There’s going to be an enormous amount of discussion tomorrow, both before and after Mass. As I’ve already had my say extensively, in email and on-line, I hope to keep my own mouth shut unless directly asked, and concentrate on listening. So here’s one more thing for you to think about, in advance.
As I reflect back on the previous move, I remember one delicious irony. In one of her PEEP newletters, Daphne McLeod was crowing exulantly about a meetin she and a crony had recently had with Cardinal Cormac, to complain about the Soho gay Masses. She had pleaded with him to put an end of this sacrilege, of Catholic Masses being held in an Anglican church. She was crowing about the sympathetic hearing she had received, and got her wish. Within weeks, the diocese began discussions with us about the need to move out of St Anne’s – and into a Catholic Church in Warwick Street. It was then that the opponenets stepped up their opposition with protests outside – something they had not bothered with before. They had got their wish – and it annoyed them, intensely. Not only did we move, but we have flourished, grown in numbers, in the activities we are able to offer, and in the degree of participation and self- confidence. But, it is becoming clearer all the time that there are real constraints and limits to further growth and development.
The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that the same thing applies now. The opposition are crowing with delight that the Soho Masses are being shut down – but we are not. We are simply being moved, to a situation which in many respects offers far more opportunities for .that “further growth and development”. We will be meeting not just twice a month, we will have far better meeting facilities, we will have far superior structures and opportunities for growth in faith and spirituality, and for meeting and engaging with other Catholics, many of whom could thereby become straight allies.
Against that, what will change? We’ll be a little further away from Soho, and will be freed of the responsibility of arranging all the details of the Mass. That’s an asset – it makes it easier to move to weekly services.We’ll have more straight people in the congregation. Is that a threat – or an opportunity?
It’s important to look closely at +V’s statement, and letter. He has clearly said that the emphasis will move to “pastoral provision”, within Catholic teaching. Some of you may find that scary, but is it?
Personally, I’m fascinated by this shift in emphasis. We on the SMPC did not know with any certainty what was being considered or planned, but we did know that there was a very real threat. It was for that reason that I wrote two blog posts towards the end of the year on the strength of our congregation, and the value of the Masses. In both of these, I stressed how we had moved way beyond simply providing Mass twice a month. to much broader pastoral provision, and listed several examples. I also referred to additional possibilities, under consideration. I know that these posts were forwarded to +V, and much of the content, I put into a formal letter which I wrote to him, myself. Now, look again at the words of his statement:
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.
“The group which has helped to organise….”: that’s the existing SMPC, including me, as he knows only too well (the opposition have reminded him, frequently, of the “heretic and homosexualist blogger” in our midst.
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.
Ah! Precisely, those activities that I described, in my posts and in my letter?
Such pastoral care will include support for growth in virtue and holiness
Is this threatenging to you? especially read with”in accordance with the teaching of the Church”, above. I don’t think so – see below.
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
“friendship and community” are exactly what we value at present – within a “wider community” just extends that value.
So – what about that “faithful to church teaching”?
It’s instructive to note also, what +V did NOT say. Joe has described this as:
- He did not “abolish” the SMPC (“Soho Masses Pastoral Council”)
- 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.
- His did not respond directly to the points I initially raised in objection to the move – which some of you have seen – but careful reading of his text shows that he heard them.
- 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
I would add, he did not define “virtue and holiness” – leaving that to our own interpretation.
Nor did he spell out what he meant by “church teaching”. If he meant by that (which I think is unlikely) spelling out the Catechisn rules on sexual behaviour, I would be entirely prepared to present, fully, what those rules are, provided that this is done on a completely non- discriminatory way, referring to all the rules, including those on contraception, on sex before marriage, and on masturbation. How many parishes do you know, where the congregation is regularly reminded of these?
I have often heard that by insisting that only sex which is open to procreation, is legitimate, the Church is not being discriminatory. If the teaching is valid on those matters, then it is equally valid for us,
Yes, spot on.
Apart from the three changes I described above – location, a greater number of non-LGBT people, and freedom from detailed planning for the Mass, we have lost nothing – and gained a fabulous opportunity for further growth, including that of interacting with, challenging, and making straight allies of, the wider Catholic community.
To our opponents: “Be Careful What You Wish For”