Terence Weldon, a leading homosexual activist associated with the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, claims Archbishop Nichols announcement about the future of pastoral provision for homosexual persons merely signifies the transfer of the twice-monthly Soho Masses to a new parish, Farm Street. Mr. Weldon goes on to indicate that future plans include expanding their ‘vision’ of the Church to other parts of the country.
Mr Weldon claims that Archbishop Nichols announcement signifies not the “end” of the Soho Masses (except in name), but will simply marks a new phase, and probably a further period of growth for their present congregation.
Here are excerpts from Mr Weldon’s post on his site Queering the Church:
‘News out this morning is that the regular twice monthly masses with a particular outreach to gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and friends, popularly but incorrectly known as the Soho “gay Masses”, will be moving out of their present home in Warwick Street, and relocating to a new home at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the well-known Jesuit parish in Farm Street. For many members of the congregation, the news will be received with deep sadness, and inversely, the few but vocal opponents of these Masses will be jubilant, seeing it as a sign of their supposed victory. Both responses could be short-sighted and misplaced.’
Our congregation is emphatically not being “shut down”, as the opponents will claim, but simply being relocated. With that relocation will come significant opportunities for further growth and expansion – just as occurred with our earlier moves, from Camden to St Anne’s, and later from St Anne’s to Warwick Street. As one who was involved in the original discussions over that earlier move from Dean St to our present home, I want to reflect here on just what it is that we lost in that move – and what we gained. From that, we could more easily reflect on what we might be losing, and gaining, in the next phase of our evolution.
But once again, we are pushing at the limits of what is possible in our present home. In purely physical terms, the basement space where we serve refreshments is becoming increasingly unsuitable: crowded, not easily accessible and with poor toilet facilities. It is at present extremely well patronized even so, filling a vitally important part of the overall experience, but could scarcely cope with any further increase in numbers. Accommodating the need for additional activities as discussed above, would also be difficult (even if just about manageable). With a move to Farm Street, which has extensive physical and spiritual resources already in place, these difficulties will largely disappear. The parish has extensive meeting rooms, a far superior hall for after Mass refreshments and conversation, and existing structures for faith sharing and spiritual growth, which could be easily extended to meet our needs.
It is true that there will, inevitably, be a loss of independence: but therein could also be a new benefit. The downside of independence, is the danger of hiding in a gay ghetto. I am increasingly convinced that one of the major challenges facing the LGBT Catholic community, is that of achieving visibility in the wider Church, and engaging openly and honestly with others. I have myself become heavily active in my local parish in a small, deeply conservative (and Conservative) country town – and have found this experience of open and honest engagement richly rewarding. By merging our activities into an existing, strong parish, we will have the opportunity to meet with and engage other Catholics, exposing them to our particular difficulties – and listening also to theirs.
The real issue here is not simply one of a “gay Mass”, but of the wider issue of effective Catholic LGBT ministry. For many years, the Soho Masses as we know them have provided a richly valuable to those people able and willing to make the journey to get to them – but does nothing for those who by reason of location or inclination, are not. One of the obvious problems with the existing model as we have it at Warwick Street, is that it is not one that can be simply transplanted to other areas, of the diocese or pf the country. If we can make a success of developing a new model at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, we should find that although the “Soho Masses” may end – Catholic LGBT ministry will be strengthened, and expanded.
When we moved from St Anne’s to Warwick Street, we did not “end” the Soho Masses, but entered a new phase – one which proved, despite some reservations and misgivings, a source of growth for the congregation. As we move from Warwick Street to Farm Street, this too will not “end” the Soho Masses (except in name), but will simply mark a new phase, and probably a further period of growth for our present congregation. R.I.P. Soho Masses: Long Live
Soho Masses LGBT Catholic ministry!
Protect the Pope comment: The test of whether Archbishop Nichols’ stopping the Soho Masses means anything more than a change of name will be whether he allows a new version of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council to be formed in Farm Street. Terence Weldon’s post suggests that he thinks it will be not only be business as usual at Farm Street, but that it will be the base from which they will launch ‘Farm Street LGBT missions’ across the country.
The potential point of failure inherent in Archbishop Nichols’ announcement is his acceptance that the ‘group’ responsible for organizing the Soho Masses will continue to be recognized in its new role of leading pastoral provision in Farm Street. Archbishop Nichols writes:
‘I am, therefore, asking the group which has, in recent years, helped to organise the celebration of Mass on two Sundays of each month at Warwick Street now to focus their effort on the provision of pastoral care. This includes many of the activities which have recently been developed and it is to be conducted fully in accordance with the teaching of the Church.’
If the same individuals continue in leadership positions then the promotion of active homosexual life-styles contrary to the teaching of the Church will in all likelihood continue. How will Archbishop Nichols ensure that the ‘Farm Street Pastoral Council’ will be ‘conducted fully in accordance with the teaching of the Church?’
The group formerly known as the Soho Masses Pastoral Council should have been disbanded and leadership of pastoral provision for homosexual persons given to (En) Courage. This half-measure is better than the previous policy of no action being taken, but the root of the problem has not been dealt with. Nothing will really change until the defiant dissent at the heart of this group is challenged and canonical sanctions imposed.