JUNE 22, 2008, Vol 58, No 13

A forum on homosexuality titled "A Christian Response To Same-Sex Attraction" was held over four Thursdays starting May 8 and ending May 29 at CANA The Catholic Centre. The aim of the forum was to introduce various viewpoints of same-sex attraction to members of the Catholic community. This is the first time a gay lobbyist has been invited to speak in a public forum organized by a Catholic organization.

The sessions attracted more than the expected number of attendees, with a significant proportion being homosexual persons and those who support the homosexual lifestyle.

As an unofficial follow-up to the forums, informal get-togethers may be organized for those who are interested to discuss and learn more about Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and to receive and give encouragement to live with their homosexual inclinations the Christian way.

Persons interested can contact CANA at 6336 4815 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Below are links to the detailed reports of the proceedings.

1. "What you are on the outside, let the inside match"
2. How to dialogue with homosexual persons
3. Approach homosexual persons with love and acceptance
4. Gay lobbyist says: The issue is not about homosexuality, but homophobia
5. Clinical psychologist says: Homosexuality is mentally unhealthy
6. Criminalizing homosexual acts - the Singapore legal perspective
7. "Those who engage in homosexual sex are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections."
8. "The more you love the sinner, the more you will hate the sin"
9. Q&A with Father David Garcia, OP (on sex and morality)
10. Support for homosexual persons

1. "What you are on the outside, let the inside match"

Leslie Lung"When I was young, I was constantly asking myself, 'Who am I?', 'What is being male all about?' and 'Am I a man?'" shared Leslie Lung in the first session of a forum on homosexuality titled "A Christian Response To Same-Sex Attraction".

Leslie Lung, who is not Catholic, shared some experiences he had as a student in St. Joseph's Institution, and how he came to feel sexually attracted to men during puberty.

Lamenting the lack of people to talk to regarding his concerns about his gender, he formed his own opinion and eventually after going through psychiatric treatment, started hormone therapy to live life as a woman.

In 1984, two days before he was due to undergo gender reassignment surgery, Leslie had a spiritual experience which convinced him that this was far from what God intended for him. Placing himself in God's hands, he told God, "If you're real, show me", and trusted that God would help him find his way.

Since then, Leslie has worked with other men and women afflicted with SSA to set up Liberty League, a ministry dedicated to promoting gender and sexual health for the individual, family, and society through training programmes and support groups.

"Society is not a good definition of gender, because society changes from culture to culture," explained Leslie.

Psychological definitions of gender are not good definitions either, because they tend to over-generalize. An example is "men are good decision-makers". Physical definitions such as "women have smooth skin" are slightly better, but there is still a degree of range.

As one member of the audience who asked not to be named put it, "I thought Leslie was a woman, and I keep wanting to refer to him has ‘her'."

Genetic definitions and genital definitions, however, tend to be good definitions of gender. According to Leslie, the bottom line is, "What you are on the outside, let the inside match."

2. How to dialogue with homosexual person

Brother Michael Broughton, FSC"How is it that we can talk so openly to people of different religion from us, but we are uncomfortable talking to people of our own faith with gender issues?" asked Brother Michael Broughton, FSC at the first session of a forum on homosexuality held on May 8 at CANA - The Catholic Centre.

Brother Michael linked ministry to homosexual persons to his background in interfaith dialogue. According to Brother Michael, there are four levels of dialogue.

"The first level is that we share a common humanity, and hence there is a lot we have in common in human living," Brother Michael explained. "Friendship can develop from there. The other person is worthy of friendship because that person is human. We have to approach from the grounds of friendship, without hidden agendas such as trying to change the person."

"The second level is working together. Whatever your religious background is, nothing impedes you from journeying together. We can work together and appreciate others for who they are, to appreciate each other's gifts," he continued. "This is important because when we get too obsessed with one aspect of our lives, we become too self-focused. We normally grow better when we get involved in something outside ourselves."

"The third level is our faith experiences, our experiences of religion. We can share how we cope with our own sexuality, which should evoke nothing but utmost respect for each other."

The fourth level is where theological experts dialogue with one another about implementing principles of faith in daily life.

"Anyone can practise the first three levels," said Brother Michael, "but if our response [to homosexual persons] is pity, condescending, or judgement that the other person is wrong, then it's hard to practise all these three steps."

3. Approach homosexual persons with love and acceptance

It is with love that God wants us to approach persons with same-sex attraction (SSA) "as Christ reached out to the most wretched of his time", said Brother Michael Broughton, FSC at the first session of a forum on homosexuality held on May 8 at CANA - The Catholic Centre.

"It was His love, not His preaching, that changed them," Brother Michael reminded the audience. "God invites us to go beyond to relate to people so different from us in terms of lifestyle."

The Brother President of St. Joseph's Institution related the story of a dream that he once had of meeting Christ at the Last Judgment, where Jesus came up to him and said, "I was gay, and you never loved me."

"When we push gays to the margins of our community, and isolate them, then we will have to answer to our Lord in judgment, because love does not exclude," he said.

Brother Michael also explained that it is usually our own insecurities that prevent us from accepting homosexual persons as friends. "The only reason why we may not want to be friends with homosexual persons is because we're afraid that people will identify us as one of them. This insecurity of ours may prevent us from ministering and reaching out to them."

"To accept a person is not necessarily to condone his lifestyle. I can be friends with a smoker and not condone his smoking. If as Catholics, we believe that homosexual acts are wrong, it is no excuse to condemn a person or to cut the person off from the family," he added.

