Section 377A should not be repealed under present circumstances: Archbishop William Goh

Section 377A should not be repealed under present circumstances: Archbishop William Goh

Archbishop Willliam Goh
File photo of the Archbishop of Singapore Most Reverend William Goh. 

SINGAPORE: In a letter to the Catholic community on Tuesday (Sep 18), the Archbishop of Singapore said he holds the view that Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, should not be repealed under present circumstances.

Most Reverend William Goh said accepting homosexual acts as a social norm would have dreadful consequences for the stability of families, the well-being of children and bring long-term and irreversible risks to the common good.

In the letter published on the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore website, he wrote that he would not object to a repeal of the law if "it were merely aimed at removing all potential criminal penalties against homosexuals."

"However, until and unless Parliament puts in place a formulation that more perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the law, guaranteeing the protection of the rights of the majority who favour the traditional family, and that no further demands be made to legalise same-sex unions, adoption of babies by same sex couples, surrogacy, or to criminalise those who do not support the homosexual lifestyle, I am of the view that S377A should not be repealed under the present circumstances," the Archbishop said.

In the letter, Archbishop Goh clarified that the Church "regards everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, with equal respect" and said he also wanted to make it clear that all in the community were important to him "regardless whether they have same- or opposite-sex attraction".

The Archbishop said he feels "the struggles and pains of those with SSA (same-sex attraction) who sincerely love God and desire to live up to His divine plan for humanity". "I feel with them when they are ostracised or marginalised by society. They too deserve to be loved and treated with dignity and respect," he wrote.

On the other hand, he also shares the "anxieties and fears of those who subscribe to the traditional and scriptural views of marriage and family", he stated.

Touching on moral, social and legal points, he went on to raise the question of the intentions behind S377A.

"Clearly, the spirit of both the moral and civil laws is to emphasise that same-sex unions are not a social norm as they do not help to foster fruitful and life-giving marriages or cohesive families which are the bedrock of a strong and stable society. This is also intended as a safeguard to prevent champions of “gay rights” from taking their cause beyond the mere repeal of S377A," he said.

Archbishop Goh went on to urge Catholics in the country to "make a conscientious decision" to reject the repeal of Section 377A. 

"Looking at the dire consequences for countries which normalised same-sex unions and the ramifications that followed, may we not repeat the mistake that others have made," he wrote.

The debate on S377A reignited after India scrapped its ban on gay sex earlier this month. Veteran diplomat Tommy Koh, who is Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had commented on a Facebook post on the Indian ruling by encouraging Singapore's gay community to “try again” to challenge 377A after the previous legal challenge in 2014 had failed.

On Thursday, The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) said in a statement that it does not support the repeal of a law against gay sex, saying it believes the “homosexual lifestyle is not only harmful for individuals, but also for families and society as a whole”.

Earlier this month, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had said: "Singapore ... on this issue, it is a deeply split society. The majority oppose to any change to section 377A - they are opposed to removing it.

“A minority - I have to say, a growing minority - want it to be repealed. The Government is in the middle."

A man filed a court challenge against Singapore's gay sex law on Sep 10, saying that it is inconsistent with parts of the Constitution concerning liberty of a person and equal protection.

Source: CNA/na