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

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 November, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 12:44pm

The Catholic bishop of Hong Kong has urged his flock to consider candidates' views on gay rights when voting in the district council elections, as certain social movements "are challenging and twisting" the city's core values on marriage and family

Cardinal John Tong Hon, leader of the city's 379,000 Catholics, made the appeal in a pastoral letter on Thursday, two days before this afternoon's Pride Parade by gay rights groups, and two weeks before the November 22 district council polls.

READ MORE: After six years as head of Hong Kong's Catholics, Cardinal John Tong keeps guiding faithful amid changing world

It is the second time in two months Tong has used one of his occasional pastoral letters to criticise same-sex marriage.

In his latest letter, Tong wrote: "In recent years, extreme liberalism, individualism, sexual liberation and gay rights movement [activists] … advocated that Hong Kong should introduce a sexual orientation discrimination ordinance and recognise same-sex marriage. This has shaken our society to its core."

Referring to media reports that a student organisation had run what it called a "sex workshop" recently, Tong warned that "twisted trends are no longer spreading in an obscure manner, but they have publicly and openly intruded into our daily lives and directly impacted our next generation".

"In the upcoming district council election and future polls, I urge all believers … to consider candidates' and their parties' stance on family and marriage issues, as well as their position on" a law to ban discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, Tong said.

The cardinal also asked clerics to share his "urgent appeal" with Catholics as soon as possible through church news bulletins, notice boards and Facebook pages. The message must also be read during Sunday mass.

Pan-democratic parties - who have often found common cause with the Catholic Church on matters of democracy and human rights - criticised Tong's remarks.

People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, who is openly gay, criticised Tong's message and said it reflected a backward view of social movements and possibly deviated from the Vatican's line.

"The current pope has been calling for respect for the LGBT community. I do not understand why Tong would make such a comment at a time when worldwide Catholics are becoming increasingly liberal in handling the issue," Chan said.

A spokesman for the Labour Party said Tong's view was "obviously different" from the remarks of Pope Francis, who in 2013 said: "If [homosexuals] accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalised. The [homosexual] tendency is not the problem."

Tong addressed the views of the Vatican in his letter, saying that a synod recently concluded that the Vatican had reiterated Christian teachings about family and marriage.

At the landmark Vatican summit, deeply divided clerics echoed the more inclusive tone of Pope Francis, extending more welcoming language to gay Catholics but stopping short of calling for clear alterations in policy and leaving the extent of any change in the hands of the pontiff.