“Our Masses are much like any other — just better done…”

While we’ve been distracted by the the communion controversy down in Washington, some interesting news on a related topic broke overseas:

Archbishop Vincent Nichols has reaffirmed the Diocese of Westminster’s pastoral provision for gay Catholics following accusations that it provides a platform for dissent from Church teaching.

In a statement issued today, the Archbishop of Westminster “reaffirmed the intention and purpose” of the pastoral provision for Catholics at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street.

The pastoral provision, known colloquially as the “Soho Masses”, has attracted criticism since it was established in February 2007 by the archbishop’s predecessor, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. Earlier this month a short video of the bidding prayers at one of the Masses was posted on YouTube. Critics claimed that the prayers challenged Catholic teaching on homosexuality – a claim denied by the organisers.

Archbishop Nichols said: “As we approach the fifth anniversary of the establishment of a pastoral provision for Catholics of a same-sex orientation at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, I would like reaffirm the intention and purpose of this outreach.

“That intention and purpose were clearly set out in the statement issued by the Diocese of Westminster in 2007 when the provision was started under the guidance of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor.

“Furthermore it is important to recall and study again the direction and guidance set out by Cardinal Hume in 1997.

“In order to appreciate the intention and purpose of this provision a close reading of these two documents is required.

“These documents outline three essential foundations: the dignity of all persons created by God, the moral principles concerning chastity and the Church’s teaching on sexual activity, and the pastoral care of Catholics who are of same-sex orientation. All who participate in the Mass are called to live the church’s teaching through an ongoing conversion of life.

“At the present time consideration is being given to the circumstances in which these Masses are celebrated to ensure that their purpose is respected and that they are not occasions for confusion or opposition concerning the positive teaching of the Church on the meaning of human sexuality or the moral imperatives that flow from that teaching, which we uphold and towards which we all strive.”

The archbishop’s statement ended with a note which said: “The language used by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other Church documents is the term ‘homosexual’. I am also conscious that the abbreviation LGBT is preferred by many as a collective identification. Whatever language is used, it is worth bearing in mind that the Church ‘refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life’ (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, par 16).”

That prompted this response from someone who has been involved with the Masses:

These Masses are widely misrepresented by our critics. They are emphatically not a place for campaigns against church teaching, nor are the refreshment times occasions for sexual hook-ups. While the question of celibacy is not directly discussed or even raised, there is a tacit understanding of the Church’s teaching, including its teaching on conscience. Our Masses are really much like any other – just better done, in the quality of the liturgy, congregational participation, homilies, and refreshment time afterwards, where discussions are livelier, and the welcome warmer, than in any other parish I have ever known.

Outside Mass, we sometimes offer small group discussions for Lent or Advent, days of recollection and retreats, just as other parishes do – but with a rather stronger percentage of our people participating than in conventional parishes.

What particularly characterises our community is the deep commitment of so many of us. Some of us travel extraordinary distances to attend, in addition to participation in our local parishes.

For many, the experience of regular attendance deepens and strengthens our faith. Many who have not previously attended local parishes begin to do so, some who have done, begin to participate more actively. Indirectly, our Mass is strengthening other parishes too. We are reaching many people who have been estranged from the Church, drawing them back into it. In doing so, we are delivering an important service to them and the wider Church community.

I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Nichols for this most welcome assurance that they are to continue, as I am for his support in the past – and his reminder in a BBC interview in 2010 to critics that it is not up to any one of us to judge the interior state of another’s conscience.

Is it any wonder Barbara Johnson thought it was just fine to go to communion at her mother’s funeral?

  • naturgesetz

    “Is it any wonder Barbara Johnson thought it was just fine to go to communion at her mother’s funeral?”

    Non sequitur, Deacon Greg. The Archbishop affirms the full teaching of the Church on sexuality, and the other person does not explicitly dispute them.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Nat…

    Maybe. Maybe not. Barbara Johnson and her partner would probably find a warm welcome in SoHo. In other places, not so much.

    A lot of people seem to think that she is evil and plotted this act to be deliberately provocative and disrespectful. I’m not convinced of that.

    Dcn. G.

  • naturgesetz

    Maybe I read more into your remark than you intended. I can agree that she would be likely to be welcome in SoHo.

