Westminster Diocese: Expanding Pastoral Care for LGBT Catholics

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has this morning released a statement on some important changes to the diocesan arrangements for pastoral care of LGBT Catholics (which he refers to, in typical Vatican speak, as “those who experience same-sex attraction”, but we all know what he means.

As this news could easily be misinterpreted, and will be so misinterpreted in some quarters, I am publishing below Archbishop Nichols’ statement, in full.

A proper and full response should not be undertaken without careful reflection, but there some crucial points to be made immediately:

The statement emphasises, right at the outset, the importance of pastoral care which responds appropriately to the “difficulties and isolation they can experience and by the imperative of Christ’s love for all”.

This statement in no way ends the existing model of pastoral care, but takes it into “a new phase”, with a shift of emphasis from organizing Mass twice a month, to pastoral provision in its fullest sense. Included in the full statement are these important lines:

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. Such pastoral care will include support for growth in virtue and holiness, the encouragement of friendship and wider community contacts, always with the aim of helping people to take a full part in the life of the Church in their local parish community. It will not include the organisation of a regular Mass.

In my own letter to Archbishop Nichols last year, I noted how this side of our activities have expanded since our move from St Anne’s, and how the SMPC has been looking at ways to expand this still further. This shift in emphasis from the diocese thus is fully in accordance with my own perception of the direction in which we should be going – and one that I welcome.

The SMPC as we now know it is not being sidelined, but entrusted with greater responsibility. We will no longer be organising the Masses – but the Jesuits do a fine job themselves. Free of the burden of preparing all the details of the Mass, it will be easier to extend our celebrations from just twice a month, to a regular weekly service – and to concentrate more actively on the pastoral provision, as described.

We will need to find a new name – but what we have come to know as “Soho Masses” are not ending, but expanding.

Statement from the Diocese of Westminster

2 January 2013

 

PASTORAL CARE

  1. Many people come to the Church with the hope of finding understanding, compassion, mercy and truth. The Church endeavours to respond to their hope through the provision of pastoral care. For many years now the Diocese of Westminster has sought to extend the pastoral care of the Church to those who experience same-sex attraction. This care has been motivated by an awareness of the difficulties and isolation they can experience and by the imperative of Christ’s love for all. In recent years this pastoral care has focused on the celebration of Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street.
  2. Over these years, the situation of people with same-sex attraction has changed both socially and in civil law. However the principles of the pastoral care to be offered by the Church and the Church’s teaching on matters of sexual morality have not. First among the principles of pastoral care is the innate dignity of every person and the respect in which they must be held. Also, of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation[1]. The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life. As I stated in March 2012, this means ‘that many types of sexual activity, including same-sex sexual activity, are not consistent with the teaching of the Church. No individual, bishop, priest or lay-person, is in a position to change this teaching of the Church which we hold to be God-given.’ (Catholic Herald article 17 March 2012). This is the calling to which we must all strive.
  3. At this point, and after six years of the pastoral care offered at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, it is time for a new phase. Two considerations give shape to this new phase. The first is to recall that the original aim of this pastoral provision at Warwick Street was to enable people with same-sex attraction ‘to enter more fully into the life of the Church’ ‘specifically within the existing parish structures’ (Diocese of Westminster press statement 2 Feb 2007). The second is the importance of recognising that there is a distinction to be made between the pastoral care of a particular group and the regular celebration of the Mass. The Mass is always to retain its essential character as the highest prayer of the whole Church.  This ‘universal’ character of the Mass is to be nurtured and clearly expressed in the manner of every celebration. The purpose of all pastoral care, on the other hand, is to encourage and enable people, especially those who are in difficult circumstances, to come to participate fully and worthily in the celebration of the Mass in the midst of the whole Church, the people summoned by the Lord to give him, together, worthy service and praise.
  4. 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. Such pastoral care will include support for growth in virtue and holiness, the encouragement of friendship and wider community contacts, always with the aim of helping people to take a full part in the life of the Church in their local parish community. It will not include the organisation of a regular Mass. In order to assist in this important work, I am grateful to the Jesuit Fathers of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street who have agreed to make premises available on Sunday evenings and are ready to extend a welcome to this group.  I have asked Mgr Seamus O’Boyle to continue to offer my support and guidance for this group.
  5. At the same time, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption is being dedicated to the life of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for their  groups in central London. I hope that the use of this beautiful Church, in which the young John Henry Newman first attended Mass, will enable Catholics in the Ordinariate to prosper and to offer to others the particular gifts of the Ordinariate.
  6. These new arrangements are to come into effect during Lent 2013.

Ends


[1] Letter from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith – October 1986

“The human person made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties – but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: a creature of God, and by grace, His child and heir to eternal life.”