He noted that while parents do feel failure in their parenting if their child turns out to be homosexual, it is not a matter of blame. "It is a matter of our bruised ego coming into play," he said, "This person is still your child whom you love unconditionally."

Brother Michael gave three main principles in interacting with homosexual persons:

  1. Homosexual persons need someone to talk to, someone to trust.
  2. You must listen to them with great respect.
  3. We have to protect people from being victimized because they are the least of our brethren.
4. Gay lobbyist says: The issue is not about homosexuality, but homophobia

Alex Au"Reason has an imposter and its name is rationality. The problem is that rationality mimics reason in the way that it deploys logic. Rationality is motivated by wanting to defend an a priori position, and results in an enquiry that is not open-ended," said Mr Alex Au, the first of three speakers at the second session of "A Christian Response To Same-Sex Attraction" held at CANA - The Catholic Centre on May 15.

Mr Au is a founding member of People Like Us 3, Singapore's main gay equality lobby group. This is the first time that a gay lobbyist has been invited to speak at a public forum organized by a Catholic organization in Singapore.

Mr Au began his talk by stating that when an assertion is made, a similar example must be applied to another trait, otherwise the assertion fails a consistency test. He gave the example of the October 2007 Singapore parliamentary debate the retention on Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexual acts between men.

"In parliament, it was said that since the homosexuality tendency has no fixed trait, then it has no count to equality. This ignores scientific research. But even if people can choose to be homosexual, does this validate the right to equality?" he asked the audience, adding that "the law protects people who can choose their faith".

In reference to the high rate of HIV transmission, Mr Au pointed out that people equate anal sex with homosexual persons, which equates homosexual behaviour to AIDS which is harmful, so homosexual behaviour is banned, "but at every step there is a curtailment of facts". "For one thing, it is very difficult for lesbians to do anal sex," he said to the amusement of the audience.

Mr Au also pointed out, "The vast number of people to suffer AIDS are heterosexual. Twenty-six out of 30 million people in the world suffer AIDS from heterosexual sex. No disease strikes all people uniformly. To read oral significance into epidemiology is to miscomprehend the nature of the world."

[Epidemiology is a branch of medicine that deals with the study of the causes, distribution, and control of disease in populations.]

Mr Au explained that when it comes to homosexual persons, "there is a failure to interrogate starting assumptions". In the assumption that what is common is normal and natural, and what is uncommon is abnormal and unnatural, Mr Au pointed out that blonds, those who are left-handed, and those who are musically inclined are also uncommon, but are not seen as abnormal or unnatural.

He cautioned audience members to "look beyond the superficial", and "don't just take the facts at face value".

Noting that arguments against homosexual behaviour often stem from natural law, he said, "The natural law argument... runs into a consistency problem. What's the difference between infertile sex and homosexual sex?"

Natural law is an argument that aims to discover the will of God through observation of the natural law. Used in this context, it aims to show that sex is for producing babies.

Without dwelling further on the subject, Mr Au moved on to speak against "universalizing the subjective", that is "assuming that the emotions you have is reflected by all".

"When we universalize the subjective, we are using ourselves as a yardstick to judge the world. When you make such statements, it reflects the kind of person you are," he said.

Mr Au went on to comment that slippery slope arguments "exploit the fear of the unknown and ride on common stereotypes." He showed how in the past, arguments against ending slavery and giving women the right to vote were very similar to present-day arguments against legalizing homosexual behaviour.

Speaking on the 'hypocrisy' of the Catholic Church, he said that the Church says "they must be treated with respect, but homosexual [persons] are called to chastity. How do you separate identity from behaviour? It's like saying ‘It's okay for you to be a Christian, but it's illegal to build churches and meet together'. The issue is not homosexuality, but homophobia, which is analogous to racism and sexism."

However, Mr Au incorrectly quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the Church sees "homosexuality is an intrinsic state" in homosexual persons.

The correct teaching is that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered", which means that by their very nature, the acts are not ordered towards the function and purpose of sexual acts, "since they are contrary to natural law" (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2357). Homosexual inclinations, if not acted on, are not sinful.

To support his claim that the issue is not about homosexuality, Mr Au brought up a study which concluded that "55 percent [of those studied] who support gay marriage are those who know a gay", and that "25 percent who do not support gay marriage don't know any gays".

Mr Au concluded that therefore "the issue is not homosexuality, but homophobia". He told the audience that "there is plenty of empirical evidence out there" and that "one is not so blind as he who would not see".

"The problem is not one of lack of information, but a lack of reflection," he said.

5. Clinical psychologist says: Homosexuality is mentally unhealthy

Father Paul Lian-Kok Goh, SJFather Paul Lian-Kok Goh, SJ, who holds a Ph.D in clinical psychology, gave a half-hour talk on his viewpoints on homosexual acts and its relation to psychology in the second session of a forum titled "A Christian Response To Same-Sex Attraction" held at CANA - The Catholic Centre on May 15.

While the complexity of homosexuality results in a wide degree of diversity among homosexual persons, there are two main types:

  1. Covert homosexuality: those who experience sexual attraction to members of the same sex, but do not act on it;
  2. Overt homosexuality: those who engaged in sexual acts with one or more sexual partners

Only overt homosexuality causes a moral issue because of the sexual acts.

Until 1973, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, before being replaced with a category of sexual orientation disturbance called ego-dystonic homosexuality, and finally removed in 1987.

"This controversial removal of homosexuality as a psychological disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1987 does not mean there is no psychological problem involved in homosexuality," explained Father Paul.

