Section 377A should not be withdrawn under the current circumstances: Archbishop William Goh, Singapore News

SINGAPORE – The head of the Catholic Church in Singapore said that Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men, should not be withdrawn under the current circumstances.

In a letter that was posted on the Roman Catholic archdiocese of the Singapore website on Tuesday evening (18 September), Archbishop William Goh said he would not object to a withdrawal "if it was only intended to prevent all possible criminal penalties against to eliminate homosexuals ".

He wrote: "But until and unless Parliament introduces a wording that more perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the law, protects the rights of the majority that favors the traditional family, and that no further demands are made to legalize the same. – sex unions, adoption of babies on the same sex, surrogacy or criminalization of people who do not support the homosexual lifestyle, I believe that under the current circumstances S377A should not be withdrawn.

"This is because, by accepting homosexual acts as a social norm, the terrible consequences for the stability of our families, the well-being of our children and the risks to the general well-being will be long-term and irreversible."

His letter follows a debate on the 377A legislation fostered by India's September 6 ruling to decriminalize section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, making homosexual sex a mutual crime by mutual consent.

Minister of Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam had said that every decision on 377A is "a matter for Parliament". He added that, depending on the legislation, public opinion is "often relevant" during policy-making in Parliament.

In his letter from Tuesday, Archbishop Goh appealed to the Catholics in Singapore to take a "conscientious decision" to reject the 377A revocation. He added that Catholics, as individual and responsible citizens, had an important role to play in expressing their views to the government.

"We can not keep quiet about things that affect the lives of everyone in society and the well-being of society, today and in the future, and silence is often misinterpreted as consent."

The intention of the letter was to help Catholics make a well-informed and prudent judgment, said Archbishop Goh.

He said that the Catholic Church did not discriminate against the homosexual person, but that did not mean that it whitewashed homosexual acts.

He also said that the church recognizes from a civil law perspective that the decision should come on 377A of the Parliament.

"Nevertheless, on moral issues, the Church seeks a dialogue and offers her opinion on the implications of the laws promulgated in the country, so that Parliament can make sensible and just laws for the benefit of everyone."

He added that he prayed "as the most important shepherd of the archdiocese": "we will not walk on the smooth path of no return".

He wrote: "Looking at the disastrous consequences for countries that have normalized unions of the same sex and the consequences that followed, we must not repeat the mistake that others have made!"

The 377A debate has asked people to both withdraw and maintain the law, with online petitions attracting thousands of signatures for both parties.

Meanwhile, disc jockey Johnson Ong Ming, 43, filed a lawsuit against the 377A law, arguing that it is unconstitutional.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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