, saying a group is being formed to help those with same-sex orientation.
Last month, in a message read at Singapore's 30 Catholic churches, he said a family unit comprises a father, mother and children; and that LGBT sexual relationships are "not in accordance with the plan of God".
It was met with a number of negative reactions, Archbishop Goh said in yesterday's letter, which was posted on the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore's website.
"You have expressed hurt, anger and disappointment that the Church, like the rest of society, seemed to ostracise you and showed inconsistency in her preaching of compassion, by not approving of your freedom to love," he said.
But he stressed that while he is "not indifferent" to the frustration felt by Catholics with same-sex orientation, he is obligated to instruct his flock "in accordance with the teachings of the Universal Church".
He clarified that the Church does not disapprove of loving, non-sexual relationships between two people of the same sex, saying: "Same-sex inclination in itself is not a sin but as love often seeks to express itself physically, the challenge (is) to be chaste and faithful."
He added that such unions have negative implications for the family and society, citing how children of these partnerships could develop identity crises.
"This is what I was referring to in my initial statement when I used the terms 'detriment' and 'destructive'.
They do not refer to the individual but the consequences of such a union on society."
In his June 21 message, he said the LGBT lifestyle "should not be promoted by Catholics as it is detrimental to society".
The Archbishop's letter comes amid debates on the LGBT issue prompted by a Wear White campaign by an Islamic religious teacher to protest against homosexuality during last Saturday's Pink Dot event - an annual event celebrating freedom to love.
The Wear White campaign was backed by some Christian churches though the Pink Dot event took place without incident.
Catholic Genevieve Liao, 25, said she was surprised by the Archbishop's letter of apology. "I didn't think there was a need because the letter was misunderstood," said the teacher.
"However, I'm glad he did as it showed sincerity."
A Pink Dot spokesman said it hopes to work closely with religious leaders to address issues faced by the LGBT community.
He said: "We welcome (the Archbishop's) unique input and perspective and are curious to find out more about his experiences counselling children of same-sex parents."