Enhanced by Zemanta
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

13 comments for “Westminster Diocese: Expanding Pastoral Care for LGBT Catholics

  1. lgraas
    January 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    You’re misinterpreting him. Here is just one example. He wrote: “Also, of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation.” What this means is that it is not legitimate to identify one’s self as “LGBT” or “gay.” Our identity is in Christ, not in our disorders. He clearly says that the pastoral care must be in keeping with the teaching of the Catholic Church. You can find that at the Courage apostolate. http://couragerc.net/

    • January 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      The “teaching of the Catholic church” that is relevant here is far, far broader then the couple of clauses on same – sex genital activity that the rule book Catholics love to spout. It also includes absolute prohibitions on masturbation, on sexual relationships between loving and committed couples before marriage, and on artificial contraception inside it. All of these are familiar – but I do not recall, ever, hearing any homily on any of these at any Mass, in any of the parishes where I have worshiped over the past half century. “Pastoral Care” does NOT mean being lectured to on the Catechism, which we all know very well, thank you. Nevertheless, if asked to, I am very happy to present the teaching of the Church on these matters precisely as it stands – as long as I am not expected to single out one element, to the exclusion of all others.

      There are many other important elements of the teaching which do tend to get neglected, and need to be discussed – such as the emphasis on treating all people with respect and dignity, and on the importance of respect for individual (fully formed) conscience.But even this is not really what I mean by “pastoral care”. Rather, that includes formation and training in spiritual practice and prayer (for which the Jesuits are eminently well qualified), provision of opportunities for retreats, days of recollection and the like, and participation in faith -sharing small groups, on precisely the same basis as is routinely practiced in any other Catholic congregation. What on earth is so offensive in that?

      And developing and expanding that provision, with the celebration of Mass weekly and not just twice a month, is what I mean by the opportunity to develop and expand the ministry we are already engaged in.

      I do not accept that I am in any way, shape or form misrepresenting the Archbishops words, or intentions. Rather, the misrepresentation comes from those who are so gleefully celebrating the “end” of the Soho Masses. Read Nichols’ statement again. Nowhere does he even refer to the “Soho Masses”, still less declare any intention to end them. What he does say, very clearly, is that “after six years of the pastoral care offered at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, it is time for a new phase”. A new phase, please note, and NOT an end.

      He continues, by which I understand him to be referring to precisely the same thing by “pastoral care” that I do, “4.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. Such pastoral care will include support for growth in virtue and holiness, the encouragement of friendship and wider community contacts, always with the aim of helping people to take a full part in the life of the Church in their local parish community”.

      I don’t have a problem with any of that.

      • lgraas
        January 3, 2013 at 6:46 pm

        I’m not lecturing to you on the catechism. I agree that there are some who do that. I’m not among them. As a Passionist, what I like to discuss is our identity in Christ and the importance of redemptive suffering as we all carry our various crosses in life. Jesuits should know about that, too, because it is in not limited to the Passionists. It is the very core of the Gospel itself. St. Peter walked on water thanks to his faith in Jesus. We, too, can walk on water, provided that we put all of our trust in Jesus. If we tell ourselves that we cannot possibly walk on water with the help of Jesus, we deny Who Jesus really is and we deny who we are in Him. But this is what people do when they label themselves with a disorder. You are not “gay.” You are not even strictly “Terence” as the Lord will give you a new name in heaven. You are whatever God has called you to be. Nothing else. If you attach yourself to anything other than what God has called you to be, you deny yourself the ability to become the person God has called you to be. I do this, too, when I do not have the faith required to walk on water. We all do it. Pardon me for saying to you that God has called you to be a holy saint in Him, who can even walk on water, given enough faith. I think that is not attacking but rather telling you how great is God’s love for you.

        • January 3, 2013 at 7:11 pm

          I was not suggesting that you were in any way lecturing me on the Catechism – simply stating that I do not believe that that is what “pastoral care” is about.
          I agree agree fully that we are called to be fully what God has made me – and I strive to do that, to the extent of my ability. As for carrying our crosses – we all have them. In my view, the “cross” of homosexuality we have to bear is not the orientation itself, but the hostility, social exclusion and sometimes even violence that it so often engenders: and sometimes, far too often, even self-hatred, which must be vigorously contested.
          And yes – I agree fully that I can, and am called to be, a holy saint in God, and with his help, could even walk on water, if required (but he has not yet expected that of me).

          The Jesuits have a way of describing this, as “discernment of personal mission” – or, in more frivolous wording, “opening our sealed orders”. I strive, constantly, to do so.