The DSM is an American handbook for mental health professionals which lists categories of mental disorders and the criteria for diagnosing them, according to the American Psychiatric Association. It is used worldwide by clinicians, researchers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and policy makers.

"From the viewpoint of psychology, a mental disorder is a human condition that is not mentally healthy and has adverse effects on the adaptation of the individual or on society," said Father Paul. "Homosexuality is not mentally healthy in the sense of maladaptiveness. From my experience, homosexual [persons] are often diagnosed with various psychological problems."

In other words, homosexuality is mentally unhealthy because it causes homosexual persons difficulties in fitting into society.

According to Father Paul, a combination of the attitudes of both parents prepares the ground for a homosexual development, and indeed many parents of homosexual persons have had serious marriage problems.

However, Father Paul cautioned that "we cannot say that a person whose parents have had marriage problems will end up homosexual" as relationships with peers can significantly influence a teenager's self-perception as to his masculinity and femininity.

This can lead to the formation of gender inferiority complex, where a person feels less masculine or feminine compared to same-sex peers which is the same as feelings of not belonging to members of the same sex (gender identity disorder).

Father Paul explained that gender inferiority complex manifests itself as fear of the opposite sex, narcissism, and strong emotional dependency on some members of the same sex as compensation. This strong emotional dependency, which includes an intense need for intimacy and warmth of same-sex partners, is an attempt of compensation and reparation of the gender inferiority complex.

Giving in to homosexual attractions creates a sexual addiction, which converts longing for emotional dependency into sexual satisfaction. Female homosexuals, however, may develop control over their same-sex partners, as emotional attachment is more important for women than for men.

Father Paul added that properly formed covert homosexuals will avoid such behaviour.

During the question-and-answer session, Father Paul was repeatedly asked if he considered homosexuality to be a mental disorder, and if the majority of psychologists would agree with the research he provided in his talk.

Father Paul's reply stressed the wide degree of diversity in the issue of homosexuality. He said that it is difficult to judge the matter in clinical psychology, but there is a strong association between homosexuality and other mental disorders. He did not say that homosexuality was a mental disorder, but that it was mentally unhealthy as homosexual persons have difficulty fitting into society.

An audience member suggested that perhaps the reason homosexual persons have difficulty fitting into society is because society classifies them as persons who are mentally healthy, and that changing society's perception of homosexual persons would help them to better fit into society, and thus they would not be classified as mentally unhealthy.

6. Criminalizing homosexual acts - the Singapore legal perspective

Thomas Aqbal"Lawyers have a perspective that is not given sufficient time in public," said Mr Thomas Aqbal at the second session of a forum on homosexuality titled "A Christian Response To Same-Sex Attraction" held on May 15 at CANA - The Catholic Centre.

The other speakers at the session were clinical psychologist Jesuit Father Paul Lian-Kok Goh, and founding member of People Like Us 3 Mr Alex Au. People Like Us 3 is Singapore's main gay equality lobby group.

During his half-hour talk, Mr Aqbal traced the development of Singapore law from its Anglo-Saxon roots.

"In English law, it was found that two-parent families are a very good way of providing social and emotional support [for individuals]. If your society does not have family structures, it is going to break down," said Mr Thomas Aqbal.

He explained that the Singapore laws on sexual offenses originate from England and is "a shadow cast" by the institution of marriage and child-bearing. "It is in order to protect the family that we have all these laws," he said. "It is not about homophobia."

This was said in response to the previous speaker Mr Alex Au's claim that "the issue is not about homosexuality, but about homophobia".

Mr Aqbal is a senior litigation lawyer with 20 years of experience in the field. He has followed Alex Au's website for over five years, since Mr Aqbal was first asked to speak on the subject of same-sex attraction in a church setting.

"In countries where it is legal to experiment with sex, you are allowed to experiment with your life, and there are laws to support this. These countries have the money to provide safety nets for individuals," he explained.

"But in Singapore, with its declining birth rates, rising rate of divorce, there are a lot of people who can't look after themselves. Therefore, are we at a point that is ready to experiment with the breakdown of family structures?" he asked rhetorically.

Mr Aqbal cited the example of how the U.S. prohibition of alcohol from 1920-1933 resulted in a huge disaster that created crime syndicates dedicated to the smuggling of liquor such as the one led by Al Capone. The prohibition was eventually repealed by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.

Another example was a decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court which ignited the start of the American Civil War. "These changes can traumatize a society for generations," Mr Aqbal said.

Women's Charter and Section 377A

To further demonstrate the Singapore society's resolve to uphold the family as a building block of society, Mr Aqbal reminded the audience of the Women's Charter which was passed in 1961. The Act defined the rights of husbands and wives in marriage, outlined legal issues with regard to divorce and separation, and banned polygamy and same-sex marriages.

Mr Aqbal also quoted from a parliamentary speech made by PM Lee Hsien Loong on Oct 23, 2007 concerning keeping the status quo on Section 377A of the Penal Code, which has become a symbol of the Singapore government's stand on the issue of homosexuality in Singapore.

Section 377A states that: "Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years."

During his speech, PM Lee explained how pushing the issue to be resolved in favour of the gay movement would "divide and polarize" the Singapore society.

PM Lee went on to explain that it is better to "stay one step behind" other countries on this issue as its impact on society could take a long time to show. He reminded Singaporeans that Singapore's choice in not choosing to go the way of the Western culture during the period when Hippie subculture was popular has protected Singapore society from the breakdown of the family that is has taken place in Western Europe.

