NOVEMBER 11, 2007, Vol 57, No 23

By Oey Jing Qing and Ryan Lim

SINGAPORE - Relics of eight Lasallian martyr-saints, St. Cyril Bertran & Companions, were placed in an aperture in the altar by Archbishop Nicholas Chia at the dedication of the chapel of St. Josephʼs Institution (SJI) International School. The ritual signifies that the sacrifice of these members of the church has its source in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The dedication of the chapel, the Sanctuary of Divine Love, on Apr 7 was attended by students, parents, teachers and well-wishers.

Among those providing music at the service was the Schola Cantorum Sancti Gregorii Magni, Singaporeʼs only Gregorian chant choir. The dayʼs service included the blessing of all rooms and facilities in the school by five priests escorted by teachers and student councillors.

By Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE - Pet owners brought their pets to an animal fair and a blessing from the Franciscan friars at Church of St. Mary of the Angels on Sep 30. The annual blessing is traditionally held on a day close to the Oct 4 feast of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis, who founded the Order of Friars Minor, was declared patron saint of ecology in 1980 by Pope John Paul II. He is universally known for the respect he had for all animals. 

This year's celebration was incorporated into the Ramadhan Inter-Religious Programme 2007 organized by the Bukit Batok East Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC), Community Centre Management Committee (CCMC), Inter-Racial Confidence Circle (IRCC), Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC), and Ar-Raudhah Mosque. During her speech, Guest-of-honour Mdm Halimah Yacob, Member of Parliament for Jurong Group Representative Constituency (GRC) and Adviser to Jurong GRC Grassroots Organizations (GROs), said that part of the IRCC is to "develop greater mutual understanding and respect" among the various religions. One of the ways in which this was done at the animal fair was by having Catholic pet owners keep their dogs on leash. This shows respect for the Muslims present and teaches Catholics that Muslims are not allowed to touch dogs.

According to Muslim tradition, dogs are considered impure. After her speech, Mdm Yacob toured the church proper and distributed portions of porridge prepared by the Ar-Raudhah Mosque to Catholic parishioners.

The porridge symbolizes sharing and bonding, and is distributed at the mosque during the fasting month of Ramadhan, especially for the needy and those without time to prepare their own food for the breaking of fast.

The animal fair, which began from 10.00am and lasted till 1.00pm included activities like cow milking, pony riding, and pet competitions which increased participants' appreciation of the various animals.

IN A RECENT press report, a male Leonard Lo underwent a sex change operation and is now known as Leona Lo. Leona has written a book describing her experience and her satisfaction in establishing her new identity. When she was a male she went through National Service but she is now happy that the sex change operation has made her a better person.

After a male adult undergoes a surgical sex change to become a "woman", is 'she' permitted by the church to get married to a man?

Nelson Quah

Singapore 650524

Moral theologian Father David Garcia says: It is not really a difficult moral issue so there is no official document regarding that. Sexual identity depends on our chromosomes and therefore there is no surgery that changes that. Sexual reassignment surgery only changes appearances but not identity.

A male, even if operated to look like a woman, cannot therefore marry another man, and vice versa.

Some people don't feel comfortable with their sexual identity but there is nothing wrong with their bodies since it is a perceptual and therefore mental issue that will have to be dealt with professional psychological help and not with surgery.

RECENTLY A FRIEND'S critically ill father urgently required a priest to baptize him. When I contacted the parish responsible for pastoral care for that hospital I was informed that the priests were busy and do not visit on Saturdays and Sundays.

As my friend's father was staying in the East, I contacted the parish there, but again the priest was busy. I finally managed to contact my parish priest.

Though my friend's father does not live within this parish zone, the priest agreed to go. However my friend's father passed away before the priest could get there.

I know in Singapore our priests are overworked, but when it comes to giving the sacraments of baptism or anointing of the sick, the archdiocese should do away with the "zoning system".

If the archdiocese insists on the zoning system for ease of administration then parishes assigned to do pastoral care at hospitals should have priests rostered for emergencies. If one parish is unable to cope, why not assign two parishes?

Perhaps the church pastoral care system and guidelines need to be changed. The Church Directory could be updated to guide Catholics on the various procedures to activate priests during an emergency whether at home or hospital.

David Soh Poh Huat

Singapore 520341

Editor's note: The 2007 Archdiocese of Singapore Catholic Church Directory and Ordo (page123) has these guidelines:

1. In case of emergency calls, the priest who receives the call would go to the hospital or he will look for a replacement.

2. In principle the parish priests are responsible for the sick within their parish boundaries. The directory also lists the parish or parishes responsible for pastoral care at particular hospitals.

