Archbishop reaffirms stance on family

Catholic Archbishop William Goh has reassured believers on the Church's position that the family - comprising heterosexual couples with children - remains the "indispensable, basic building block of society".

But he is also exploring the setting up of support groups for those "struggling with same-sex attraction" and for their loved ones who have difficulty accepting them.

His comments, posted on the archdiocese's website yesterday, come after some Catholics had voiced doubts about where the Church stood on the controversy over a sexuality advisory from the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Since the debate over whether the advisory normalises same-sex relationships erupted earlier this month, the Catholic community "might have been wondering where the Church's voice was in the discussion", said parishioner Suzanne Rajendra, 50.

The Church has been slower to comment publicly on the issue than other religious groups such as the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) and the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS).

Commenting last Thursday on the issue, a day after the NCCS, the Catholic Church, in a statement, struck a measured tone and called for "constructive dialogue".

Yesterday, Archbishop Goh said the Church's "non-public engagement" of the groups divided over the HPB advisory was by no means a sign of its "flight" from its "Christian calling to speak the truth and defend the cause of the family".

He said the Church has chosen constructive dialogue with the authorities instead.

This was done so as not to risk polarising society and inflaming the situation further, the archbishop said.

He added that he is aware some Catholics are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality or that of their loved ones.

"I wish to take this opportunity to assure you that the Church feels with you and views every individual as unique and precious in the eyes of God, regardless of his or her sexual inclination or state of life," he said.

Uploaded on the HPB's website last November, the list of 28 frequently asked questions (FAQs), which address issues such as gender identity, homosexuality and sexually transmitted infections, has drawn support from gay rights groups but opposition from some religious groups.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar Nair welcomed Archbishop Goh's comments on the need for constructive dialogue and the intention to set up support groups.

"Like I said, it's not enough to criticise the HPB and its FAQs... If the Church wants to offer help, that's a good thing. At least there are avenues for people to turn to," he said.

Ms Rajendra appreciated Archbishop Goh's measured message. "I believe the archbishop's statement comes after careful consideration and prayer. It reflects love and neither ostracises nor condemns," she said.

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