"Laws evolve to the extent at which society can accommodate," concluded Mr Aqbal. "People who are homosexual contribute a lot to our society, and in a sense, they must be celebrated. Homosexual persons have a place in society, but they should not set the tone for Singapore society."

7. "Those who engage in homosexual sex are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections."

Dr John HuiThose who engage in homosexual sex are more vulnerable to STI (sexually transmitted infections)," said Dr John Hui, the Immediate Past Master of the Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore.Dr Hui was speaking on May 22 at the third session of the four-part series of forums on homosexuality held at CANA - The Catholic Centre.

Dr Hui noted, "While it is true that in terms of absolute numbers, the majority of people who acquire HIV in Singapore are infected through heterosexual sex (by virtue of the fact that the vast majority of Singaporeans are heterosexual), it is also true that MSM (men who have sex with men) appear to be over-represented in the HIV infected group."

Thirty percent of HIV transmission in Singapore is caused by MSM, which is disproportionately high for a group that is estimated to make up only one to three percent of the population.

He explained that the high prevalence of HIV transmission through anal sex as compared to vaginal intercourse is because the rectal tissue is more susceptible to tearing (which allows the virus to enter the bloodstream directly), and there is a larger surface area exposed. In addition, it is not uncommon in the MSM population to find the presence of genital ulcer diseases, which facilitates HIV transmission.

Citing a study conducted in June 2006 by the Foundation for AIDS Research, Dr Hui informed the audience of about 70 that "unprotected receptive anal sex is believed to be at least 10 times more risky than unprotected receptive vaginal intercourse for acquiring HIV".

In addition, the practice of having multiple sex partners, as well as the high prevalence of alcohol and drug use among MSM (which tends to lead to higher risk sexual practices), also increase their risk of acquiring HIV and other STI.

Is the condom the solution?

When discussing the use of the condom in preventing STI, care must be taken to differentiate between ‘efficacy' and ‘effectiveness', explained Dr Hui.

Efficacy refers to the results of lab testing, which depends on perfect and consistent use. Consistent use of condoms results in 80 percent risk reduction in preventing HIV transmission. If used inconsistently however, the condom is ineffective in preventing HIV transmission.

Effectiveness refers to the results of actual use of condoms by humans. Condoms fail to achieve lab results because of method failure and user failure. In real life, condoms are often used inconsistently and incorrectly. Common reasons for inconsistent use are decreased pleasure, decreased spontaneity of sex, and its use shows a lack of trust in partner.

In addition, condom use might give men a greater sense of security than warranted, and result in riskier sexual behaviour. Dr Hui gave the example of how it was found that those who use sunblock - which is designed to lower the chances of a person getting skin cancer - actually resulted in this group of people having higher rates of skin cancer than those who did not use sunblock.

Dr Hui also cited behaviour factors which increases the risk of STI among MSM. He used a term called ‘syndemic' which refers to multiple epidemics (such as depression, drug abuse, violence, HIV risk, etc.) interacting with one another in a complex way to increase risk for one another.

In conclusion, Dr Hui stressed that those who engage in homosexual sex are more vulnerable to STI, and that even with consistent and correct use of the condom, the risk reduction is not 100 percent. Increasing number of exposures to the diseases also increases the rate of transmission of STI.

Dr Hui added that this information was important to his work as a general practitioner because "we need to offer our care and concern to those with same-sex attraction so that they can make the choice to be truly safe".


Risk reduction with abstinence

Risk reduction with condom

HIV

100%

80%

Gonorrhoea

100%

62%

Chlamydia

100%

26%

HPV, Trichomonas

100%

Not proven

Syphilis

100%

29%

8. "The more you love the sinner, the more you will hate the sin"

Father David Garcia, OPAccording to moral theologian Father David Garcia, OP, today's shift in popular opinion about homosexual acts, from an issue of immorality to an issue of empathy and compassion, is not one more cause of a discovery of human dignity, but a case of confusion.

Father Garcia was speaking on May 22 at the third session of a four-part series of forums on homosexuality held at CANA - The Catholic Centre. His talk which lasted close to an hour, explored the crucial issue of what's morally wrong with homosexual acts, a question that was raised repeatedly by audience members throughout the four sessions.

Compassion and truth

Quoting from the conclusion of "Homosexual friends", an Oct 1, 2007 Straits Times article by Tessa Wong, Father Garcia read aloud that today's popular opinion about relating to homosexual persons can be summed up in the statement: "If you really want to love the ‘sinner', don't call it a sin. Otherwise, it would be just pure hypocrisy."

Pointing to the gospel account of the woman caught in adultery, Father Garcia showed that Jesus does not see a conflict between showing compassion and calling adultery a sin. "Rather, compassion needs truth, and truth needs to be compassionate. Otherwise compassion is pure hypocrisy or mere indifference," said Father Garcia.

Giving the example of a mother who tolerates her child taking drugs, Father Garcia pointed out that in truth, "the more you love the sinner, the more you will hate the sin because the sin destroys the person you love".

The first confusion: Objective vs Subjective

The first confusion that exists today is that between what is objective and subjective. Father Garcia used the example of the difference between stealing and kleptomania.

Stealing is an objective wrong because it deprives others of their legitimate property, but kleptomania (a persistent impulse to steal without economic motive) reduces or removes the person's subjective guilt.

"Subjective guilt depends on knowledge and will," said Father Garcia. "The objective moral law does not depend on inner feelings, struggles, or innate behaviour. Objective ethics of homosexual acts do not depend on homosexual tendencies. However, someone who is more free to commit a homosexual act is more guilty."

