3 Jan 2013

Soho gay mass move splits gay Catholic opinion

The scrapping of a gay-friendly mass because it was incompatible with the Catholic church’s teachings on homosexuality has met with mixed reaction from gay Catholics.

Soho gay mass move splits gay Catholic opinion

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the head of the church in England and Wales, shocked Soho’s congregation of gay and lesbian Catholics who regularly attended gay-friendly services at Our Lady of the Assumption Church with his announcement that the event would be cancelled.

However, the Church’s move has split opinion amongst gay Catholics with some claiming that gay people should not hold their own separate services and must now seek guidance from the church.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a gay Roman Catholic and social commentator who says that holding a gay ceremony is a “ridiculous” practice that goes against the point of mass. He told Channel 4 News that he supports the church’s decision explaining that “like all Catholics I have a complex relationship with God”.

“There are a lot of gay Catholics, but there is no special pleading in mass – it is a serious and sacred event,” Mr Yiannopoulos explained.

“People gather as a member of the flock in equality under god, the point is to bring disparate people together. Having a separate mass for gay people undermines this point.

“There is help available for people struggling with their sexuality but the Catholic Church does not go in for special case pleading

Mr Yiannopoulos explained that the church has a “specific view” on homosexuality and this is something gay Catholics must come to terms with, claiming the Catholicism is moving to embrace the modern world.

“If you splinter away in a gay version of mass there’s a risk it becomes its own institution, which is fine if you’re running a chess club but is not fine for a religion.

“Catholicism has led the way in embracing the modern world and technology, as an institution it is one of the most enthusiastic. We can see this in the Pope’s iPad and his use of Twitter.”

The Soho mass has drawn controversy with Catholics praying outside to stop others from attending the service which will now be replaced by “pastoral care” at a nearby Jesuit church. The services will end at the start of Lent and the church where the mass used to happen will now be given over to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, a group set up to cater for those who have defected from the Church of England.

Normal service resumes

Ruby Almeida, the chair of Quest, a group for Lesbian and Gay Catholics, explained that the people who attended services in Soho were part of a community and will continue to worship at their new location.

“This is a normal regular Sunday Service, people who do not support us are mistaken – they just need to come down, you would not notice any difference except it is located in the heart of a gay community.”

“The church has always provided for people who are marginalised. It is not for anyone to judge our faith, it is a matter of conscience between a person and god. There are some people who don’t go for communion, the same as everywhere, because they may not believe they are in a state of grace.”

She explained that Soho was the only diocese in the UK with this unique service, drawing religious people from across the UK.

“People have come from a long way off, others come regularly, in some way it fills a void in their life,” she explained.

“It’s always busy, there are many lesbian, gay and transgender people but they also bring their families and friends, tourists regularly attend the service too.”

A statement by the Soho Masses Pastoral Council today stated: “We look forward with much anticipation to the opportunity of using the greater space offered by the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and, since we have kindly been relieved of our responsibility of organising the Mass, to respond positively to the Archbishop’s challenge to develop our pastoral work in this “new phase” of our peripatetic existence.

“The Masses at Farm Street will, clearly, continue to be at the heart of our life in communion, and of our pastoral activity, and we look forward to participating fully in them.”