The Ask Me Anything series on interfaith discourse is supported by the Ministry
of Culture, Community and Youth

priest panellists-cropped

Christopher Khoo

From divorce between married Catholic couples, to gays and if they could still go to heaven, to infant baptisms and why we do not practise contraception – these were a few of the burning questions put to a panel of Catholic priests in a special community-led forum on religion.

Archdiocesan Chancellor Father John-Paul Tan, moral theologian Fr David Garcia and Fr Ignatius Yeo, Professor of Sacraments and Sacred Liturgy at the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore, fielded questions on Catholicism at the Ask Me Anything series of discussions, held at The Arts House on Dec 8.

Ask Me Anything is a community-led series on interfaith discourse in Singapore, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

The sessions aim to clarify common misconceptions about different religions, engage with sensitive faith issues, and deepen people’s appreciation of nuances in the various faiths.

The Dec 8 session attracted a sell-out crowd of nearly 170 sign-ups and walk-ins and saw a lively exchange between the audience and priests.

One participant asked how flexible the Church is in permitting divorce.

Fr John-Paul Tan shared that the Church would like to promote healthy family relationships but at the same time “we are realistic that marriages do fail”.

If all the elements that are necessary for a marriage between two baptised persons were present at the time of marriage, then from the Church’s perspective, the marriage bond is “indissoluble”.

“For many marriages that fail, there would be elements that were missing,” explained the Franciscan Friar. The marriage could then be declared annulled by the Church’s marriage tribunal.

However, the Church is also conscious of the pain involved in failed marriages and provides pastoral care to the parties involved, said Fr John-Paul.

One issue that attracted much discussion was the Church’s view on LGBT issues. One participant asked whether a gay person, who falls in love with another gay person and has a homosexual relationship, including having sex, can go to heaven.

“Anybody who repents of their sins can go to heaven,” said Fr David.

“The issue of going to heaven is an issue of conscience,” he said. “The Church believes that even those who are not baptised could go to heaven, so long as they behave according to their true conscience.”

He also warned against judging others, noting that “it is a sin to judge people. Jesus is very clear [on that],” the Dominican Friar added.

confession booth at session
A confession booth was one of the exhibits at the dialogue session.

Participants also broke into groups to share their faith experiences. Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth who attended the first segment of the dialogue, also had an informal chat with the priests and moderator, Mr André Ahchak, Director of the Archbishop’s Communications Office.

She commended the team for setting up a mini Catholic exhibition for participants to view. The artefacts included an old portable confession booth, a tabernacle with a chalice, paten and elements of Holy Communion, an original Greek texted Evangeliary, Church missals and priests’ vestments personally belonging to Fr Ignatius.

Earlier in the session, Fr Ignatius provided a concise history of the Catholic Church from the death of Christ to present-day, including the work of the early missionaries in Singapore.

He also explained that the Sacraments, such as baptism, are channels of God’s grace “instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church”. Sacraments help Catholics live God’s divine life of love so that they can attain eternal life with Him, he told the crowd.

The Ask Me Anything series has over the past year featured discussions on Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.

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