"It is therefore reasonable to believe that we can be compassionate towards ‘sinners' and hate the sin," he said.

The second confusion: Discrimination and rights

The second confusion today concerns discrimination and rights. Father Garcia clarified that homosexuality is not the identity of a person, but a tendency towards a kind of preference, homosexual rights cannot be considered as "one more conquest of minority rights".

If homosexual persons should be allowed to marry the persons they love, "then what about romantic adulterers?" Father Garcia asked the attentive audience.

Referring to his homeland which approved same-sex unions, Father Garcia said, "Spain neither gave more rights to anyone nor simply re-defined marriage, as there was no new definition of marriage; Spain just un-defined marriage."

Father Garcia pointed out that in Singapore all persons are limited to the right object of marriage - an adult consenting person of the opposite sex. And all are forbidden the wrong object of marriage: a married person, or a person of the same sex. In other words, all persons have the same rights.

"The question is," put forward Father Garcia, "Are we allowed to redefine the object of marriage? Is marriage something that is discovered or invented?"

The third confusion: Sexual acts and marital acts

The third confusion is that between sexual acts and marital acts. Sexual acts have the objective of achieving orgasm or some sexual excitement.

Marital acts, however, have the objective of strengthening the marital covenant. Sexual marital acts are sexual acts that strengthen the marital covenant, but there are some sexual acts in marriage which harm marriage, such as marital rape, marital lustful acts, marital masturbation, etc.

Father Garcia explained that a sexual act is marital only when:

1. It is an act of the generative kind, that is, culminates in a union of the generative organs in which the wife accepts into her genital tract her husband's genital organ and the seed he thereby gives her. The sexual act between men and women is always generative, even if there are times when it is not fertile; and

2. It is an act of friendship, in which each is seeking to express commitment to and affection for, and the desire to benefit and give marital pleasure to, and share marital pleasure with, the other spouse as the very person to whom he or she is committed in marriage.

Loving the sinner and hating the sin

In conclusion, Father Garcia, in referring back to Tessa Wong's statement in her article, corrected the popular vision to a realistic vision: You must love everyone. Loving a sinner entails calling the sin a sin. Otherwise, it is just blind and indifferent hypocrisy."

9. Q&A with Father David Garcia, OP (on sex and morality)

Q: Can the Church change its mind on the issue of homosexuality?

Father Garcia: The church does not decide on these matters. It just makes a statement of moral law. It is not the church's decision that homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong.

Q: What determines the morality of an act?

Father Garcia: The popular view of what determines the morality of an act is not sufficient. For an act to be morally acceptable in modern society, the act must have:

(i) proportionately good effects (more benefits than harm)

(ii) consent

(iii) good intention

However, this is not enough as disturbed people can consent to disturbingly wrong acts, such as suicide, assisted suicide, and consensual killing. In addition, traditionally immoral sexual acts, such as prostitution, tend to pass this test.

Q: So what really determines the morality of an act?

Father Garcia: Intention, effects, and consent are needed, but what primarily determines the morality of the act is the objective of the kind of behaviour we choose to engage in.

Some acts are wrong no matter who consents and what the intention is, such as rape, killing, torture. This is because our choices make us. What I choose to do makes me the person I am.

Q: What is sex?

Father Garcia: The popular view of sex is that it is something that sexually mature people do to express affection, to have children, or to obtain pleasure.

The realistic view, however, is that sex is a version of being a human person - people are sexually differentiated. Sex is not something we use, but something we are. We are complementary: one made for the other to perfect one another. Therefore we are attracted to each other.

However, there also exists attraction which is disturbed, where we are attracted to something that is not healthy for us, such as the attraction to eat paper, or infatuation to a person who is unhealthy for us.

All sexual desires may be tainted. Spouses may tend to:

(i) the wrong person;

(ii) the right person with wrong intentions;

(iii) the right person with right intentions under the wrong circumstances.

All sexual desires need virtue (right inclination) to be rightly inclined.

Q: How do same-sex unions harm society?

Father Garcia: Generating people is a service to the common good of society. Only married people generate people in an ethical manner. People can be generated through acts of fornication and adultery, but that is an injustice to children. Anal and oral sex are not capable of generating children.

Equating same-sex unions with marriage would be a terrible injustice to married men and women. Same-sex unions are not marriage because they cannot have sexual marital acts.

Same-sex sexual activities are not marital acts because:

(i) they are not done within marriage;

(ii) they fail to satisfy the objectives of marriage;

(iii) they fail to satisfy the objectives of marital acts.

A spouse must be of the opposite sex, with a body that is capable of receiving and giving sexually. While fertility is not essential for marriage, the capacity for the sexual marital act is.

Q: What is wrong with homosexual acts if no one gets hurt?

Father Garcia: Every time we use our will, we change ourselves. Every time we use our freedom, we become something better or worse. Every time we do something good or bad, we prepare ourselves to do a second (or subsequent) act more easily, because it becomes part of our nature.

Not everything that is immoral should be made illegal. However, we should criminalize acts hurt public good and can be avoided by the majority.

10. Support for homosexual persons

Catherine Tyrer"People with same-sex attraction (SSA) come to see me because some want to make changes in their lives, and some want a listening ear because there isn't a lot of support outside," said Family Life Society Therapist Catherine Tyrer.

Ms Tyrer was speaking on May 29 at the fourth and final session of a four-part series of forum discussions titled "A Christian Response To Same-Sex Attraction" held at CANA - The Catholic Centre.

