The Tablet Blog
We need Gay Masses beyond SohoElena Curti
20 March 2012, 9:00
Gay Catholics are called to life-long friendship, the Archbishop of Westminster told BBC2's Newsnight programme last week. It was as far as Archbishop Vincent Nichols was prepared to go in articulating the Church's pastoral concern for its gay members.
But he could have referred to the bi-monthly Soho Masses for gay Catholics and their families, which continue in his diocese in spite of complaints to Rome by traditionalists. These, more than anything else, have demonstrated that the Catholic Church takes seriously its ministry to gay members. It counters the argument from those advocating gay marriage that the Church is homophobic.
Now would be a good time for the Catholic Church in Britain to extend the provision of Soho-style Masses to other regions. People travel from far a-field to attend the Masses at the Church of the Assumption in Warwick Street, but for some they are out of reach.
What about Masses for gay Catholics in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and so on?
When he was an auxiliary in Westminster, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, led the dialogue with gay Catholics which led to the setting up of the Soho Masses in a Catholic church. He therefore would be ideal to set the ball rolling.
As for Cardinal Keith O'Brien, what better way to counter the furore that greeted his outburst against the notion of gay marriage? In the past Cardinal O'Brien has said he shoots from the hip to attract media attention for causes he considers important. He is a warm pastor and those who accuse him of homophobia are wide of the mark.
The debates we've seen over the last fortnight show how difficult it is to make the case against gay marriage without appearing illiberal. If we as Catholics are to argue convincingly that marriage is the nucleus of our society, that to tamper with it has implications for the care of children and that civil partnerships are the way to recognise stable, committed gay unions, we need the Church to show support for its gay members. Extending the gay Masses would be a good way to do that.
Elena Curti is deputy editor of The Tablet.
22 October 2012 13:44 (12 of 12)
I went to this mass with my husband for the first time yesterday, just because we were in the area and wanted to attend mass. Both of us commented afterwards that we felt more sense of welcome and true spirituality than we had done in many of the other churches we have attended in our long life together. And it was a huge relief and comfort to be among other Catholics who believe that discrimination is wrong and that 'my Father's house has many mansions.' Who knows, one day I may even feel able to go to communion again instead of feeling ashamed of the abuses perpetrated by the church I grew up in and love.
12 April 2012 11:09 (11 of 12)
It may be 'wide of the mark' to accuse Cardinal O'Brien of homophobia, but his claim that fearful things will follow the introduction of civil same-sex marriages seems precisely homophobic. And if one thinks that saying homophobic things is a sign of homophobia, then the Cardinal will be thought to suffer from the latter for as long as he continues to say the former.
3 April 2012 12:35 (10 of 12)
Sean asks if the Church is wrong about homosexuality does that mean that it is wrong in other areas of sexual behaviour. The answer to that question is of course, 'Yes.' When the Church realises that a longstanding moral teaching is wrong it has a duty to change it. This has happened many times in the past, over issues such as slavery, charging interest on a loan, torturing and killing religious dissidents, communicatio in sacris, religious liberty etc etc.
30 March 2012 10:16 (9 of 12)
I am very curious about Catholics who support homosexual relationships involving physical and genital activity. Can you please explain to me how this is compatible with the teaching of the Church as expressed for example in the Catechism? And if the Church has been wrong in this matter, how can it be right in other areas of sexual behaviour: masturbation, pre- and extra-marital sex, bisexuality, polygamy, etc.? I do feel compassion for homosexuals who cannot have relations with members of the opposite sex and have children in the normal way that this occurs. But does this compassion justify overthrowing the entire body of sexual ethics as this has been taught since the beginning of Christianity until it was challenged about thiry years ago?
27 March 2012 14:50 (8 of 12)
I accept the point made Martin and Jim. The reference to 'gay Masses' was a bit of journalistic shorthand. My point is the Soho Masses demonstrate pastoral concern for LGBT Catholics and their families in Westminster Diocese and especially in the current climate it would be good if other dioceses could follow Westminster's lead.
