[UPDATED at 6:30pm, adding comments from Archbishop's office]
Social activist group Function 8 has responded to the statements released by Archbishop Nicholas Chia and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), saying that the allegations are "untrue" and “have attempted to set F8 against the church”.
In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the group asserted that it had respected Archbishop Chia’s wishes by not publicising the content of the letters he had sent them.
At the same time, they also released a copy of the letter they had sent to the Archbishop in response to his second letter to them seeking to retract his first letter in support of the group’s commemorative event, That We May Dream Again, held in June this year.
In it, they sought clarifications over coming to the conclusion that F8 had an ulterior motive to use his letter outside the event, and asked about the person who was copied in the Archbishop’s letter of withdrawal, noting again that the Church leader’s first letter to them was unsolicited.
“Out of respect for His Grace, we had voluntarily not publicised our letter of response to his letter of withdrawal, and had hoped for the courtesy of a reply from him in due course,” the group wrote. “However, MHA’s unwarranted allegations have now forced us to show details of our letter to the Archbishop in order to clear the allegations against us.”
In its earlier statement on Thursday, the MHA said the actions of the group to publicise the matter through blogger Au "is direspectful of the Archbishop".
The ministry also said the “deliberate breach of the Archbishop’s trust confirms the objective of to publicly involve the Catholic Church and the Archbishop in their political agenda”.
Function 8's statement also explained that as partner organisations, Function 8 and human rights organisation MARUAH had collectively decided to try organising private discussions with the MHA, among others, and were in the process of drafting letters earlier this month.
“There is no conceivable reason why we would choose to trip ourselves up by having the matter aired in public,” the group said. “Why has MHA made publicity of this matter the focus of conversation when the more pertinent question is one of transparency in executive action in engaging civil society?”
While continuing to request a “meaningful dialogue with the MHA and other affected parties on the matter”, the group also stated that “at no time will we allow ourselves to be set against the Church by inappropriate and unjustified allegations by any party”.
Separately, responding to calls from the group on Thursday to publish the two letters he had sent to them, the Archbishop's office released a statement saying that his letter "was intended as private communication".
"If the group was going to publicise it at a political event, something which he did not intend, then they should and could easily have asked for permission first. They did not do so," the statement continued. "As the group has already returned his letter, the question of releasing it does not arise as he (the Archbishop) had never intended for it to be released in the first place."
Below, we append the letter Function 8 sent to Archbishop Nicholas Chia, with portions they had blacked out before releasing it to the press:
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