The types of problems that Ms Tyrer frequently hears about include family of origin issues, social pressure, struggles with fundamental sexual nature, career, interpersonal relationships, and social withdrawal.

According to Ms Tyrer, some homosexual persons experience pressure from family members to change their behaviour, or experience rejection from family members. Some are even completely cut off from their family members.

At work, they face discrimination by colleagues and are sometimes harassed or called names. As such, homosexual persons face self-rejection and loneliness because social acceptance outside is not available.

Like all of us, homosexual persons also fall out of love with one another, but "the intensity is deeper for those with SSA" as "they are very focused on each other because of lack of support elsewhere", explained Ms Tyrer. As such, homosexual persons often take a long time to grieve their loss and to move on in life.

Ms Tyrer stressed that it is not up to the counsellor to force a client to change his or her behaviour, but that clients have to want to change on their own for reasons such as the desire to have a family. In such cases, "a lot of work is needed" as changes involve "more than simply making up one's mind", said Ms Tyrer.

When relapses occur, as it is inevitable, counsellors are there to "empower and encourage" clients if their goal is to change their behaviour, explained Ms Tyrer. Counsellors also help clients to manage their identity and emotions, but help from family members and partners (both same-sex partner and life partner) are needed.

Church teaching does not require homosexual persons to regain their natural heterosexual inclinations, but calls them to chastity.

An uncommon but not unusual problem some of Ms Tyrer's clients face is age-related, such as the worries of elderly homosexual persons as to whether they would be accepted into heaven. Such worries can lead to depression. Other areas in which Ms Tyrer counsels clients includes alcohol and substance abuse, violence, and spirituality.

Ms Tyrer listed out several reasons why a person might want to seek professional counseling. These include those who are affected by a family member with SSA. Clients might want to:

- seek professional counseling as there is less natural support
- seek self-understanding
- share resources / knowledge
- prevent psychological disturbances
- seek help with stress management
- seek support for loss and grief
- restore hope and inner peace
- learn new skills

What a clinical psychologist does

Father Paul Lian-Kok Goh, SJThere are three characteristics that counsellors need to show their clients: empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard (caring and acceptance). "These are necessary for rapport and relationship building between the client and counsellor," said Father Paul Lian-Kok Goh, SJ, the second speaker of the session.

Father Paul holds a Ph.D in clinical psychology and is the Director of the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling.

Just as some physically ill people avoid seeing doctors because they don't want to know about their illnesses which might affect their occupations or lifestyles, so too are there some people with mental illnesses that avoid seeing psychologists.

Father Goh explained that there are several barriers or resistances to counseling: lack of trust, shame or guilt, denial of illness, fear of being rejected or judged, and ego-syntonic.

The term ‘ego-syntonic' refers to the subjective feeling of comfort with one's homosexual behaviour. "Usually such a person lacks awareness of self, and has negative self-image," explained Father Goh, who added that most clients with same-sex attraction (SSA) would not seek help on their own, and are usually sent for counseling by their parents.

Conversely, if a person is ego-dystonic, however, it means that they do not feel comfortable, or have negative feelings about their homosexual behaviour. This moves him or her to seek help for his problem.

When Father Goh sees a client, he assesses the client's problems and history and forms a diagnosis. He has found that co-existing illnesses such as mood depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorder are frequent accompaniments to SSA. Usually the person believes that "others must change, not me".

As a clinical psychologist, Father Goh helps clients to set goals such as:

1. Obtain insight of one's dynamics of family and personality, so as to see how these affect one's behaviour;
2. Self-regulation of one's negative emotions;
3. Learning a healthy way of controlling one's impulses;
4. Deal with unhealthy ego-defense mechanisms (e.g. denial) and learn healthy ego-defense mechanisms (e.g. altruism);
5. Challenge narcissism.

Father Goh maintains that in reality, each person must be treated in a unique way. It is therefore important to first determine the problem and then choose an appropriate way of counseling the client.

Being a priest, Father Goh also integrates psychological means and spiritual means, such as the use of meditation for healing and forgiveness, spiritual direction, retreat of prayer, and the application of sacraments.

Where to get help

- Family Life Society (T: 6488 0278; E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
- ALife Pregnancy Assistance & Counselling Centre (T: 62588816)
- Liberty League (T: 9620 1630; E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; W: www.libertyleague.com.sg)
- Morning Star FSC Hougang Centre (T: 6285 1377, E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
- Morning Star FSC Sengkang Centre (T: 6315 8812, E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
- Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling (T: 6467 6072; E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


SINGAPORE – A forum on homosexuality titled “A Christian Response To Same-Sex Attraction” was held over four Thursdays starting May 8 and ending May 29 at CANA The Catholic Centre. The aim of the forum was to introduce various viewpoints of same-sex attraction to members of the Catholic community. This is the first time a gay lobbyist has been invited to speak in a public forum organized by a Catholic organization.

The sessions attracted more than the expected number of attendees, with a significant proportion being homosexual persons and those who support the homosexual lifestyle.

As an unofficial follow-up to the forums, informal get-togethers may be organized for those who are interested to discuss and learn more about Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and to receive and give encouragement to live with their homosexual inclinations the Christian way.

Persons interested can contact CANA at 6336 4815 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Below is a summary of the discussions. Alex Au

ALEX AU, Founding member of People Like Us 3, Singapore?s main gay equality lobby group:

“The natural law argument... runs into a consistency problem. What?s the difference between infertile sex and homosexual sex? “Slippery slope arguments exploit the fear of the unknown and ride on common stereotypes.