  • Manny

    The devil is in the details. I can’t grasp from the article what exactly is being said or condoned. But I found this interesting:

    “These Masses are widely misrepresented by our critics. They are emphatically not a place for campaigns against church teaching, nor are the refreshment times occasions for sexual hook-ups. While the question of celibacy is not directly discussed or even raised, there is a tacit understanding of the Church’s teaching, including its teaching on conscience.”

    If celibacy and proper sexuality is not discussed or raised, then how is church teaching on the subject supposed to be transmitted? Osmosis? Frankly, I’m skeptical.

  • kevin

    Preventing these groups from behind hijacked by LGBT activists is the trick. Hopefully they will have success preventing that.

    Given that human being with a homosexual inclination are an extraordinarily small percentage of the population as a whole (1% or less), it does trouble me that there is so much special outreach (to the point of special masses) to people suffering from this disorder, while others are seemingly ignored.

  • jkm

    Given that the one lost sheep represented only 1% of the shepherd’s flock, does it trouble you that that the shepherd wasted so much special outreach on it, while seemingly ignoring the 99?

    Please tell me where in Scripture or tradition you find support for rationing God’s love.

  • Deacon Norb

    kevin:

    I do not know enough about the demographics here to challenge you one way or another but what IS your source that the “percentage of the population as a whole” is really 1% or less?

  • kevin

    JKM, you’re assuming that people with homosexual inclinations are “lost” apparently; I don’t make that assumption. To the contrary, the inclination is only disordered, it is not sinful. I’d rather see outreach to sinners of whatever stripe (which is what Christ did), the lost, the forgotten, the terrified and the lonely. We should stop setting up these little groups of people in my opinion.

  • kevin

    Deacon Norb, here is an article containing the data. The “10%” figure seems largely based on Alfred Kinsey’s work which as everyone knows by now is fraught with biases.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2043251/The-absurdity-statistical-surveys-just-numbers-game.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

  • DWiss

    This is really interesting, and the quoted article leaves out so much detail that lots of questions arise.

    But, why does there need to be a special Mass for this group, or any other group? I can understand specific groups to want an opportunity to meet and discuss their common ground, be it homosexuality, single parenting or bingo, to name just a few. But a special Mass? Regularly? I thought Mass was supposed to be a community affair, all believers welcome.

    Like some of the other commenters, this gives me an uneasy feeling.

  • Mark

    The reason for confusion is that the Church allows so much open dissent to go on for so long, especially from the clergy. To be fair, clergy on the front lines are in tough positions in a world that seems more each day to be ruled by Satan. That is why it is important that they have clear direction from the Church authorized leadership who have the protection on matters of faith and morals of infallibility. If they simply obey their vows, they can find comfort in serving God even in the face of angry layity who want their sin to be accepted. Once the priest or bishop start down the road of dissent, they are leaving themselves orphaned from truth and the full union of the Catholic Church. They are building a house on sand and will pay the price. What we see today in Catholics all over the board including bishops and priest shows what the sin of pride can do to human beings. I have the truth and I alone above the Magesterium and Pope. I can think of nothing more idiotic for a person who has chosen to given their life to Christ and His Church than lying to the teaching of that Church.

    When the Church writes to try to cover the desires and beliefs of those in the pews and present it as truth, you have built a tower of babel as we see here above and frankly in many church documents that few can understand and those that do can find room for whatever they want to present as truth. God spoke his commandments set in stone on two tablets which only the blind have trouble seeing and understanding. suddenly we see massive documents come out filled with language hard to understand and that leaves wiggle room in to many areas. It is as if you have 30-40 committies who have differenct truths negoatiate on wording and come up with a mess as a result. The layity who is the target of what is being sent out is living their lives not as waiting priests, but with other vocations. Someone needs to take the document, translate it, get final ruling on conflicts by those with protection of infallibility to stamp it approved, and then send it out and teach it. There should also be a process to check howwell it was understood and accepted. While I realize that not every issue can be pure black and white, we don’t need to get documents with a thousand different colors and no stamped conclusions of truth.

    I wonder if Christ seeing so many souls lost to this horrible method of teaching is not going to have some tough questions for those who lead his people onto the wrong path.

  • Bill McGeveran

    What is the point of these separate services? I’d say maybe they offer a form of community for religious people in a common situation who may feel excluded……I don’t think they are meant to overtly challenge or protest the church’s obvious teaching on homosexuality. But the church’s teaching on conscience is not so obvious. It looks like the official stand re these services, though perhaps not explicit or stressed, is you should not be participating if you don’t have a conscience that conforms to church teaching on the matter (though you may lapse etc.). And perhaps many (most?) participants do accept and live according to this teaching. But I am guessing that many are tacitly following their conscience in directions not church approved, and/or are OK with the fact that others are doing so. Should they be OK with it? Most readers of this blog may say, let them go elsewhere, but I am not so sure.

