In his latest pastoral letter, the archbishop warns Catholics against art that offends and divides. An artist’s vocation involves social responsibilities. The letter follows government censorship of a Satanist musical group.
Singapore (AsiaNews) – The Archbishop of Singapore, Mgr William Goh Seng Chye (pictured), issued a pastoral letter titled An Exhortation to Artists and Promoters of the Arts.
In it, he writes that an artist’s vocation is not to provoke but to serve “beauty, truth and love”. Through their works, artists can “inspire humanity to appreciate the beauty of creation and thereby lead people to connect with the Sacred and the Transcendence.”
Mgr Goh’s letter comes a few days after the Singapore government banned Watain, a controversial Swedish death metal group, from performing in the country.
On the advice of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Media Development Authority (MDA) cancelled a concert scheduled for 7 March.
In a statement, the latter justified the measure by referring to “the band’s history of denigrating religions and promoting violence, which has potential to cause enmity and disrupt Singapore’s social harmony”.
For Mgr Goh, by virtue of the important role they hold within society, “Artists, therefore, must use their vocation for the common good. [. . .] Unfortunately today, art has become synonymous with anything that is avant-garde.
This “has become the licence for people to push the boundaries of convention. It has become the platform for people to put down and mock anything that they do not agree with, such as religious beliefs, in the name of ‘freedom of expression’, and advocate a nihilistic philosophy that is destructive to the well-being of humanity”.
"It is in this context that we need to be vigilant in our discernment of what is truly art, and what is vile disguised as art,” warns the archbishop.
"Whilst we must respect that people have different tastes and values, yet, we have a moral duty to ensure that peoples of all communities, religious or otherwise, co-exist and live in peace and mutual respect for each other."
Ultimately, “governments have an obligation to protect the common good of society by ensuring that arts promoted are for the service of truth, love and unity."
Thus, “I call upon all Christians and people of good-will to recover the true meaning of arts and encourage all artists to promote arts that inspire peace, true love and beauty, give life, joy and hope to our peoples.”