I see no grounds in Archbishop William Goh’s pronouncement on homosexuality for anything but contempt. Throughout its existence in Singapore, the church has raised its voice in support of little that Christianity has to offer the moral universe. Yet when it does, when one would expect it to affirm its teachings at Matthew 26:27 and in the first Letter to the Corinthians at Verse 13:13, it chooses one within a domain where it has no rights, given its own hideous record.
The universal church is guilty of the systematic rape and abuse of children committed to the care of a clergy ostensibly vowed to celibacy. The response of the magisterium to the thousands of adults now asking it to repair the untold damage done to them in their childhood was first to threaten and coerce into silence and, when that failed, spend billions – yes, billions – of dollars in out of court settlements. Meanwhile, it shielded paedophile clerics from the intervention of the law. In some cases involving senior prelates, it appointed them to sinecures in the Vatican, putting them outside the ambit of local police authorities.
Contrary to what has been put about that this is an isolated phenomenon limited to the United States and Ireland, this is a global phenomenon. While not as extensive as other dioceses, the local church in Singapore is not exempt. Some years ago, it was embroiled in a scandal involving a historical allegation of sexual abuse by a priest. The accused was transferred to another church where his access to children was unimpeded.
When I was fifteen, I came into unfortunate contact with a priest who would engage me in play wrestling and attempt to touch my crotch in the process. He once brought me to his bedroom and took a stack of pornographic magazines from his wardrobe to show me.
I was fifteen.
I haven’t till now disclosed this sorry incident publicly. It never seemed momentous and so far as I’m aware, it didn’t damage me. But Archbishop William Goh’s pronouncements this weekend prompted me to. The Catholic church long ago surrendered its right to participate in the moral debate and Goh’s statement must be put in this proper context.
No one should be surprised that the Catholic church would possess such an ignominious history, given its intensely anti-human and anti-humane reaction to sexuality throughout the centuries. Dating back to the first decades of the Christian era, Paul of Tarsus set the stage for the future of Christian sexuality when he disseminated his own neuroses to the first Christian communities of the Levant.
He was followed by a slew of Church Fathers whose aversion, indeed loathing, for the functions of their bodies, led to a theological settlement that placed the enjoyment of sex on a par with the great moral evils. Augustine of Hippo, a North African bishop of the fourth century, possessed of a deeply neurotic, self-hating personality, clarified and codified these bizarre reactions, turning them into the theology that the church now draws on to castigate me and my fellow LGBTs.
Now, couple that with an enforced celibacy among the church’s officers, and you have a calamity of global proportions waiting to happen. And did: because the church attracted to its service, people deeply damaged by its strictures but also able to coerce the vulnerable into meeting their warped sexual needs. And the irruption of the child sex abuse scandals in the 1980s, inevitable on hindsight, showed the Catholic church for what it is: a cynical and manipulative institution as far away from the ideas of the carpenter of Nazareth as it is possible to be.
And we should not forget that the church implemented the policy of celibacy not as a means of encouraging holiness but so that the Church government would not have to expend money on the upkeep of the widows and orphans of priests killed in the mission fields.
That Goh’s pronouncement has shown the local church at its most disgraceful should surprise no one. What concerns me is the cynical attempt to portray the church as a compassionate and empathetic organisation concerned for the souls of LGBT people. This is entirely at odds with the teachings of the church government at the Vatican.
Goh’s statement waters down the church’s real disgust for LGBT people. In 1986, a letter from Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, the church’s propaganda unit, was sent out to the universal church. Then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, a one-time member of Hitler’s Youth whom the church later elevated to the ‘throne’ of St Peter as Pope Benedict XVI, the letter described homosexuality as a “great moral evil” and homosexual people as “intrinsically disordered”. Note well that this letter came from the same man who was simultaneously advising bishops to conceal the sex abuse scandals then consuming his church.
The Singapore episcopacy, in attempting to come across as nice guys intent only upon the salvation of souls, has masked the church’s real attitude to LGBT people. In doing so, it has further disfigured itself by the hypocrisy which characterised much of its history.
Let the Catholic magisterium come out and declare its real revulsion towards LGBT people. And let them at the same time atone for the thousands of lives their church destroyed by the mischief of their ravenous priests. I will take them seriously then.
Until then, I will take no moral instruction from those who seek to police my bedroom while turning a blind eye to the priests who lured little boys and little girls into theirs, to rape and bugger them with the connivance and the complicity of the episcopacy.
The Catholic leadership has remained silent on the real problems that face our world. Today, it has no authority whatsoever, moral or otherwise, to comment on whom I can and cannot love.