SMPC Chair, on the Future of “Soho Masses”

FORUM: ‘Radically Christian attempt’ to meet the spiritual hunger of London’s LGBT Roman Catholics – but what’s really going on with the Soho Masses?

Published: 18 January, 2013


IT’S been an interesting fortnight – on January 2 the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols announced that the Soho Masses which,­ for the past six years have been the Roman Catholic Church in London’s official outreach to the LGBT Catholic community, were moving from a church in Warwick Street near Piccadilly.

They were asked to integrate into the parish of the Jesuit church in Farm Street; and the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, the group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics who, elected by the congregation, organise the Masses, would no longer do that, but were asked to focus on pastoral care instead.

Ho hum, so far, so good – who could have imagined the torrent of bilge that this banal announcement would produce, both in the gay and the Catholic press?

The gay press, infuriated by the Archbishop’s recent criticism of the government’s process in deciding to legislate for equal marriage, presented it as yet another homophobic attack on the LGBT community.

The prurient end of the Catholic press, which titillates readers with salacious and entirely imaginary stories about a gay dating agency after Mass (anybody want to shack up with a lesbian granny?) decided to spin it as a Machiavellian move by the Archbishop. Conveniently forgetting that there already is a Cardinal alive and well in London, their conspiracy theory was that by “abolishing” the Masses, Archbishop Nichols would ingratiate himself with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Inquisition), and Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Wimbledon-based Apostolic Nuncio (Papal ambassador) and ensure his own Cardinal’s hat.

Even the usually sensible Tablet opined that there was a danger of this – perhaps the most inclusive church-service in Europe – becoming a ghetto.

Strikingly, both sides were equally patronising, the gay press treating us as pawns of an evil organisation who collude in our own oppression, the prurient Catholic press as a mix of screaming queen and sexed-up, theologically illiterate, mental defective. Even more striking was that the gay press saw it had got it wrong, rang up to check the facts and published corrections, while the Catholic editors persisted in presenting wild imaginings. Proof yet again that it’s harder to be Catholic than L,G,B or T these days.

Most striking of all was the deluge of messages of support from straight and gay Catholics all over the world, many of them priests and nuns, as well as from other Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and even anarchists.
The whole world is watching Westminster Diocese’s radically Christian attempt to meet the spiritual hunger of London’s LGBT Catholic community and by golly it approves.

So, here’s my take on the Soho Masses and what is happening to us. We started in 1999 when a small “grass-roots” group of LGBT Catholics met on the weekend of the Admiral Duncan pub bombing to celebrate Mass. It is the universal communal prayer of the Church, the act where we, as the very diverse body of Christ, come together to commune in a mindful way with each other and God. A lot of its power comes because it exists in the four major dimensions of space-time, having been celebrated for two millennia – the real reason why so many Catholics find it hard to leave the Church. For all its universality, however, individual instances of Mass vary and adapt to time and place. The group who organised that 1999 Mass aimed to celebrate it in a way that met the spiritual hunger, and confronted the challenges, which LGBT Catholics experience – mostly because Mass elsewhere just did not, and most parish clergy were unable to deal with their “issues”.

-more at  West End Extra.

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The Soho Mass effect

The Catechism is clear about what the Church teaches about sexuality: sexual activity is permissible exclusively within marriage between man and woman. Other types of sexual pursuits, such as non-conjugal relations, are proscribed.


“In questions of sinfulness, few of us are ever qualified to throw the first stone.”

The homosexual act and masturbation are, according to the Catechism, “intrinsically disordered” and not consistent with the teaching of the Church (2352, 2357).

At the same time, the Catechism counsels that homosexuals may not be discriminated against: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (2358).

The Body of Christ may not engage in homophobia, and our fidelity to the Catechism cannot be conditional on the fidelity to it by others.

There is also no profit in speculating about the sexual conduct of fellow Catholics who are homosexual. We cannot presume to know what happens behind the closed doors of homosexual Catholics, nor those of others, married or unmarried.

In questions of sinfulness, few of us are ever qualified to throw the first stone.

In that light, the decision by the archdiocese of Westminster, England, to discontinue fortnightly Masses as part of a pastoral care programme for homosexuals, reportedly under pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, runs the risk of being understood as lacking in compassion and sensitivity.

It doubtless was a difficult decision for Archbishop Vincent Nichols. While he has been outspoken in his opposition to gay marriage, he has also been supportive of the pastoral care initiative for homosexuals in his archdiocese. In February 2012 he explicitly “reaffirmed the intention and purpose” of the programme, including the so-called Soho Masses.

The programme, which Archbishop Nichols in a statement on his decision described as being “motivated by an awareness of the difficulties and isolation [homosexuals] can experience and by the imperative of Christ’s love for all”, will continue, without special liturgical celebrations, at a Jesuit church in London.

more at –The Southern Cross.

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Catholic and other religious groups were well-represented at the World Pride March 2012 which wound through the streets of London on July 7th.  The Soho Masses community of London wore T-shirts that said “All Are Welcome at Soho Masses” on the front, while the reverse said “Nobody Knows I’m Catholic.”    Members of Quest, a Catholic LGBT group in the United Kingdom marched with their banner. And New Ways Ministry was present, proudly marching with our banner amid the thousands upon thousands of marchers and spectators.

Here are some photos which I hope will give you a sense of the strong faith presence in the march, as well as the diversity of attendees:

– more pictures at  Bondings 2.0.

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London prepares for World Pride

Gay 80s icon Boy George and R&B star Deborah Cox will perform on the main stage celebrating World Pride

The countdown to World Pride has begun, and promises to be bigger, bolder, and braver than ever before.

It promises to be one of the highlights of the London summer calendar, sitting comfortably next to the Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games.

World Pride will be taking over Soho, the gay heart of London, on 17 June to officially launch the event.

The festival will take place from 17 June to 8 July, with the main parade on Saturday 7 July

Pride London and global LGBT organization Kaleidoscope Trust will be honoring US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the World LGBT Award this July at a gala dinner to celebrate the event.

– more at Gay Star News


(World Pride this year will also include a strong faith presence, including participation by a large contingent from Christians Together at Pride, Soho Masses and other UK faith groups, as well as the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups,and  New Ways Ministry from the USA. There will also be a full programme of faith related conferences and other events in the weeks leading up to the Parade on July 8th).

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