The scandal of the Soho Masses

When Archbishop Vincent Nichols moved from Birmingham to Westminster, Daphne McLeod, of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, welcomed him back to London, and warmly added that she looked “forward to watching this new broom making a clean sweep of problems which have troubled the Archdiocese of Westminster for the last few years”.

“First on the new archbishop’s list,” she went on, “will undoubtedly be putting an end to the sacrilegious Masses held every first and third Sunday of the Month in the Church of Our Lady and St Gregory in Soho.”

Archbishop Nichols, it now has to be accepted, has had plenty of time to “make a clean sweep” of this problem and not only has done nothing but almost certainly presently intends to do nothing about these Masses. The fiction which justifies the archdiocese in its support for the Soho Masses is that they are celebrated for the benefit of gays who accept the teachings of the Church and therefore refrain from any form of sexual activity. A statement issued by the cardinal at the time the Masses first began in a Catholic church, according to the Telegraph, “stressed that the move did not represent a shift in Church teaching, which says that homosexual practice is a sin and that non-celibate gay people should not be given Communion”.

It is now clear beyond peradventure that those who attend the Masses are nearly all what the archdiocese calls “non-celibate gay people” who intend to continue to defy Catholic teaching, which is that homosexuals (Catechism art 2358) “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity”, but also that (2359) they “are called to chastity”.

The whole ethos of the Soho Masses is a committed denial of this teaching, a denial in which they are encouraged by the Archdiocese of Westminster, whose justification is that they are responding to “a number of homosexual Catholics” who have expressed “their desire for pastoral care from the Diocese of Westminster”.

But the question is this: can it ever be right to describe as “pastoral care” a consistent uncritical support for a “lifestyle” which the Church teaches is gravely sinful? And by doing so are they not placing themselves under judgment too? The archbishop might care to ponder Luke 17: “And he said to his disciples: It is impossible that causes of sin should not come: but woe to him through whom they come” (verse one). And what about verse three? “… If your brother does something wrong, rebuke him and, if he is sorry, forgive him”. That is also a fundamental part of “pastoral care”.