Cardinal O’Connor and LGBT Catholics | Queering the Church

UK press reports are currently replete with reports and obituaries for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, who died this week. Inevitably, I’ve  been reflecting on my own (indirect) connections with the man.

Before his appointment to Westminster, he was bishop of Arundel & Brighton – which just happens (now) to be my own diocese. That is personal to a degree, even though this was before I moved into the area. My partner though has been here a lot longer, and from him I have heard stories of Bishop O’Connors local actions (and inaction).

More at:  Queering the Church

Time to start believing? Archbishop to open formal dialogue with gay Catholics

On one side sat the existing congregation of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mayfair, which notoriously refused entry to Oscar Wilde 116 years ago, following his release from jail on charges of sodomy and gross indecency.

On the other, members of the Catholic church’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender [LGBT] community, who had been diverted to the Farm Street church for their first “inclusive” Mass after the closure of their own “gay Mass” church in Soho last month.

The final Soho Mass attracted more than 200 believers. After a slow start yesterday evening, the Mayfair church was also full by the start of the service. The priest welcomed the LGBT newcomers and said the theme of the Mass would be reconciliation.

But while there was some mingling between the two halves of the congregation, the differences in age and gender (gay men formed the majority of the LGBT crowd) were noticeable.

Ciaran Vaughn who has attended Soho Masses several times said: “At first I was a bit perturbed, a bit disappointed – I wondered what was the real reason behind the move. Was it pressure from Rome? But this is a beautiful church and the Jesuits are lovely so I’m pleased to be here.”

–  The Independent.

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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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Soho Masses Provide Welcome and Community for London’s LGBT Community

While in London, England, for World Pride, I was blessed to be able to attend one of the Soho Masses, sponsored here by the Archdiocese of Westminster (London) for the LGBT community.  It was a beautiful service filled with a great spirit of hospitality and solidarity.

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory

The Masses are held on the first and third Sundays of the month, 5:00 pm, at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory, Warwick Street, in the Soho neighborhood of London, which is the center of the LGBT community.  When I attended yesterday, the church was packed, with what I estimated to be about 125 people.

The community gathered for liturgy was amazingly diverse in terms of age, gender, race and ethnicity.  At the social hour afterward, even I, as a newcomer, was made to feel very welcome by people I had never met, and who did not know that I was a foreign visitor

The Soho Masses are clearly doing the work of God here in London, not only providing a welcome to the ostracized, but providing an opportunity for people to be of service to one another and to the church and the world.  If you visit  London, you should be sure to schedule a visit for one of these wonderful liturgies.   For more information, click here.

– full post at  Bondings 2.0/ New Ways Ministry.

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