‘Homosexuality just like drug abuse’: Hong Kong bishop defends anti-gay stance of Cardinal John Tong Hon

One day after Hong Kong’s biggest ever gay pride march the second highest ranked Catholic seeks to clarify controversial letter by likening homosexuality to drug abuse

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 November, 2015, 2:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 12:44pm

The Catholic church would speak up against homosexual behaviour just like it would do for the issue of drug abuse, a senior bishop said this morning.

Auxiliary bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung was speaking in defence of Cardinal John Tong Hon, leader of the city’s 379,000 Catholics, who was criticised for urging his flock to consider candidates’ views on gay rights when voting in the district council elections on November 22.

READ MORE: Catholic bishop of Hong Kong hits out at gay marriage and tells flock to consider the issue before voting

In the pastoral letter dated Thursday November 5, Tong also said that “...sexual liberation and gay rights movements are challenging and twisting” the city’s core values on marriage and family, and urged all Catholics to consider their local candidates’ views on LGBT rights in the upcoming district council elections.

“The church doesn’t have any enemy and it wouldn’t criticise anyone. It was only talking about a wrong-doing. For example, it was wrong to [abuse] drugs and we would say so, but we still love drug addicts,” Yeung said.

“In the pastoral letter, Cardinal Tong did not tell anyone to vote for A, but not B, or to chant a certain slogan, he did not. The letter was intended to tell everyone that it is our responsibility to vote, and to mould their conscience. Everyone should be responsible for their conscience-moulding,” he added.

Bishop Michael Yeung’s comments come the morning after some 10,000 people gathered in central Hong Kong for the annual gay pride march, esimated to be the biggest crowd ever in the event’s history, and attended by senior diplomats from the USA, Germany, UK, France and Australia.

READ MORE: Gay pride in Hong Kong: top diplomats join 10,000 in march after top Catholic’s anti-gay letter causes outrage

Writing on his Facebook page, People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, who is openly gay, criticised Yeung for “comparing homosexuality to drug addiction”.

“Homosexuality is not a sin, please do not … slander homosexuals,” Chan wrote.

Tong's remarks sparked fierce debate over whether the local church was taking a harsher line on homosexual rights than Pope Francis, who has struck a more liberal tone.

On Friday, a Labour Party spokesman said Tong's view was "obviously different" from that of the pontiff, who in 2013 said: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge them?"

In response to a question about reports of a "gay lobby" in the Vatican, Francis said: "The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalised … The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation."

The Catechism - a statement of the principals of the Catholic religion - describes homosexual acts as "acts of grave depravity" that are "intrinsically disordered". But while homosexuals "are called to chastity", it says they "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity". "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided," it reads.

At a synod concluded at the Vatican recently, more than 300 bishops discussed how the church should respond to divorced, remarried and gay churchgoers. Deeply divided clerics echoed the more inclusive tone of Pope Francis and extended more welcoming language to gay Catholics, but stopped short of calling for clear alterations in policy and left the extent of any change to the pontiff.