Hong Kong Catholic priest allowed anti-gay speech to be delivered to congregation

Diocese vicar general says man, who spoke from cathedral altar, did not represent the church

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 October, 2014, 6:37am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 12:44pm

The priest of Hong Kong's Roman Catholic Cathedral admits he gave permission for an anti-gay-rights speech to be delivered to the congregation on Saturday.

The speech - which was described by a parishioner as "ridiculous" - was delivered by a member of the church's moral-issues watchdog, the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family, which also sought to encourage people to express opposition to new anti-discrimination laws in a consultation.

Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese and priest of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Caine Road, said similar "sharing" sessions had been going on for two months since Cardinal John Tong Hon called parishioners' attention to the consultation paper.

The man, identified only as Cheng, delivered his speech from the cathedral altar. He later distributed copies of a sample letter for submission to the Equal Opportunities Commission, advising recipients how to change some of the words to prevent the letters being treated as "clones" from a single source.

Chan said Cheng was a member of the pastoral commission's staff. "Mr Cheng did not introduce himself during the sharing … Maybe that's what made some church members wonder," he said. "Mr Cheng did not speak on behalf of the whole diocese. The diocese holds an open attitude towards all issues."

But Chan also said church members who held different opinions could not speak at the altar because it was "not a place to express personal theories".

Brian Leung Siu-fai, chief campaigner for the pro-gay rights Big Love Alliance, said he respected people's freedom to express their views but did not appreciate the distribution of letter templates for the consultation.

"It's ironic that they've been criticising the consultation as fake but they are submitting letter templates to create a fake consultation," he said. "They're doing what they've been opposing."

The Equal Opportunities Commission is seeking public input as part of a consultation on a proposed extension of anti-discrimination laws that would protect, among others, mainlanders, migrants and unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples. The consultation runs until the end of this month.

The sample letter, also posted online for people to "copy and paste", is most critical of recommendations in the consultation under which couples in de facto relationships could enjoy benefits now offered only to legally married couples, and of expanding the definition of discrimination on the grounds of family status to cover breastfeeding women. The letter says all but one recommendation, which exempts religious organisations from such laws, should be retracted and never brought up again.