(Editor's advice: Do not wait until the ill person is "near the end" to call a priest. It may be too late. Help the ill person cope with serious illness or prepare for death by arranging for a priest to visit in good time. That will also help priests to cope better with the multitude of demands for their attention, services and time that they face daily.)

Deirdre Moss wrote to CatholicNews stating her objection to the article "Dogs and babies: Moral calculus skewed in Michael Vick case" (CN, Sep 30). Ms Moss' letter is published here. Following Ms Moss' email, CatholicNews asked some Catholics their views on the subject. We asked them these questions: Do you have any thoughts on Ms Moss' response to the Michael Vick article or of the article itself? How do you feel about animal rights / cruelty? Is it fair to compare these sentiments to those championing human life? Why and why not? Below are their responses (which have been edited for length and style). 

"In my opinion rights and moral obligations are parallel or hang together. They are only applicable to human beings, persons, created in the image of God. But the fact that plants and animals have no rights does not mean that we don't have to respect them. It isour duty as stewards of creation to enhance, protect and care for them as much as possible. Cruelty to animals is certainly a sin."

Father Albert Renckens, SS.CC.

Blessed Sacrament Church

"I do not see animals as having rights. They do have feelings, for sure, and expectations, too. They can be hurt or disappointed. And we human beings have no right to inflict pain on them or mistreat them. We owe it to our own humanity to be good to animals, not so much because they have rights but, rather, because we have responsibilities. It is our responsibility to respect nature, the whole of creation, especially all that has life - plants as well as animals - but also rocks and water and whatever adds beauty to our world and the universe.

I believe that the proper context is our human dignity and responsibility. At the risk of confusing the issue - or perhaps not - I should add that I have a similar problem when there is talk about abortion rights, gay rights, etc. I believe that these terms are a misnomer; they confuse the deeper moral issues that are at stake: our calling and ability to respond with understanding to another person's predicament, without prejudice or denial of their human dignity especially in deeply personal and critical choices."

Father Paul Staes, CICM

(continued on page 2)

"Animals (and the rest of creation) need to be respected. But they don't have rights because they are not rational. Only human beings are subjects of rights and duties, because only they are responsible. This said, we must respect them, not because they have rights, but because it is our duty to show care towards them."

Father David Garcia, OP

Moral theologian

"I have come across people who are outraged by the comparison of animal cruelty to abortion, the ultimate human cruelty. I believe they are upset because they feel that they are indirectly and unjustly accused of a misplacement of their judgement and intelligence by being passionately pro-animal rights (i.e. against animal cruelty) while being indifferent or responding inadequately to abortion (i.e. against human cruelty).

I am certain that given time and the correct information, any man of goodwill will passionately adopt the pro- ife position. But unfortunately too many people (now) do not feel compassionate enough about the aborted babies. They can however more easily feel compassion for animals suffering cruelty. To confront them with this (observation) would invite anger.

Animals are not created in the image of God in that they do not have a rational and immortal soul. They were created to serve us - provide us with food and clothing, etc and they also teach us compassion and kindness. We are superior to them but we have a responsibility of stewardship to them."

Andrew Kong

Family Life Society

(continued on page 3)

"Ms Moss' response to the article seems to have been made without first understanding what the writer is trying to convey. She doesn't even explain why she objects to the writer's reasoning.

The writer was merely comparing reactions to two different immoral events - that there is greater revulsion to Vick's act (cruelty to dogs) than to abortion. I believe the writer hit the nail right on the head. He's asking the pertinent questions. If we are horrified by abuses to animals and scream, why not to the murder of equally helpless unborn humans?

What was wrong was the headline used by CN; there was no direct mention of babies in the article. The point of the article was moral blindness, or skewedness, in general. Therefore the headline should have talked about moral blindness, like "Cruelty to animals and moral blindness: drawing the line", instead of going for the tabloid type headline that was published.

But as a responsible human being, a child of God who was given dominion over all other animals, I believe that we should treat our domesticated animals with utmost respect, care and love; our beasts of burden with kindness and consideration; and captive animals as we would our human prisoners.

Animal rights, or, simply kindness to animals, is about how humans are supposed to treat the "naturally inferior" beings - the animals - that God has given us to take charge of. And because we are endowed with "reason and conscience" which God has given us, we are expected to use well the resources given to us by God in responsible and sustainable ways."

Al Dizon

Church of the Holy Spirit

"I suppose the CN article is timed to coincide with the feast of St. Francis of Assisi who respected all God's creations. But if we cannot even respect human life, is animal cruelty and the rape of the environment surprising? I guess they are all evil but there is definitely a hierarchy of evil with abortion and other forms of human torture topping the list."

Ian Snodgrass

Church of Christ the King