  • Clare Krishan

    Deacon, may I respectfully ask with what legitimacy you feel called to opine on the pastoral practices of the flock of an ordinary under whom you are not incardinated? If social justice solidarity and subsidiarity are to mean anything it MUST mean humility in one’s reach – you are very imprudently impuning a manifestly malevolent intent to multiple souls you have never, NEVER, cor ad cor loquitur encountered personally. How typically American — neoJansenist neoRawlsian social-contractarian moralistic-relativistic vacuous.

    The Catholic Church in the British Isles has a long and complicated history with prominent literary figures who found the redeeming release from their same-sex attracted appetites through unconditional companionship and prayer of some very holy men and women. As a Brit I love my British Catholic patrimony and you should treasure it to. Siegried Sassoon (descended from wealthy Baghdadi Jewish merchants settled in the Indian territories of the British Raj) wrote this beautiful prose poem work
    http://books.google.com/books/about/Lenten_illuminations_and_sight_sufficien.html?id=yLMyqAAACAAJ
    after a ribaldrous tormented life as an aristocratic Gentleman ‘in-the-closet’ upon which his ‘socially acceptable’ marriage and the poor woman’s emotional dignity was sacrificed. It was first published by the Dominican nuns at Stanbrook, Dame Felicitas Corrigan being well known from her book detailing correspondence of Dame Laurentia with the prominent atheist of an earlier age, Bernard Shaw on which the West End hit play “Friends of a Lifetime” is based.

    PLEASE PLEASE CEASE AND DESIST using these people lives as fodder for blog posting, they are not to instrumentalised (“use” is the opposite of love not hate, said JPII) by anyone, let by someone who should know better, ordained to the clerical state in the Universal Church. Its a shame an abject shame that mustard seeds of promise can be annihilated in a few careless — but hard and bigoted — words. The flock is not a sandpit for holy rollers to have fun playing at others’ expense. For penance? Here’s Joseph Pearce on T.S. Elliot’s contemporary
    http://www.catholicauthors.com/sasoon.html
    Enjoy!

    [Clare: I have no idea what you're talking about. "How typically American -- neoJansenist neoRawlsian social-contractarian moralistic-relativistic vacuous." Say what? Let me be clear: One of the reasons I posted this item was to illustrate the diversity of pastoral approaches in the Catholic world toward same-sex attraction. It's a big church. Some readers need to remember that -- on both sides of the pond. Dcn. G.]

  • Clare Krishan
  • Clare Krishan

    oops Wilfred Owen, sorry from Shropshire.
    http://catholicenglishteacher.blogspot.com/2010/11/siegfried-sassoon.html
    the Shropshire Regiment burnt down the Whitehouse in 1812,
    we’re of sturdier stuff than you might think, chuckle!

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    Deacon Greg, am I reading this correctly? Are these your words? “Is it any wonder Barbara Johnson thought it was just fine to go to communion at her mother’s funeral?”

    Please tell me that I am misreading you or misunderstanding. Are we looking into people’s hearts for them now? As I read and ponder the Gospel from today’s liturgy, I am not condoning, but I am also not working someone’s conscience, especially when I have my own to deal with.

    What exactly did you mean by that closing line?

  • Clare Krishan

    And recall., American Cornelia Connelly was assisted by Lord Talbot the Catholic Earl of Shrewsbury (one of the few remaining aristocrats who still owned the lands associated with their Peerage titles, the poll taxes levied on Catholics permitted to practice their faith bankrupted most everyone else) in her hour of need when her turncoat spouse sued her for return of conjugal rights after abandoning his conversion to Catholicism and ordination into Holy Orders and lapsing back to Episcopalian RadTrad pomp-n-circumstance more to his liking, The only problem? His annulled non-conjugal non-wife had taken the only avenue open to her at that time and entered a convent, surrendering her children to his family to raise. The court case was a great tabloid feeding frenzy in England at the time, making elitist Americans (and all Catholics) look very foolish… history has a way of repeating itself when we don’t learn its lessons…

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    My point: there are a wide range of pastoral approaches to dealing with same sex attraction, depending on geography and culture and circumstances, and it’s hardly surprising that Barbara Johnson would feel there was nothing wrong with going to communion, even though a lot of other people here and elsewhere clearly did. People around here seem to be screaming the same talking point — “She PLANNED THIS! IT WAS A PLOT TO EMBARRASS THE CHURCH!” It was POLITICAL!” I don’t buy it for one minute.

