By Antonio Anup Gonsalves
Singapore’s music fans can do better than Madonna, the local Catholic archbishop has said.
The American pop star will stop in Singapore on Sunday Feb. 28 as part of her “Rebel Heart” tour – and Archbishop William Goh says the concert is “causing a stir” among Catholics and other Christians.
In response, he urged the faithful to reflect on how Christianity offers a contrasting vision of the arts and the world.
“As the people of God, we should subscribe to authentic arts that lead us to God through the appreciation of beauty, harmony, goodness, truth and love, respect, unity and the transcendent,” he said Feb. 20.
He encouraged Christians and others not to support “the ‘pseudo arts’ that promote sensuality, rebellion, disrespect, pornography, contamination of the minds of the young, abusive freedom, individualism at the expense of the common good, vulgarity, lies and half-truths.”
The music star Madonna is notorious for her exploitation of Christian symbols and iconography, as well as her provocative performances. On her current tour, scantily-clad dancers wear nuns’ habits while dancing on cross-shaped stripper poles.
Madonna was barred from performing in Singapore in 1993 after local authorities classified her performance as obscene and “objectionable to many on moral and religious grounds.”
Archbishop Goh encouraged the faithful not to support people whose art denigrates and insults religions, while “including anti-Christian and immoral values promoted by the secular world.”
André Ahchak head of communications for the Singapore archdiocese, discussed the archbishop’s stand.
“Archbishop William Goh has pointed out that Catholics should know that they must not do, say, support or promote anything contrary to their faith or the gospel in every aspect of moral life, lest they betray Christ their Lord,” Ahchak told CNA Feb. 24.
Ahchak said that the Catholic Church urges respect for all religions, respects freedom of speech and does not favor prejudice or discrimination against any artist.
He explained that the Church instead favors holistic human development. He pointed to the Church’s role as a patron of the arts. He also said several other Christian groups have welcomed Archbishop Goh’s stand against the Madonna concert.
“Many Catholics and non-Catholics have written privately to thank and support (the archbishop) for addressing tenets and issues of faith,” Ahchak said. “To those who disagree with the Church’s moral stand, we respect their views since they do not share our faith in Christ and His gospel.”
Archbishop Goh’s statement said attendance at Madonna concerts would show a misunderstanding of the faith.
“There is no neutrality in faith: one is either for it or against it,” he said. “Being present (at these events) in itself is a counter witness. Obedience to God and His commandments must come before the arts.”
The archbishop has made presentations to various ministries and statutory boards of Singapore. He said that given the multi-racial and multi-religious nature of Singapore, “we cannot afford to be overly permissive in favor of artistic expression at the expense of respect for one’s religion, especially in these times of heightened religious sensitivities.”
The authorities have assured the archbishop that there are restrictions in place to ensure that content deemed offensive to religious beliefs would not be allowed on stage. Because of the show’s sexual references, the show is restricted to those aged 18 and older.
Ahchak said that Archbishop Goh’s preaching and pastoral letters have been consistent in promoting faith formation.
In his homily for the 50th anniversary of Singapore independence in 2015, the archbishop emphasized four pillars that have helped Singapore become an advanced country: self-sacrifice; justice and equality; economic development; and moral and spiritual development.
That homily pledged the Church’s cooperation with the government “to prevent moral decadence, to strengthen the institution of marriage and to promote justice, peace and harmony.”