In the Catholic Church of Singapore, same sex attraction (SSA) seems to be theoretical. Catholics in Singapore! (Unofficial guide)1 argue about repealing Section 377A, catechists cite (with ambivalence) Pope Francis’ media spectacles, the Archbishop’s Office preaches a defensible but also unspecific personalistic norm.2
For the rest of us, even weighing in on the Pink Dot vs Wear White debate seems controversial. We would rather not talk about it. We don’t know how to talk about it. Perhaps if we didn’t talk about it, we could pretend that Singaporean Catholics do not struggle with it.
But where are the most important stakeholders: the Catholics who actually struggle with SSA?
A fellow parishioner once asked me, “We don’t have people struggling with homosexuality in our parish, right?”
I laughed to myself. If only he knew.
This is why SCH/SM is such an important work of art. Written, directed, and acted by Mariel Chee, SCH/SM explores the struggles of Catholics who experience SSA, by weaving a main character’s story arc with thin slices of other female characters (all played by Mariel). What makes these other characters poignant is that they are based on the stories of actual Catholic females with SSA whom Mariel interviewed for this project. The end result — this play — is at once visionary for exploring such a necessary dialogue, ingenious for conceiving of such an unintimidating way to have it, and so, so courageous for being this authentic.
Actually, this leaves me in a conundrum, because Mariel’s voice and story is so sterling and raw that reviewing the play feels like I am reviewing the person. For all its uncompromising stand on Church teachings and its unabashedly Catholic voice, SCH/SM remains unflinchingly human. And as my favorite author says, “You don’t pass or fail at being human, dear.”3
But we can fail at being pastors. In a catechism class I taught, one of my students left the Church because, I later learnt, she had identified as being a bisexual. I didn’t even know the two whole years she was in my class. And that made me think: somewhere, somehow, we must have done something wrong.
SCH/SM is an attempt to do something right, to tell something true. And truth is more than CCC2358 declaring that homosexual tendencies are “objectively disordered”, more than the ‘love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin’ throwaway lines. Truth is also about the dreams of the youth leader struggling with SSA who is not allowed to be a facilitator because she is a “bad influence”, the beliefs of the Sunday Catholic who keeps going to Confession even though she doesn’t feel that being gay is wrong, the desires of the lesbian who broke up because she loves God more than her partner.4 These things are true, not because they accord with natural law, but because the people holding onto them are true.
And we need to talk about these things. SCH/SM has started a conversation. I pray that the conversation deepens. I pray that Truth, with all its myriad small-lettered versions, comes to light.
1.An informal Facebook group for Catholic adults in Singapore.
2.In Karol Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility, the personalistic norm holds that the person is a good towards the only proper and adequate attitude is love. In other words, treat everyone with love, including those who struggle with SSA.
3.Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
4.These people were all interviewee-characters in SCH/SM.