26 March 2012 14:02 (7 of 12)
Those of us who have been involved in the Soho Masses' community do not refer to them as 'gay Masses'. Masses celebrated on 1st and 3rd Sundays at Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory Church welcome everyone, but particularly LGBT Catholics, parents, families and friends. 'Gay Masses' has been coined by those who oppose them. Such opposition reveals over familiarity with Vatican documents but little understanding of the guidelines which continue to govern the pastoral care of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics in England & Wales. These are to be found in the 1979 document published by the Bishops' Conference then Social Welfare Committee, 'An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People', and frequently referred to by Cardinal Hume in his 1997 'Note' on the Church's teaching. The latter was highlighted by Archbishop Nichols, this week, in another Catholic newspaper. The 1979 pastoral guidelines state (Section 14): 'Homosexuals have the same need for the Sacraments as the heterosexual. They also have the same right to receive the Sacraments. In determining whether or not to administer Absolution or give Communion to a homosexual, a pastor must be guided by the general principles of fundamental theology that only a certain moral obligation may be imposed. An invincible doubt, whether of law or fact, permits one to follow a true and solidly 'probable opinion' in favour of a more liberal interpretation.' The public celebration of the liturgy is not the place to deal with matters of the internal forum. The pastoral needs and situations of LGBT Catholics around the country vary and there can be no 'one size, fits all' or quick-fix response. We do not need more 'Gay Masses' but rather spaces where those who have been distant from the Church can begin their journey again. Masses welcoming LGBT Catholics, and indeed others, should not be an end in themselves but a bridge to developing a fully inclusive Catholic community, gathered to celebrate the Eucharist. What we do need are dioceses and parishes to recognise LGBT members of the Body of Christ and to be able to name, respect, and value them, their concerns and realities, alongside those of all the other People of God. We are about creating living communities of prayer, worship, and justice-seeking discipleship, not ecclesiastical ghettos. Otherwise, we have simply exchanged one closet for another.
23 March 2012 19:05 (6 of 12)
I agree 100% with Ms. Curti's reasoning and logic. I think, however, that there will be a better chance of broader-based support if the term 'gay masses' is not used. They are not GAY masses; they are Catholic masses with a particular outreach to the LGBT communities in the UK. To continue to call them gay masses simply feeds upon fears and unsupported stereotypes of what goes on at these masses.
23 March 2012 17:47 (5 of 12)
I have read much about the Soho masses and most of it is very positive. But isn't there a danger that they contribute to the ghettoizaton of gay people? Surely every Mass is open to everyone? Also could we please stop using the term Gay Mass as it makes no sense whatsoever! You can't apply an adjective describing sexual orientation to a Mass. It's a travesty of the English language to do so.
23 March 2012 13:54 (4 of 12)
I am neither Catholic or gay. I am British but spend half my life in the Philippines, which as you know is a pre-dominently Catholic country. It is from where I am writing. The current fuss in the UK about the supposed reasons why marriage should not be extended to same sex couples, and the strident opposition you read on traditional Catholic forums and blogs to these 'Gay Masses' would be regarded as very strange here. Being gay here is completely accepted everywhere, including in Church. Big families, comprised of several generations, siblings and cousins all living together are normal. Gays live in these families as equals, often with their partners. The Catholics here could teach those in the UK a lot about acceptance and tolerance.
21 March 2012 22:02 (3 of 12)
'M' It was never clear what this campaigning was about. I must have been been asleep.The evidence was never made clear to this attendee which in the context of a religious order with 'Veritas' as one of its mottos was ironical. The idea of the Dominican celebrant of these masses 'campaigning' against Church teaching is laughable. From a pastoral perspective the stopping of the Leicester mass was a disaster from which we have not recovered.
21 March 2012 15:32 (2 of 12)
The reason that mass in Leicester was scrapped was that there was an agreement with the local bishop, himself Dominican like the priory church in which it was held, that the masses could be held as long as they weren't used to campaign against Church teaching and that this agreement was not apparently adhered to.
20 March 2012 21:54 (1 of 12)
A story. We used to have a couple of masses a year for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Catholics their families and friends at a central Leicester church. In the end it got stopped after complaints were made. It outraged those who attended but, what do a few queers count for, against the needs to keep the purity of the temple. Some time later I was phoned up at work by a colleague, a muslim consultant psychiatrist. He had heard about the mass and wanted to tell one of his self-hating Catholic patients that there was a place for them in the church. Could I let him know details of the mass so he could tell his patient? I had to tell him the mass had been scrapped. He was puzzled. Another story. An elderly religious sister collared me after mass one sunday and asked why the mass had been scrapped. She told me she always made a point of being at the back of the church, in the shadows, when the LGBT mass was being celebrated. She told me she was in her 80s but was afraid of being seen at the mass. We have a long way to go.