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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Soho Masses stopped, Church given to Ordinariate


That was a headline I did not expect to be writing. The Archdiocese of Westminster has issued a statement today explaining that the pastoral care of people with same-sex attraction will enter a new phase, encouraging people with same-sex attraction to enter more fully into the life of the Church, particularly by participating at Mass "in the midst of the whole Church." The regular "Soho Masses" are to be discontinued.

Included in the same statement is the news that the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Warwick Street is to dedicated to the life of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The pastoral care of people with same-sex attraction will be hosted at the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception in Farm Street under the continued guidance of Mgr Seamus O'Boyle.

The full statement can be read after an article by Mark Greaves in the Catholic Herald: Archbishop Nichols ends ‘Soho Masses’ after six years. Damien Thompson has also followed up on the story, with a link to a balanced background article by William Oddie from last November.

There will surely be many other comments on the blogosphere so I am glad to have picked up this story early, on a quiet day in the parish. (I was intending to catch up on my email, but ho-hum.) I know of many Catholics (including people struggling with same-sex attraction) who have been scandalised by some of the phenomena associated with the "Soho Masses" over the years. There are also many who have felt that the Ordinariate has not been treated with sufficient generosity. Today's "double whammy" story will be a temptation to triumphalist and perhaps unkind comments. I understand that temptation but would urge that like so many, it should be resisted.

First of all, there are many in the Church today who struggle with same-sex attraction and try to live a good life within the communion of the Church. Now would be a good time to focus our efforts on pastoral and friendly support - that respect, compassion and sensitivity of which the Catechism speaks. (n.2358) The new initiatives recently promoted by Encourage are also a great help in this ministry. I would certainly recommend priests to be involved in supporting their work.

Secondly, the Ordinary, priests, sisters and lay people of the Ordinariate have a difficult path to negotiate. Many of us welcome the wonderful breath of fresh air that they bring to the life of the Church and hope that they will be a powerful influence for the good. Yet there is a touching humility that I have nearly always come across in those who have come into the Church: they are grateful to be part of the full communion of the Catholic Church and do not come with ideas of telling everyone else what to do. It is a matter for rejoicing that the Ordinariate are to have such a beautiful and historic Church in the heart of London's West End. That rejoicing can surely be simple, heartfelt and generous to Archbishop Nichols.

Yesterday I posted my customary silly article for the New Year. Today I am reflecting more seriously on the good that can come to the Church in our country from the way that things are changing for the better. Not perfect, yes yes yes. But a very good start to the year. Let us pray to the Good Lord for more to come. And let us pray earnestly for our Bishops.
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