  • Clare Krishan

    Fair foul call Deacon- does ‘dualist’ work? As in tyranny of relativism, dictatorship of ideology, culture of death?

    We see through a glass darkly, to judge the inner sanctum of another’s conscience as belonging in either of two clear cut boxes “good” or “bad” without any inkling of the unique dignity of that person’s circumstances is pure gnostic materialist reductionism of the Ying n’ Yang variety. Call it what you will — its not grace, nor faith doing the work of charity in truth. As I’ve said elsewhere, this pleasure some of us find in rigorous judgmentalism has many hallmarks of the Aspergers social-empathy deficit personality disorder. In those afflicted, the brain is mind-blind or lacks the reflexivity needed to ascertain how the world looks when walking in someone elses’ shoes. Reflexivity is key to a trinitarian anthropology (the phenomenological personalism of JPII). Granted its not new not widely understood or embraced. Folks like to revert to facile preVII Thomisms – as the Jansenists did in Absolutist Sun King France (Obama — our new GodKing) turning a blind eye to the unjust social order that instigated the revolutionary upheavals of the Enlightenment. Great Britain was the only European power spared such violent repercussions. Britain has tax-payer funded Catholic elementary schools, America not. Britain has universal health care, America not. Britain has a much more restrictive regulation of abortion, America the worlds laxest. Rawls political philosophy of liberty secured via democratic rights to representation is not reaping the fruits we Catholics can call good… lets not use nationalism to separate us, but our faith to unite us in resisting the culture of death.

  • Clare Krishan

    ps. I’m on the same side of the pond as you,
    I’m a legal alien member of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

  • MarieLouise

    With all due respect, Clare, I live in Britain too (in the Archdiocese of Westminster nonetheless) and it’s no secret that the Soho Masses are a hotbed of dissent and are not faithful to the Church’s teaching on sexuality. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that everyone who attends them is in dissent, but Archbishop Nichols’ excessive tolerance towards a widely known hotbed of dissent is a problem and Deacon Kandra has done nothing wrong in bringing attention to this story.

  • jkm

    I am not making that incorrect assumption at all, kevin. I am saying that we need not apportion care based on statistics. And if you think that the Church has not left many, many people who do not experience themselves as heterosexual feeling lost, forgotten, terrified, and lonely, you are living in a much different world than I am.

  • David

    Kevin, No disrespect intended but the Daily Mail is hardly a newspaper I would use to back up a statement, especially regarding gays and lesbians. I would place the Mail only one rung higher than the Sun.

  • RomCath

    Perhaps if they feel lost it is because they want the Church to accept them and their activity as something that is morally acceptable. We cannot do that. We can love and accept them but not the activity.I don’t hink we need a mass to demonstrate that.

  • Irish Spectre

    …and yet, alas, the agenda-driven pederast Alfred Kinsey being a couple of rungs lower than the Sun, one is actually better off trusting information from the Daily Mail over data from Kinsey.

  • David

    As one who has attended several Masses for those regarded as belonging to a sexual minority, I can assure you that they are not a “hotbed of dissent”. On what do you base your allegation? I hope it is not on that sad little video of a transgendered person leading the Prayers of the Faithful. Certainly there are people present who disagree with the Church’s stance on same-sex sexual activity, but I wonder just how many folk who attend ‘regular’ Masses use artificial contraception or are involved in pre-marital (or extra-marital) sexual activity.

    The SoHo Masses were first authorised by Cardinal O’Connor (hardly a liberal) and supported by him throughout. Archbishop Nicols is continuing that pastoral sensitivity and for this many of us give thanks to God, Who alone may judge our souls.

  • David

    Irish Spectre, Kinsey’s work was certainly flawed as it was drawn from a restricted group of people; such a research practice would be unacceptable today.

    However, he was a married man with 4 children, so upon what basis – not opinion – do you make the scurrilous statement that he was a pederast?

  • Fiergenholt

    Clare

    I do not agree for one moment that America has the “worlds laxest” laws on abortion.

