Hong Kong's Cardinal Attacks Non-Discrimination Bill; Suggests Equality "Worse Than Climate Change"

Cardinal John Tong

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

10 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    If you think Tong and other far-right-wing Catholic leaders are bad news — and of course they are — you need to check out what the LDS (Mormon) Church has just done to its own GLBT membership. Short answer: it has now virtually EXCOMMUNICATED them — unless they repent of being who they are. Story here:


    Obviously these atrocities have got to stop — or shortly there will be nothing left of any viable religious faith and belief on this planet.

  2. Loretta Fitzgerald
    Loretta Fitzgerald says:

    You’re right. In context of all the assaults on freedom and dignity of people and procreation in China, this cardinal is ignorantly blaming LGBT folks with the demise of China’s morality!! Talk about blindness!

  3. Anton
    Anton says:

    The message of Jesus, called THE GOSPEL, turned society upside down. Hong Kong’s cardinal’s head is not in the air! The Gospel caused a climate change as well. The Cardinal could use some reORIENTation!! Thank you, Jesus!

  4. brendathewriter
    brendathewriter says:

    Let’s not forget that this is a Roman Bishop, from the Vaticanite family of Catholic denominainations, which has, literally hundreds of bishops, archbishops, etc. amoung the different denominations inside the Vatican. The Vaticanites are just one family of The Catholic Church, as are the Anglicans, Utrechtians, Orthodoxs, Liberals, and Independents. Each of these families within The Catholic Church has hundreds of bishops, and NO ONE bishop is more or less important in The Catholic Church, even though some denominations may have various types of goverance that assign certain bishops more authority than others. There also was nothing in his speech that was written and published in any way that indicated that he had the express permission of his supervising Bishop, which in the Vaticanite denominations is the Roman Bishop Of Rome, Pope Francis. So, since his comments had no oecumenical whole Catholic Church council vote on them, AND he did not provide proof that his particular denomination’s Presidieng Bishop, Pope Francis approved the comments he made, NO CATHOLIC is obligated to listen to a word he says, not even those in his own flock in Hong Kong. Also, ANY Catholic Bishop in any denomination is perfectly within his rights to write an apology, a statement of dissent, against what this Bishop said. THIS is the lesson that Chinese Catholics, and Catholics everywhere, need to learn from this.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      All true — and very eloquently explained! Liberal Roman Catholics routinely “tune out and ignore” the hateful and harmful rantings of Cordileone, Paprocki and their misguided ilk. But this certainly puts a huge burden upon the Presiding Bishop — in our case, Pope Francis — to place CARITAS and AGAPE foremost in all of his public teachings. Pope Francis has struggled to attain an aggregate grade of “C” in his public declarations. He’s great on poverty, environmental and social justice issues — but he’s waffling badly on gender justice issues, especially regarding faithfully-bonded relationships. It seems to be a Rubicon he simply doesn’t want to cross. Let’s hope (and pray!) that he finds the courage to do so, in the (likely) few remaining years of his Papacy.

      • brendathewriter
        brendathewriter says:

        Thanks for your thoughts! In my group on facebook, I often lament the fact that Francis has literally been painted into a corner by the concept of Papal Infallibility that came out of the rushed up Vatican I council, and express the wish that Francis would (or maybe could is a better word) at least form a commission to go back and completely review from scratch the work on the dogma from the theologians, which, as we know, was “speeded up” because of Puis IX’s desire to make the council and it’s decisions occur during the jubilee year. While I would respect that Vaticanites can hold the belief that current popes can’t overturn past popes, I find nothing in what I have read of canon law that says a denominational council can not overturn the decisions of a past denominational council if it is later found that the study and work of the theologians was in some way incomplete or defective. It might provide a way out from the stalemate they are in eventually, especially if it is found that indeed the theologians missed important sources or aspects as they hurried to meet the new deadline. It is a sad things, to see the denominations that are part of the Vatican, struggling so much. I agree that at best Francis is rating a “c” overall, even though he is getting very high marks for sound bites. I am going to read up a bit on CARITAS and AGAPE, and think about your thoughts on how emphasis of those would also improve things…Take care, Brenda

  5. Fiona Bowie
    Fiona Bowie says:

    When will these guys realise that the Church does not have a monopoly on the institution of marriage, that marriage historically and culturally takes many forms, and that Christian monogamous heterosexual marriage and the ‘values of family life’ are freely available for those who choose them. No one is threatening to take them away, whereas hateful attitudes to those outside this idealised vision end up destroying the very thing they seek to protect.


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