“[The Catholic Church says] they [homosexuals] must be treated with respect, but homosexuals are called to chastity. How do you separate identity from behaviour?

“The issue is not homosexuality, but homophobia, which is analogous to racism and sexism.”

Thomas Aqbal

THOMAS AQBAL, Senior litigation lawyer:

“In English law [from which Singapore law is derived], it was found that two-parent families are a very good way of providing social and emotional support [for individuals]. If your society does not have family structures, it is going to break down. “It is in order to protect the family that we have all these laws [in Singapore]. It is not about homophobia.”

Father Paul Lian-Kok Goh, SJ

JESUIT FATHER PAUL LIAN-KOK GOH, who holds a Ph.D in clinical psychology:

“From the viewpoint of psychology, a mental disorder is a human condition that is not mentally healthy and has adverse effects on the adaptation of the individual or on society.

“Homosexuality is not mentally healthy in the sense of maladaptiveness. [Maladaptiveness refers to behaviour or characteristics that sabotage rather than abet a person?s moving in a positive, healthy direction.] From my experience, homosexual [persons] are often diagnosed with various psychological problems.”

Dr John Hui

DR JOHN HUI, Immediate Past Master of the Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore:

“Those who engage in homosexual sex are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections.

“Unprotected receptive anal sex is believed to be at least 10 times more risky than unprotected receptive vaginal intercourse for acquiring HIV.

“Risk reduction with abstinence is 100 percent.

“Risk reduction with condom: – HIV 80% – Gonorrhoea 62% – Chlamydia 26% – Syphilis 29%”

Editor's note: The Catholic Church teaches that the homosexual inclination, though not sinful, is “objectively disordered”. This means that if a person acts on this tendency, it becomes a sinful act. As this constitutes for most of them a trial, “they must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity”. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2357, 2358)

SINGAPORE – Among the infants baptized at Church of the Risen Christ on Sunday Jun 1 were two sets of triplets, one all-boy, the other all-girl. Triplets normally occur once in every 100,000 pregnancies.

The all-girl triplets were born on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14, this year to Anna and Alphonso Chan. The proud parents named them Genevieve, Emilia and Matilda.

The parents said they were in a state of "disbelief", amongst a range of other emotions, when they were first told that they were going to have triplets.

"I asked my gynae to double-check when she told me she saw three heartbeats," Anna recalled. "I’m a twin but I could not believe it’s so coincidental. At the same time, we were excited because we had no idea what was in store for us. [Then we were] anxious as there are just so many uncertainties with multiple births."

Anna did some research on triplets and uncovered statistics showing that it was a high-risk pregnancy. This led the anxious mother to fear the potential complications. "What happens if something happens to one of the babies?" she wondered anxiously.

Though the pregnancy was not entirely easy, it had gone relatively smoothly until the 30th week when her gynaecologist informed her that the youngest triplet "wasn’t doing so well". Growth-wise, she was in the lower percentile, and her placenta was not very healthy. There was also a murmur in her heart which signified the baby had a hole in her heart.

"The tears just started flowing," Anna remembered. "And after that, it was just about asking God to keep her healthy."

When the triplets were born, the youngest, Matilda, was whisked to the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) immediately.

"When you see such a small baby with so many tubes running in and out of her, it was quite heart-wrenching," said Anna.

Now, the worst is over. All three babies are in good health.

"Looking at Matilda now, you won’t think she was once a baby in NICU. And she’s quite a milk-guzzler now!" Anna said of the baby who earlier on had problems feeding.

Now, Anna said, they simply feel blessed. "I realize it is really true, when God provides, he provides for everything."

Ever since news that they were having triplets got around, the Chans have found people – people they know, and strangers too – to be so generous. Their house is now filled with diapers and probably enough clothes to last the girls two years.

"I look at them everyday and I’m so grateful to God for giving me my GEMs (Genevieve, Emilia and Matilda)."

Then there are Zachariah, Jeremiah and Nehemiah Chiew – the all-boy triplets, each born one minute apart, of parents Gladys and Joey Chiew. All three were baptized with the same baptism name, "Gerard".

"We chose this particular patron saint’s name because my hubby and I have been praying to Saint Gerard Majella, who is a mother and children saint," explained Gladys. "We have been praying to him fervently to intercede for us to our Father in heaven to bless us with offspring and to guide me through my pregnancy and delivery, and also for good health to my children."

Gladys and Joey lost their first child, whom they named Zachary, in the womb. It made them more determined to stay closer to God and it was then that Gladys joined the RCIA though she had been going to Novena Church for years.

During her RCIA journey, she became pregnant but suffered a miscarriage in the fifth week.

"I was very devastated and kept asking why this happened to me again," Gladys said. "But after much praying I knew God definitely had his own plans for me and he had his reasons for me to go through those ordeals. He strengthened my faith and trust in him then."

It was during this painful period that she heard of Saint Gerard and started praying for his intercession. One year later, Gladys was pregnant again. Gladys and Joey planned to name the child Evangeline if she was a girl – to evangelize the Word of God – and Zachariah, if he was a boy – in remembrance of Zachary.

The child turned out to be girl, and so was named Evangeline.

Gladys and Joey decided to try for more children soon after so that there would not be a big age gap between Evangeline and her sibling.

Gladys conceived when Evangeline was just a few months old. "God is so amazing and great!" she exclaimed.