    –The one thing that Roe-versus-Wade did do — although a lot of folks seem to forget it — was to move the responsibility of abortion laws back to the states — and some states are VERY prescriptive.

    –The United states rates maybe fourth or fifth world wide on per-capita abortion rates. Both Mainland China and India all have more abortions and the Scandinavian Countries more abortions per-capital than the United States.

    –Finally, with a few very rare exceptions (and there are sociological and economic reasons for that), the gross number of abortions in the United States has been steadily declining since Roe-versus-Wade.

    I see below you claim to be “legal alien” and I’ll assume you are a Bristish subject. So be it. I have visited England several times and my favorite parish there is OLEM-Cambridge. That still, however, does not qualify me to be all that definitive an expert on English Catholicism.

  • naturgesetz

    Fiergenholt —

    To say that Roe v. Wade “move[d] the responsibility of abortion laws back to the states” is a complete misunderstanding of what it did. Prior to Roe there was no federal restriction on the power of the states to prohibit or regulate abortion in any way they saw fit. In Roe, the Supreme Court claimed to discover in the U.S. Constitution (the 14th Amendment) a limit on the power of states to forbid or outlaw abortion, effectively invalidating all existing state laws on abortion at the time. Gradually, the states have found ways to reintroduce some restrictions, taking advantage of the Court’s arbitrary division of pregnancy into trimesters and saying that states had limited powers based on the trimester of the pregnancy. But if any state were simply to outlaw abortion in any trimester, the SCOTUS would find it unconstitutional, unless they were willing to overrule Roe.

  • friscoeddie

    !% of the population is gay oriented??? Sipes says that Catholic clergy is about 50% gay oriented.
    you guys sure have a lot of work to do in order to maintain what you think you know.

  • RomCath

    Yeah and Sipes knows everything. What a laugh.

  • kevin

    [Comment deleted for offensive content. -- Dcn. G.]

  • naturgesetz

    Homosexuality, as an orientation, isn’t sinful. Adultery, fornication, and polyamory, as actions, are.

    When homosexuals feel as fully welcome in their home parishes as adulterers and fornicators* there will be much less desire for special Masses.

    *I’d say that chaste homosexuals should feel more welcome, but all are welcome, especially sinners (since the sick need the physician), so there is no question of any category being more welcome than any other. But if you feel like kicking the sinners out, the chaste homosexuals get to stay while the sinning heterosexuals get the boot.

  • kevin

    N, I’m well aware of that and said so in an earlier post. My point is that I don’t know if it’s a good idea to have special masses for every category of people struggling with disordered inclinations. Deacon G. didn’t like my earlier comment apparently but I stand by it. I am not seeing great fruits from these pastoral efforts like the one in this post, in terms of acceptance of Church teaching either; I’m seeing demands to be accommodated and intolerance for clergy who see things differently. I believe Courage is the exception however.

    We never hear those inclined to drink too much demand that alcoholism be accepted. Or men with an inclination to stray from the marital bond demanding that affairs be tolerated.

  • Tyler

    Deacon,

    With respect, she is being very public and hostile to the church and the priest in question in the media since the incident declaring that it is her intention too see the priest defrocked, removed, or some such nonsense. She is in fact doing the opposite of what she wanted the priest to do…be more discerning and discrete. Rather she is being very public about it and purposefully scoring points in the public square in a aggressive fashion with the msm…in other words her actions and comments have turned it political purposefully and willfully..

    Furthermore the report is that she and her “Lover” the word apparently used in the sacristy in the introduction of her Partner….to the priest would denote somebody who openly admits or more than implies an innappropriate relationship…..I don’t know anybody who introduces their best friend, relative, lose acquaintance or mother…..as quote ” Their lover”"…….do you?

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    According to people sympathetic to the priest, Barbara Johnson brazenly introduced the other woman to Fr. Marcel in the sacristy as “my lover.”

    But according to Barbara Johnson, Fr. Marcel bumped into the other woman before Mass and asked who she was, and she replied, ‘Barbara’s partner.”

    The story changes, depending on who is telling it, and the agenda they hope to push.

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    The use of the term “lover” in the anecdotal report would indicate to me that it did not happen this way. As someone with many LGBT friends, honestly, that term has not been used for many, many years. And even when it was, it was less so among lesbians. It was a word primarily used by gay men, in my experience.

    Of course, I could be wrong.


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