As the press and internet have been abuzz with grossly misleading reports that Archbishop Nichols has “ended” the Soho Masses which have been celebrated for the last six years for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends at the Church of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, it is important that we pay careful attention to what his words – and not to what the opponents of the Masses would like to have read.
Here is the full text of Archbishop Nichols’ letter to the Soho Masses Congregation, which is due to be read at Mass this Sunday, January 6th. Below, I include some important observations on what he did not say:
I ask you to particularly note the final paragraph – and hope that any of our usual congregation, and their friends, make a special effort to take up his invitation, and engage him in discussion on that occasion.
I also hope you will attend the usual Mass this week, the feast of the Epiphany, to hear the letter read – and discuss it after Mass.
Here follows the full text of Archbishop Nichols’ letter to the Warwick Street congregation.
Westminster. London. SW1P 1QJ
1 January 2013
To those attending the evening Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption on
Sunday 6 January 2013
My brothers and sisters,
I write to you at this time when, as you may already know, I have made decisions affecting you and the pattern of pastoral outreach the Diocese offers to you.
From early Lent, this year, the twice-monthly Sunday evening Mass which you have been coming to in Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street will come to an end. In its place you are all invited to come to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, on a similar pattern of meetings. You are also welcome to be part of the Sunday evening parish Mass, at 6.15pm, and to gather together afterwards in the Hall for your meetings. I am very grateful to the Community at Farm Street for readily extending this welcome to you all.
In coming to this decision I am appreciative of the way the work of your Group has developed most recently, offering opportunities for study, prayer and retreats. I thank all who have taken a lead in this. However, it is also true that the celebration of Mass on these occasions in Our Lady of the Assumption Church continues to be contentious and, as far as I can judge, will not cease to be so.
I ask you to accept my decision and my invitation to use the Church of the Immaculate Conception for your meetings and your pastoral activities.
Indeed, I invite you to meet with me, at Farm Street, after the 6.15pm Mass on Sunday 3rd March, the Third Sunday of Lent. This would enable me to express my support for you as you continue your efforts, as do we all, to be faithful to Christ in the communion of the Church and striving to live in accordance with her teaching.
With assurances of my prayers for you all as we enter this New Year of the Lord,
Yours sincerely in Christ,
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
What he did NOT say:
- He did not “abolish” the Soho Masses Pastoral Council (of which I am an active member).
- He said that we would not “organise” the Masses – he said absolutely nothing about contributing to them, making them our own, ensuring their relevance to our needs, singing, reading etc.
- He said absolutely nothing condemnatory of the Masses or of our behaviour and activity.
- He did not withdraw our status as the Diocesan Pastoral Provision.
- He did not say that he was under pressure from Rome – in fact the only remotely relevant comment he made to me is that Archbishop Mueller is a very reasonable man.
- He did not define what is meant by “growth in virtue and holiness”, a phrase he used in his earlier, public statement on pastoral care.
A careful reading of his two texts will reveal a great deal more that has not been said – and was also not said, in private meetings with our chairman.
There is a great deal that has been left to our discretion – including just how we proceed with the expanded pastoral provision, an area where I intend to become more fully involved.
- Westminster Diocese: Expanding Pastoral Care for LGBT Catholics
- A Tribute to the Soho Masses Congregation
- What Really Happens at the Soho Masses?
- Equal Marriage: A Letter to My MP, Jeremy Hunt
- Gay mass services in Soho abolished by archbishop of Westminster
- Soho Masses: Can We Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?
- To Soho Mass Foes: “Be Careful What You Wish For”
- We need Gay Masses beyond Soho
- “Soho Masses”: A Time for Prayer and Reflection
- The Vatican “Mess” Over Gay Mass
- Archbishop of Westminster cancels special mass for gay people(independent.co.uk)
- Gay mass services in Soho abolished by archbishop of Westminster (guardian.co.uk)
- Soho Masses: Can We Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time? (questgaycatholic.org.uk))