[UPDATE on Friday, 4 July at 2:20pm: Adding response from Pink Dot movement]
A ground-up pro-LGBT movement in Singapore has responded positively to a letter from Singapore Catholic Archbishop William Goh addressed to homosexual Catholics, saying it welcomes and appreciates the "spirit" of his words.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Friday, Pink Dot said, "We are heartened that this constructive debate is taking place within the Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Francis, and we hope that this honest dialogue would inspire faith communities everywhere to do likewise.”
Its statement also highlighted a Vatican document that noted the need for the Catholic Church to be less judgemental of LGBT individuals, as well as the need for children of gay couples "to be welcomed into the faith with equal dignity".
Earlier on Thursday, Archbishop William Goh addressed homosexual Catholics in a letter, apologising for any “insensitivity” that might have been conveyed in his statement last month on same-sex relationships.
He stressed that he is “not at liberty to change” the stance of the universal church, which he continues to answer to, and that “a sexual relationship between same-sex individuals… is not in accordance with the divine plan of God”.
He did say, though, that the Catholic Church "does not disapprove of a loving relationship between same-sex individuals that is chaste and faithful”.
His letter came days after a tension-filled weekend where thousands gathered in various movements — one pro-gay and the other pro-marriage and family — at the height of a rekindled homosexuality debate in Singapore.
Goh’s first statement issued on 21 June was met with criticism from some gay Catholics. These included former opposition politician Vincent Wijeysingha, who penned a diatribe on Facebook questioning the Church’s moral authority and launching a 30-year-belated accusation against a priest who allegedly made sexual moves on him when he was younger.
Prefacing his letter on Thursday with the understanding that many Catholics in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and queer) community “have expressed hurt, anger and disappointment” in response to it, he said he is “not indifferent” to the “pain and frustration” that many LGBTQ Catholics experience.
“I apologise if my initial statement conveyed insensitivity as from your feedback, I have come to realise that there is much variation in thought and lifestyle within this community,” he wrote in the letter, posted on the church’s Catholic News website. “I know many of you truly love Christ and His Church, and seek to be faithful to the Gospel. Furthermore, many of you strive to live loving, faithful and chaste lives.”
In his letter, the archbishop also addressed the argument that same-sex individuals are born with their inclinations, noting that science has yet to prove this conclusively.
“In contrary, we find that upbringing, culture or education may play a part in nurturing persons with same-sex attraction,” he wrote, adding that inner wounds inflicted on a person in childhood through sexual abuse or otherwise can also nurture it.
"Though the verdict on nature or nurture is yet to be defined, it is clear according to scripture (Rom 1:24-28) that a sexual relationship between those of the same gender is not acceptable, as it contradicts the natural laws of God,” he wrote.
On same-sex parenting
Additionally, he clarified a point he made in his initial statement, where he referred to LGBT sexual relationships as being "detrimental" to society, explaining that he was referring to the "consequences of (the same-sex union) on society and future", not to the individual.
He explained that he encountered children who were negatively impacted by same-sex parentage in his ministry, adding that "considering the future of humanity and the effects on society, not only do the institution of marriage and the family need to be fortified, in the same context, same-sex union cannot be promoted".
"Same-sex union which evolves into the adoption and formation of children in an environment where a partner of the other gender is not represented, is contrary to the natural laws of God, and would ultimately be destructive to society and detrimental to the world and future generations," he wrote.
He also dwelt on the implication of same-sex couples marrying and adopting babies to form a family in a manner similar to that of a conventional family unit, saying the question would arise regarding the ability of the child to receive holistic formation comparable to one who is cared for by a father and a mother.
"When there is a lack of holistic love due to damage of the family unit caused by a misrepresentation of one parent (through infidelity, divorce etc) there is a tendency for the child to succumb to low self-esteem, rendering him/her vulnerable and incapable of authentic love," he wrote.
"While the argument is that the child may still receive love from both patners who are in a stable same-sex relationship, the lack of a parental figure as portrayed by a member of the opposite sex may still render the child at risk."
At the same time, Archbishop Goh followed up on his prior announcement of establishing a pastoral group for LGBTQ Catholics to “journey together in faith, in support of one another, so as to live out God’s call to chastity”. He also said he has appointed two organisations, which the Church has purview over, to form it.
"Indeed, with God’s grace, we will all be able to live the Gospel faithfully and authentically, regardless of our sexual orientation,” he concluded.
Read the Archbishop's full letter here.