          • lgraas
            January 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm

            I have Bipolar Disorder. I understand what it is like to carry the cross of hatred. I feel the knife in me every time someone clutches their pearls in disgust when same-sex attraction is called a mental disorder, as if having a mental disorder is something to be ashamed of…..something that means I have no dignity. My dignity is not based on “Bipolar” identity, though, and so I know that when they clutch their pearls it is because they don’t respect my dignity as a person with a mental disorder, not because I lack dignity. And so, I feel sorry for them, as our Blessed Mother sorrows for them at the Foot of the Cross, because they don’t know that our dignity is in our humanity and in being created in the image of a loving God. Nothing else. I am praying for you, that you will know in your heart in all fullness the love that Jesus has for you. You are very special to God, else He would not have considered you worthy to bear such a cross.

          • January 3, 2013 at 9:10 pm

            I repeat – I am not carrying any “cross” of homosexuality. I should also stress that I do not see my identity is gay – my identity is many things: a White male of a certain age, born raised and formed in South Africa, in some respects deeply African, but also with strong cultural and ancestral roots in Europe, where I now live; English by language and literary interests; a pianist, painter and voracious reader by inclination; a mathematician by training; at different times in my life, variously a market researcher/analyst, school librarian and teacher by profession; Catholic by religion and conviction; a father and grandfather; oldest brother to six siblings; and many, many things besides. At different times, and in different contexts, I could “identify” as any one of these, dependent on the purpose of the question being addressed. Of all the parts of my “identity”, one, and only one element, is that I happen to be gay, as God made me, one of the numerous gifts with which He blessed me at birth- and which I have grown to accept. To deny it, would be to “exchange God’s truth for a lie”.

            In general though, my core identity, with which I prefer to identify myself, is – just me: Terence Weldon.

            If you want to pray for me – feel free. But do NOT ask God to change how I was made. If you must, pray instead that I (and you) may be spared the problems of being judged by others.

  2. Mark from PA
    January 4, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Good comments here, Terence. Thanks for sharing them. Also what is this “same sex attraction” garbage? I never heard that expression growing up. Is it me or are some Church leaders trying to shove this label down our throats? Whenever I hear that expression I think, uh oh!

    • lgraas
      January 4, 2013 at 2:43 am

      Catholic teaching on this is very clear, and important for one’s salvation. I suggest you give all of this more thought. The Courage apostolate does a fine job explaining what it means to be a Catholic who has same-sex attraction. I am praying for all of you. If you can’t accept it as a cross, which is the true gift, then you reject core teaching on what Jesus did for us on the Cross. There is nothing Catholic in that, nothing of joy, and nothing of peace. There is only wasted suffering.

      • Mark from PA
        January 4, 2013 at 2:52 am

        As Terence said, the cross is not the orientation itself, but the hostility, social exclusion and even violence it so often engenders. To me it is a cross to be labeled as disordered and thus a defective and inferior human being.

        • lgraas
          January 4, 2013 at 2:58 am

          Again, I have Bipolar Disorder. I know what it is like when people clutch their pearls in horror when someone says same-sex attraction is a mental disorder. I deal with this on a daily basis. I’m constantly attacked as a “bigot” for simply trying to ensure that our public schools are not teaching my children that the sin of sodomy is normal and good. Some crosses are given to us. Others, we bring on ourselves. The latter ones are not redemptive. They are wasted suffering.

    • January 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Mark, “same – sex attraction” is Vatican – speak for what the rest of us understand simply as an entirely natural orientation. It is a way for them to persist in their disordered, dangerous and potentially destructiveview doctrine that this orientation is itself somehow “disordered”, which it plainly is not. It is not disordered in any sense understood by medicine, psychiatry, biology, or any other discipline of natural or social science. As theologians like James Alison and James Nickloff have pointed out, it is also not “disordered” in any theological sense that has any real meaning at all. It is, quite simply, a description adopted by the CDF in its pronouncements to justify its implacable opposition. They do not oppose the orientation or its expression because it is disordered – they describe it so, because of their opposition.

      Similarly, “same – sex attraction” (or SSA) is a nasty description they have adopted to avoid the more usual and more acceptable terminology, to link it semantically with the idea of temptation. It’s a descriptor which should be avoided, except where quoting or referring directly to the Vatican view.

      • lgraas
        January 4, 2013 at 3:38 pm

        I was born with Bipolar Disorder and Asperger Syndrome. Whether something is disordered or not is not based on just whether one was born with it or whether one takes medication. There is no medication for Asperger. It is not “nasty” to say something is disordered. People who say that clearly do not believe that people with mental disorder have inherent dignity, because they are saying that it is shameful to have a mental disorder.

Leave a Reply