Wednesday 24 February 2016

Madonna concert: Catholic Archbishop expresses grave concerns

Archbishop speaks out against Madonna's concert
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 23 Feb 2016

Archbishop William Goh has expressed the Catholic Church's grave concerns about American singer Madonna's concert here on Sunday.

He reminded Catholics that it was their "moral obligation not to support those who denigrate and insult religions, including anti-Christian and immoral values promoted by the secular world".

"There is no neutrality in faith; one is either for or against. Being present (at these events) in itself is a counter witness. Obedience to God and His commandments must come before the arts," he said in a statement issued by his office.

Madonna's Rebel Heart tour, which has an R18 rating here, has been altered slightly for the Singapore audience, with religiously sensitive content removed.

In his criticism of Madonna, Archbishop Goh told Catholics that "we should subscribe to authentic arts that lead us to God... and not support the 'pseudo arts' that promote sensuality, rebellion, disrespect, pornography... abusive freedom, individualism at the expense of the common good, vulgarity, lies and half-truths".

The statement, put online on the Catholic News publication and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore websites, described her music and props as blasphemous and disrespectful to the Christian faith.

Archbishop Goh had told various government ministries and statutory boards of the "Catholic Church's grave concerns" about the concert, to be held at the Sports Hub.

"(In) multiracial, multi-religious Singapore, we cannot afford to be overly permissive in favour of artistic expression, at the expense of respect for one's religion, especially in these times of heightened religious sensitivities," he said.

The authorities have assured the Archbishop that restrictions have been placed to ensure that religiously offensive content that breaches local guidelines will not be allowed.

Last month, the Media Development Authority said Madonna's concert licence will not allow any content that offends any race or religion, like the song Holy Water.

Many Christians supported the Archbishop. Public relations executive Victor Yen, 35, told The Straits Times: "What Madonna is doing is a direct provocation of our faith. I would not attend her concert."

Some Christian fans, however, said they would go as they had been waiting a long time to watch a Madonna concert. Executive Kevin Kwok, 30, said he is attending the show with his parents and fiancee. "I think this will be her first and last performance in Singapore."

He reminded Catholics that it was their "moral obligation not to support those who denigrate and insult religions, including anti-Christian and immoral values promoted by the secular world".
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, February 22, 2016

"The Archbishop reminds all Catholics that it is our moral obligation not to support those who denigrate and insult...
Posted by CatholicNews on Saturday, February 20, 2016


There is no neutrality in faith; one is either for or against. Being present (at these events) in itself is a counter witness.

ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM GOH, urging Catholics not to support Madonna's Rebel Heart concert in Singapore.

Catholic Church 'not imposing its views on others'
By Rachel Au-Yong and Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 24 Feb 2016

Singapore Catholics with tickets for American pop singer Madonna's concert on Sunday should "act according to their informed conscience" on whether to attend the show, the Catholic Church said yesterday, making it clear that it was not instructing them not to go.

The Church also said it was not imposing its views about Madonna on non-believers. Its statement comes a day after a Straits Times report on Archbishop William Goh expressing, in a message to Catholics, his grave concern about the concert.

Some on social media had criticised the Archbishop's comments.

The Archbishop had also reminded Catholics of their moral obligation "not to support those who denigrate and insult religions".

Responding to queries from ST yesterday, the office of the Archbishop said he was "not issuing any new instructions but simply recalling and stating the fact of the need to be true to the faith". It added that the Church "does not impose her faith and values on non-believers", but has a duty to make clear its stand on moral issues.

Leaders of some other churches have come out to support the Archbishop's position. The National Council of Churches of Singapore's (NCCS) general secretary, Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian, told ST the council had informed the authorities of its concerns since December. He said NCCS' members "would likely not wish to be subjected to songs and lyrics which may not be edifying to the Christian faith".

Madonna's Rebel Heart tour, which has an R18 rating here, has been altered slightly for the local audience, with religiously sensitive content removed, like the song Holy Water. In her North American and European shows, she performs the song with scantily clad dancers looking like Catholic nuns.

This is not the first time Singapore churches have taken issue with a pop concert. In 2012, the Media Development Authority met the NCCS and the LoveSingapore network of churches regarding Lady Gaga's concert, which they felt was offensive to Christians.

Singapore Catholics with tickets for Madonna concert should "act according to their informed conscience" on whether to attend the show, the Catholic Church said yesterday.
Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It is ultimately up to the public to decide if they wish to attend the Madonna show, says the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Singapore.
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Someone is not happy about the arrival of international pop star Madonna here in the country.
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"Singapore being a multiracial and multireligious society, our government services should put more thought into such details," said one Facebook user.
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“Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and … it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values."
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The astonishing moment the Vatican's third-ranking official admitted that the case of a notorious pedophile priest — who he'd once lived with — "wasn't of much interest" to him. STORY:
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Seeing Spotlight Movie, one survivor said, made him realize that his story “is not something to be shameful of.”
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Agreeing to disagree in matters of religion
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2016

The controversy that erupted online this week over Archbishop William Goh's call on Catholics to not support pop icon Madonna's concert on Sunday highlights a disturbing lack of understanding of the role a religious leader plays in society.

