Tag Archives: Soho Masses

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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“Out of the Shadows, Into the Light”:Blessed John Henry Newman, Soho “Gay” Masses

Last Sunday I went up to London for one of the regular LGBT – oriented “Soho Masses”. Earlier in the day, Pope Benedict had conducted the beatification service for Cardinal John Henry Newman. Cardinal Newman is now officially Blessed John Henry – and so the liturgy used our Mass was, quite appropriately, the newly minted liturgy for his festal day.

Portrait of Cardinal Newman by John Millais

When I first wrote about Newman a year ago, I wrote that he has particular significance for gay Catholics, on account of his deep commitment to his beloved friend Aubrey St John, and his writing on conscience.  That initial post was simplistic: I did not then realize how sharply opinions on John Henry divide, specifically on his ideas of conscience and loyalty. While some progressive Catholics celebrate and promote (their understanding of) his championing of conscience, some conservatives see this as entirely a misrepresentation of his understanding of conscience, which should rather be read in the context of his parallel championing of church authority and loyalty.

For a long time, I have been wary of writing anything further – although for a time I was trying unsuccessfully to put together something on the “paradox” of Newman. Now, after a flood of information and commentary leading up to the beatification, I stick by my original assertion. Blessed John Henry Newman indeed of great importance for queer Christians, with even more reason than I originally recognized.

Newman’s legacy is paradoxical: he is claimed simultaneously as hero by progressive Catholics for his stout defence of conscience, and by conservatives for his defence of authority. He is touted as a gay saint over his highly publicized deep relationship with Aubrey St John – and “defended” as obviously heterosexual because he was celibate, and so obviously not giving sexual expression to any same- sex attraction.  All of these deserve further consideration, and have received plenty elsewhere.

For now, I want to limit my own observations only to two additional ways in  which Newman’s career is particularly relevant for queer Christians, and especially the LGBT Catholic congregation of the Soho Masses, by prefiguring our own position.

We too live in a paradoxical state, with the official position of the Vatican (and many other leading religious bodies) urging noble ideas of treating us with dignity, compassion and respect – yet in their own actions they frequently do the exact opposite. They urge us to follow and to speak the truth – but when we do, we may find ourselves paying a heavy price. They have attempted to silence people like John McNeill and Jeannine Gramick for their attempts to speak the truth, a Canadian altar server was refused ministry for his, Michael B Kelly and many others have lost their jobs in Catholic schools and colleges, simply for telling the truth of their lives. The CDF reminds us that “the truth will set you free”, but for Catholics in Church employ, too often it simply sets us free of that employment.

Newman spent most of his life as priest under attack from all sides. It was only late in life that he began to receive recognition for his achievements as a theologian, when he was suddenly promoted from parish priest directly to cardinal, and eventually beatification. I believe that we as a queer Christian community are following a similar path, from persecution and exclusion, to ever-increasing inclusion – and even respect for what we can teach the wider church. We see this most clearly in denominations like the mainline Protestant groups that have already accepted the principles of full inclusion and equal treatment for queer Christians and clergy, or who are openly debating these issues – but we are also starting to see some embryonic signs of the same thing in the Catholic Church.

This was most dramatically illustrated for out Soho Masses community by the blaze of media publicity (mostly favourable) we received in the build-up to Newman’s beatification. We have been operating for over eleven years now, and for over three years in a Catholic parish as a formal pastoral initiative of Westminster diocese, and so under the patronage of the head of the Church in England and Wales. We have experienced continuous low level mutterings from some conservative opponents, but otherwise very little publicity, with not even a mention on the diocesan website.

This changed dramatically over the past few weeks. In addition to substantial coverage in BBC television and radio programmes, there were additional British reports in a range of newspapers and magazines. Coverage has since gone global. At last Sunday’s Mass, we had reporters present from Spanish national radio, Croatian radio, Czech Television – and Gaydar radio. (Gaydar is a major UK gay dating website, with an on-line radio service).

“Out of the shadows, into the light”, indeed.

Related articles on John Henry Newman

“Out of the Shadows, Into the Light”:Blessed John Henry Newman, Soho “Gay” Masses

Last Sunday I went up to London for one of the regular LGBT – oriented “Soho Masses”. Earlier in the day, Pope Benedict had conducted the beatification service for Cardinal John Henry Newman. Cardinal Newman is now officially Blessed John Henry – and so the liturgy used for our Mass was, quite appropriately, the newly minted liturgy for his festal day.

Read more »

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A “Culture of Life” and Ferment in the UK Church.

In the UK, as in the US, we have a vociferous band of self-appointed guardians of the faith, who regularly wail about departures from Catholic orthodoxy, wherever they perceive it. Most of the time, I prefer to ignore their bleatings. Just recently though, I have been paying more attention, as they are now meeting strong resistance where it counts.

Daphne McLeod leads a group and website called “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” (acronym PEEP, which I think is rather fun). She and her group are responsible for the regular protests outside the London Soho Masses, about which she regularly complains to all she can think of, from the Archbishop of Westminster to the Vatican. (We know that she has sent a barrage of submissions to both – much of it based on distorted information.) Her objections, however, are falling on deaf ears – at all levels.

…..it is rather surprising to find Archbishop Nichols now claiming, when he does reply to letters from concerned Catholics, that they are, by their own description only of a homosexual orientation …. who struggle to be part of the Catholic Church and conform their lives accordingly!

