Tonight marks the final ever ‘Soho mass’ for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics at its central London church. LGBT Catholics will be offered ‘pastoral support’, but not the opportunity to worship Jesus instead.
Tonight’s final service follows the decision by made by the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols who said that the lesbian and gay ‘Soho masses’ held at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Soho, central London, were out of line with the church’s main teaching on sexuality
At the time he ruled: “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.”
The Diocese of Westminster, headed by the Archbishop insisted that pastoral care for gay Catholics would continue at London’s Jesuit Farm Street Church in Mayfair each Sunday evening.
Joe Stanley, chairman of Soho Masses Pastoral Council, told the BBC: “Because a lot of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people find a lot of difficulty in being open and honest in Church, what we offer here is the ability, twice a month, to come and stand openly and honestly and directly before God.”
Congregation member Renate Rothwell said that she felt sad that the masses were ending: “The tears which are shed are angry tears, because I feel angry that this didn’t need to have happened.”
Monsignor Seamus O’Boyle, parish priest of Soho Mass told the BBC: “To be able to reach out in love, which I think is what we have done, for me has been personally quite gratifying.
“To see this community grow, which it has, and to feel that they could come to church and be part of the church has been something quite marvelous, but it’s not construed that way by everyone else.”
When the Archbishop announced the ending of the inclusive masses, the group’s pastoral council said that the services had been “victims of our own success”. In a statement it said: “The purpose of the Soho Masses has been, and remains, to encourage the LGBT Catholic Community to participate fully in the life of the Church, the diverse body of Christ, through participation in the Mass, and through shared prayer. In this we have become victims of our own success, in terms of the number of people who have joined the Eucharistic Community of our congregation.
“This means that, while the body of the church in Warwick St. is still adequate to our number, the lack of other facilities in the 18th Century building has become a limiting factor in organising social and pastoral activity and prayer, in particular for elderly, infirm or disabled people.”
In the statement, Soho Masses Pastoral Council said the organisation would “respond positively to the Archbishop’s challenge to develop our pastoral work in this ‘new phase’ of our peripatetic existence.”