For decades, the provocative performer has used the imagery and iconography of the Christian faith in her songs and performances.

If I were Catholic, I, too, would be offended by her performances - and probably would not want scantily-clad performers dressed to look like nuns gyrating around cross-shaped stripper poles.

Organisers say this segment will be excised for her local show. Still, there are concerns that elements that offend the Catholic faith may pop up in the show.

Some have questioned the need for a strong statement of disapproval on the official website of the Catholic Archdiocese to what amounts to a one-night concert. They were also concerned that Archbishop Goh had been in communication with the authorities about the concert, and had tried to persuade the Government not to allow the concert to proceed on the grounds of religious sensitivity.

But it is important to note that the message he sent was directed at only Catholics in Singapore - as every religious leader here is wont to do to his followers on issues that concern their faith and beliefs - and not at those of other faiths or towards atheists.

His remarks were also measured and carefully nuanced.

Unfortunately, some insults and denigrating remarks were lobbed in the online exchange.

The episode, to me, illustrates two challenges Singapore faces when it comes to discussing the relationship between religions and their followers on the one hand, and the secular state on the other.

One, many appear to have an incomplete understanding of what secularism here actually entails, and the role of religion in public life.

The separation of religion and state here means that no community should cite its beliefs to dictate affairs of the state, whether in the enactment of laws or policy measures.

At the same time, religious communities are free to give voice to their conscience in matters that have moral impact, as they have done on numerous occasions, such as expressing disapproval at the opening of casinos, weighing in on the issue of homosexuality, and, yes, on Madonna - so that their views and concerns are taken into account in decision-making.

There has to be some faith, given the Government's record in dealing with potentially sensitive matters, that it will weigh the various considerations and act with the good of the general population in mind.

Two, in an age of social media, the Archdiocese's decision to post the message to believers on Facebook and its websites should not be seen as an attempt to influence others.

The right to address one's community on what is important to them, in a public manner, should be respected, not reviled.

As MP Alex Yam said of the message in a Facebook post: "Just like any parent or older sibling, even if it makes him unpopular or seem naggy, he must state what he feels is needed in the context of faith that Catholics need to follow. And, like any elder, hopes that the flock listens.

"And a leader needs to make known his views and stance to others in authority."

Mr Yam added that the fact "that a national paper should pick it up and report it in no way purports to be guidance for all Singaporeans. In fact, liberum arbitrium means some Catholics may also choose to ignore the guidance", using the Latin phrase for free will.

"Singapore are you REaDY! We are gonna bring even more to you! . ❤️ #rebelhearttour" -Madonna
Posted by Madonna on Sunday, February 28, 2016

How should we move forward as a society should similar occasions crop up in future, as they inevitably will?

I find the advice of Anglican theologian Graham Ward, the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford who was in Singapore this month, helpful in this regard. He called for greater religious literacy starting from a primary school level, noting that religion is a dominant force in world politics and economics.

We can do with greater understanding of our fellow citizens' various religions. And this could start with structured education about the various faiths from as early as primary school and continue throughout one's school years.

In the 1980s, Religious Knowledge was a compulsory part of the secondary school curriculum, as the Government felt giving students a basic factual grounding in one of the major religions could be a countervailing force against foreign values, given Singapore's exposed society and open economy. But students learnt only about their own faith, and this was dropped as the approach heightened consciousness of religious differences and raised concerns about proselytisation.

At a time when people are generally becoming more religious, starting such education at an early age will give children from different backgrounds a strong foundation in the various religious traditions and their practices and understand why and how these came about.

This will hopefully lead to greater empathy for those of different faiths. Hopefully, older students will also not view religions as homogeneous or textbook concepts but as moral guidance for many fellow citizens in their everyday lives. At their core, all religions also have strong messages about contributing to one's country and society.

No doubt, religious literacy alone is not enough to strengthen harmony. Some have misinterpreted their religion or adopted an overly literal approach to faith, and growing religiosity in some quarters has led to fundamentalism and unthinking adherence to ideology.

As Prof Ward noted: "All religions have the potential to become ideologies that brook no tolerance of complexity and other perspectives, indoctrinating their members into the purity of their own practices and belief systems, and in this way radicalising them."

But deeper awareness and understanding of religions and the role they play in society is key to strengthening social harmony.

At the end of the day, the question is whether Singaporeans of different faiths and persuasions can respect one another as citizens with the right to abide by their beliefs, including the right to not believe in God.

At the same time, Singaporeans need to understand that religious leaders too have the right to express their views and guide followers.

Inevitably, there will be areas of disagreement. Sometimes, the public discussion will be heated.

The test is whether we can have a reasoned debate with others who hold diametrically opposed views, without shouting down or talking past each other.

Whatever the case, one principle has to be paramount: We must agree to disagree - this includes respecting the right of others to have their say as well as not imposing our beliefs on others.

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