Heart-to-Heart: Cardinal Goh dialogues with faithful on current issue

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Heart-to-Heart: Cardinal Goh dialogues with faithful on current issueOver 100 Catholics met with Cardinal William Goh at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd annexe on Feb 29 to talk about the relevance, diversity, and inclusivity of the Church in a cosy and light-hearted setting.

Called Heart-to-Heart, this was the first of five such heartfelt conversations Cardinal Goh will be having with the faithful this year on the critical questions facing today’s Church.

Sharing that he wanted “another avenue for myself, as the shepherd, to be close to his sheep,” Cardinal Goh said he was “keen to hear their concerns, struggles, hopes, and dreams.”

Despite having only two hours for the session, a time Cardinal Goh felt was “too short”, he gamely took on several questions, including those on singlehood and how divorcees in a civil remarriage could remain in communion with the Church.


On the role of singles, Cardinal Goh said people should not merely focus on the label, because singles share the same mission as those who are married in spreading the Gospel, and could serve in various areas, whether ministering to the poor or teaching the faith.

Dismissing the idea that singles lived “half-fulfilled” lives, he said, “If so, my life will be only half-fulfilled!” to much laughter from the gathering.

On divorce, Cardinal Goh observed that “nobody marries to divorce”, although this sometimes happens because of unfortunate circumstances such as abuse and infidelity, and that divorcees “deserve our empathy and support”.

He encouraged those who have been through difficult marriages to use their experiences to help others in similar situations.

“Even when there is disgrace, there is much grace involved,” he said.


At the dialogue with Cardinal Goh were panellists Mr Alex Yam, Mayor of North West District, Ms Karen Chok, a Catholic Family Life counsellor, and Father Adrian Danker SJ, Spiritual Director of the Catholic LGBTQ community and Co-chair of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, who also moderated the session.

On the Church’s relevance in society, Mr Yam shared how he lives his faith publicly in a secular state with a diverse population.

Taking his parish priest’s advice to “be Christ to everyone and see Christ in everyone,” Mr Yam said he serves both Catholics and non-Catholics without distinction, but the Member of Parliament’s journey has not been all smooth-sailing, as he has encountered resistance to his public witness of the faith.

In his early years as a politician, a well-meaning senior colleague had suggested that Mr Yam hide some of his Catholic-related social media posts so as not to cause voters discomfort.

After some thought, Mr Yam politely declined.

“For me to be truly open and engaging to others, I must be comfortable with myself,” he said, explaining that although the secular government had to maintain balance and represent everyone fairly, society was itself diverse.

“As Catholic citizens, we have a role to play in public discourse,” he said.


As the session warmed up, 31-year-old participant Mr Bryan Aw stepped forward to ask if the Church was ready to accept single Catholics, including those divorced, LGBTQ, widowed, and disabled, who were living with companions.

Citing the biblical account of David and Jonathan, two prominent figures in the nascent Kingdom of Israel who shared a uniquely intimate friendship (1 Samuel 18:1-5), Cardinal Goh said singles could indeed live as chaste companions in support of each other.

However, he drew the line at irregular sexual relationships outside the bond of marriage, encouraging those in such situations to consider how they could appropriately express their love.

“When people are struggling in a particular situation, we need to give them time to purify their love, in the light of faith,” he said.


For Mr Aw, the Cardinal’s assurance that there was good in chaste relationships, and his thoughts on the need to live chastely by purifying one’s love, resonated with him.

“He affirmed my belief that singles are also called to chaste relationships,” he said. “This helped me in discerning my vocation journey as a single person.”

For Ms Amanda Er, 28, who supports ethnic minorities and women at her workplace in her human resource role, the session “inspired and affirmed” her work.

“It’s helpful to have this knowledge framed in a spiritual perspective that I can trust and refer to when others ask me about it,” she said. “These dialogues also help our faithful stay on the same page, and direct our hearts, minds, and actions to reflect God’s spirit and truth.”

The next session discussing how the young people of today can be equipped to navigate a complex world and thrive in their faith will be on Apr 4.

By Joshua Chan