Can he really believe this against so much evidence to the contrary ? Doesn’t he realise that faithful Catholics with this orientation who are really striving to follow Church teaching don’t want to call attention to themselves with special Masses? Some of these noble souls have contacted us to express the distress these Masses with their sacrilegious Communions cause them while they, who really deserve it, get so little pastoral care.

Recently the Holy Father told Bishops in Rome You have the duty to teach, with audacity, the Truth. Hopefully he will tell our bishops to once more start guiding their flocks responsibly by issuing Pastoral Letters and Ad Clerumsinsisting that true and only true Doctrinal and Moral teaching is given in our parishes and schools again.

This hope is unlikely to be realized, as she admitted to Lifesite News

Daphne McLeod, the head of the Catholic campaign group Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, told LifeSiteNews.com that the situation has not improved under Nichols. The Soho Mass group, she said, is “getting worse, more brazen. They’re spreading and have groups now to attract the young people.”

McLeod has organized prayer vigils outside the church where the homosexualist events are held. “I see these nice young people go in there and I’m sure they don’t know how wrong it is. They’re not being taught about it in Catholic schools.”

McLeod’s organization has written to and visited Vatican officials begging that the situation be addressed. “We write to Rome all the time, we went to Rome, with all those dossiers and nothing was done. We spoke to Cardinal [Francis] Arinze [then-head of the Vatican’s Congregation of Divine Worship and Sacraments] and he said, ‘I’m not going to do anything about the Soho Masses.’” (emphasis added).

– Lifesite News

John Smeaton, director of SPUC, (“Society for the Protection of Unborn Children”) wrote an incoherent piece last month in support of the PEEP campaign against Soho Masses, arguing that the bishops could somehow help the unborn by stomping on gay and lesbian worship. The same theme was then picked up by Edmund Adamus, diocesan director of pastoral affairs, who was breathlessly described in the press as one of the country’s “most senior” Catholics, who lamented the UK “culture of death”, which for which he cited as supposed evidence, the advances for equality legislation:

A leading adviser to the Archbishop of Westminster has blamed abortion and gay rights for turning Britain into a “selfish, hedonistic wasteland” which has become “the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death”.

Edmund Adamus, director of pastoral affairs at the diocese of Westminster and an adviser to Archbishop Vincent Nichols, said Parliament had turned Britain into a country which is more culturally anti-Catholic than nations where Christians are violently persecuted such as Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan.

This is theological shorthand which, in fairness, doesn’t mean quite what it appears to do, but it is palpable nonsense all the same, as Paul Vallely made clear in a useful riposte at the Independent. More interesting to me than the argument and its flaws, was the response. Vallely concluded his piece with the prediction:

All this is spectacularly unhelpful on the eve of the papal visit. The Catholic Church has insights to offer the rest of society about the dangers of putting materialist individualism before the common good; about social justice at a time of spending cuts. It has good questions to ask about the relationship between laddish culture and attitudes to women and sexual violence.

But that will not be heard above the indignation generated by Mr Adamus’s incitement to cultural war. He is no doubt about to get a major ticking off.

This was prescient – the anticipated ticking off came swiftly:

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster has distanced himself from an aide who said gay rights and the commercialisation of sex had turned Britain into a “selfish, hedonistic wasteland” and “the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death”.

The comments from Edmund Adamus, director of pastoral affairs at the diocese of Westminster and an adviser to the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, have angered gay rights and secularists groups and provoked embarrassment among the Catholic hierarchy weeks before the pope visits Britain.

Senior figures, including Lord Patten of Barnes, have been keen to stress that the UK, while secular, is not anti-Catholic and that the pope is not flying into hostile territory.

A spokesman for Nichols said the views expressed by Adamus “did not reflect the archbishop’s opinions”.

I confess to some special interest, and some schadenfreude, here. My understanding is that it is Adamus, exercising his authority as head of pastoral affairs for the diocese, who steadfastly refuses to allow the diocesan website to make any reference to the diocesan initiative which gives pastoral backing to the Soho Masses. Is too much to hope that this rebuke is a sign of further sidelining  to come? (I understand that Adamus was scheduled to appear on BBC Ulster’s Sunday sequence programme this week – but did not appear. Is the first sign of some muzzling?)

With the papal visit now less than a fortnight away, the British media are increasingly obsessed with print and broadcast stories on the Catholic church. The BBC alone will have a radio report by Mark Dowd, an openly gay ex-Dominican and member of our congregation, on Thursday morning this week, and a TV programme on Thursday evening, which will include material on our Masses (for which I was one of the interviewees. It remains to be seen if I make it onto the screen, or end up on the cutting room floor.) Next week Wednesday, there will be a programme by Dowd on “The Trials of Benedict” – which the Scottish primate Cardinal Keith O’Brien has decribed (unseen) as a “hatchet job” on the church.

Unlike Cardinal O’ Brien, I do not want to comment definitively on the content of programmes before they have been aired. However, I suspect that they will demonstrate something very different from the “culture of death” described by Adamus: I hope and believe that they could well show instead a British Catholic Church which is vigorously, ebulliently, alive – and that one side of that life and vigour is a willingness to speak up and engage with the world, instead of simply regurgitating slogans from a nineteenth century Catechism.

I will be waiting with interest the programs to come – and will report on them here.