However, the couple was "in shock, wordless and unbelieving" when they found out that they were having triplets.

"We weren’t prepared for it at all! My gynae was also surprised when he saw three heartbeats. He told us it was so unbelievable as it was so rare," Gladys said. In fact, her first visit to her gynae had only turned up one source of heartbeat.

She continued, "Worry and fear sank in as we really didn’t know what would happen because of the higher risks and [concern about] financial stability ... with living costs rising ... and four children."

They decided to name their eldest triplet Zachariah (after Zachary). Gerard remains the name for all three to signify God’s blessing of planting one egg that split into three. Zachariah was born with a hole in his heart and this often leads Gladys and Joey to wonder if Zachariah is indeed Zachary, who also had a hole in the heart.

"We will do our best to bring up our kids with God’s guidance and love," Gladys said. "Financially, it is definitely very straining especially when we are normal working people, but I know God will see us through. We firmly believe in him!"

Like Anna and Alphonso, Gladys and Joey, too, feel "very blessed" to be "God-chosen parents with such rare triplets".

"Life has become more meaningful for us parents, with more joys too. We have matured knowing we are doing things not from our personal perspective but that of a family as a whole," Gladys said.

She acknowledges that taking care of triplets is very stressful and tiring, but "we draw strength from Jesus and [know] he will guide us to be good parents". Gladys wished that there are more than 24 hours in a day so that she can spend more quality time with each child.

As for Anna and Alphonso, they remain grateful to God for being their "tower of refuge and strength". Without God, Anna said, she would not have made it through the pregnancy. "God showed us, ‘When I give you three, I will provide for all three’." -By Joyce Gan

 

AS WE PREPARE to celebrate Fathers’ Day we should reflect a bit on what a father is. Today I’m afraid that there are a large number of people who can no longer relate to the reality or the concept of a father. This was not always the case as most marriages never suffered from the ravages of divorce. Many individuals today did not have the benefit of a father at home, or even in their life to any extent. In the U.S., more than 50 percent of marriages, including Catholic marriages, end in divorce. Single parent families are painfully common.

A human being needs both a father and a mother, male and female, to receive the fullness of nurturing, love, and support. One parent can try heroically to fill both roles, and do quite well, but it is never the same as when mom and dad fulfil their respective roles.

A father, along with a mother, obviously collaborates with God to bring life into existence. You will never know the eternal joy of heaven without your father and mother saying yes to life. A father protects and supports his family. If evil in any form threatens his family a father must engage the evil and protect the family. This is true most of all spiritually, but also physically, emotionally, economically, and morally.

Dad has to fight many a battle to win the war of the salvation of the souls of his spouse and children. If dad doesn’t even know there is a war, where would that leave his family? How many sleepless nights fathers have had worrying how to provide for mom and the kids? How many days he has come home from work bone tired, trying to provide a life for the family better than he had? How many deaths has he died agonizing over the welfare of each of his children?

Remember your father this Fathers’ Day. Pray for him, alive or deceased. While you are doing this, hopefully through a day started with the Holy Eucharist, remember your priests, who are truly fathers in the spiritual sense. They too have expended a lot of "blood, sweat, and tears" trying to insure the well-being of their spiritual children. Without the priest there is no forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation. Without the priest there is no strengthening through the sacrament of confirmation. Without the priest there is no anointing of the sick. Most of all, no priest no Eucharist – the source, centre, and summit of the church’s life.

Let’s pray for our fathers, both biological and spiritual, this Fathers’ Day, and every day. We need them, and they need us. - By Father John Corapi, SOLT

THE THIRD SUNDAY in June is observed each year as Father’s Day. The origins of this event are not clear. Some records suggest that it was first celebrated as a church service some 100 years ago in Fairmont, West Virginia, at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Whether this is true or not, the impulse to honour fathers is a worthy one and it comes with the biblical admonition to honour our fathers and mothers.

In the Bible it is Abraham who is counted as the father of faith and he is revered in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The word "faith" is an important component to remember because it means trust in God – being able to rely on that which is dependable. Abraham trusted God’s assurance that his children would become a great nation. The promise came at a point when he and his wife, Sarah, were elderly and childless. And yet Abraham believed that God could do what was foretold to him. He went forward in confidence that God could accomplish, through him, a benefit for all of the world.

Joseph of Galilee is an exemplary father in the Bible. He married Mary, despite the unusual circumstances of her pregnancy. He dared to be unconventional because he trusted that God was working through her and him. He was a righteous man who dared to take on the roles of husband and foster father. And as refugees from danger, after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is clear that he protected his family by going beyond what was familiar to find a safe haven. We can learn much about fatherhood from Joseph.

Another father that captures the imagination is a man called Jairus. We read about him in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. He was a man of importance whose daughter was dying and he came to Jesus, fell at his feet and begged Jesus to help his child. The actions of Jairus revealed his character. He trusted that God could help and it didn’t matter that he had wealth and prestige. He humbled himself for the sake of his daughter.

A final father from the Bible that is impressive is the one who had two sons, one of whom went astray. This is, of course, the story told by Jesus of the prodigal son. The father in the parable teaches his two sons powerful lessons of love: the one who went astray who discovered that his father’s care came to him even when he had run away from it and the other who struggled to understand such extravagant love in the face of his brother’s failures and his own fidelity. The father in the story, like God, never gave up on either of his children.

On Father’s Day let us remember that we have been given a heritage of dedication and faithfulness from the fathers we encounter in the Bible and from those fathers who exemplify the best qualities of parenting. n The American Bible Society