Hong Kong’s Cardinal John Tong released a pastoral letter decrying a proposed sexual orientation non-discrimination ordinance in which he instructed Catholics to beware of candidates who support equality. An earlier letter said marriage equality was worse than climate change.
Writing to pastoral ministers and church leaders, Tong struck out against the proposed Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance (SODO) and marriage equality. He wrote, in part:
“. . .[T]he ‘Sex Liberation Movement’ and the ‘Gay Movement’, under the guise of equality and the fight against discrimination, have all along been advocating the enactment of a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance and the recognition of same-sex marriages. Thereby, the core values and key concepts of marriage and of the family are continually being challenged and misinterpreted, so that the very foundation of society is being undermined.”
The cardinal also stated that “the stance of each candidate and that of the political party he/she might belong to with regard to the core values of marriage and the family,” specifically their view on SODO, should be considered. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision to legalize marriage equality, as well as noting a local university’s sex education workshop, Tong warned that LGBT rights “would force our society into undergoing a change that would turn it upside-down.”
Church officials were instructed to “urgently” disseminate this message, including sharing on Facebook and having it read aloud at Sunday Masses.
This is not Cardinal Tong’s first time attacking LGBT rights. He released another letter in late September against equal marriage rights. Writing extensively against the Obergefell decision and tying his remarks to Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si, the cardinal put forward the patently ridiculous line:
“The resulting ‘climate change’ in moral attitudes and conduct towards sex and marriage, if not properly addressed, can be as bad as and even worse than climate change in the physical environment.”
Tong was also extremely strident against same-gender couples in his 2012 Christmas message, though this softened in 2013, likely due to Pope Francis’ influence.
Tong’s rhetoric is harsh and, at times, even bizarre, which led gay lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen to call this most recent letter a “big international joke” and suggested Pope Francis would never write such judgmental words, reported Hong Kong Free Press.
Chan joined Shum Tsz-kit of Rainbow Action, an LGBT rights group, in questioning why the cardinal was prioritizing his anti-LGBT crusade instead of elevating real issues, like the destruction of Christian churches in China, and real values for Hong Kong, like democracy and fairness.
The letter comes the same week as Hong King’s Pride celebrations today, and only days after Houston, Texas, voters rejected a similar non-discrimination ordinance in last Tuesday’s elections. Catholics with DignityUSA’s Trans Support Caucus criticized Texas voters’ failure to approve the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) which would have expanded LGBT protections. Lui Francesco Matsuo, a transgender man with the Caucus, said in a statement:
” ‘It is sad and scary to live in a society where people vote against what they are ignorant about based on unfounded discriminatory feelings, rather than educating themselves and deciding logically with facts.”
I think Matsuo is on point in suggesting that, rather than giving in to ignorance and prejudice, people need to educate themselves first. Cardinal Tong’s letters are completely devoid of any compassion for LGBT people as people, marginalizing their experiences and desires for equality.
There is no mercy or respect in his words, the very traits Pope Francis repeatedly calls for from church leaders. More than that, Tong;s words perpetuate discrimination and such misguided attitudes often breed violence. The cardinal should retract both letters and choose instead to encounter LGBT people, especially those within the local church he oversees, so he can come to know and to love them. Until then, his letters fall on deaf ears.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry