Catholic Church closes London's gay-friendly "Soho Masses"

Wed Jan 2, 2013 2:18pm EST

(Reuters) - The Catholic Church will stop gay-friendly Masses in the central London church that has held them for the past six years, London's archbishop said on Wednesday.

The 18th-century church in Soho, the heart of London's gay scene, has been hosting the twice-monthly Masses with the support of the local Church hierarchy, but Archbishop Vincent Nichols said in a statement that gay Catholics should attend Mass in their local parishes rather going to separate services.

"The Mass is always to retain its essential character as the highest prayer of the whole Church," Nichols said, stressing there would still be pastoral care to help gay Catholics "take a full part in the life of the Church."

The Vatican teaches that gay sex is sinful but homosexuals deserve respect.

The decision on the "Soho Masses" came after sharp criticism of same-sex marriage by Pope Benedict and bishops in Britain and France, where the governments plan to legalize gay nuptials.

Nichols has spoken out in recent weeks against same-sex marriage but Church officials and a spokesman for the Soho gay congregation said the decision to stop the Soho Masses was not explicitly linked to that debate.

"We don't see any direct cause and effect," said Joe Stanley, chairman of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council.

London's approved gay-friendly Masses were launched in early 2007 while the Vatican's top doctrinal official was Cardinal William Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco, a city with a large gay community and several gay-friendly churches.

Nichols reaffirmed his support for them last February. Since then, Levada was replaced by Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who German Catholic media have said wanted to clarify the apparent contradiction between them and Church teaching on homosexuality.

The Our Lady of the Assumption church will now become a parish for disaffected Anglicans who became Catholics in protest against moves in their churches towards allowing female and gay bishops.

Conservative Catholics in Britain have long complained to the Vatican about the Soho Masses, saying they flouted Church teaching on homosexuality, and small groups sometimes protested outside the church during the services.

The archbishop's office declined to comment on his statement or any discussions with the Vatican.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (5)
tatman wrote:
yet the practice of child molestation and rape of innocents pervades like a cancer among the ranks of catholic priests worldwide. tens of thousands of victims, many silenced through a systematic cover-up that leads all the way to the Vatican, are symbols of the church’s hypocrisy. blatantly discriminate against gay men and women, all the while performing predatory acts themselves upon the most vulnerable members of our society. how anyone can still be part of this evil institution and pay homage to this corruption is beyond comprehension…

Jan 06, 2013 9:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
sidevalve56 wrote:
gay friendly mass? I haven’t been to mass in awhile but I’m still trying to figure out how mass and someone’s sexual orientation are even related…you sit in church and listen to the priest give the mass…you do some standing, sitting, and kneeling…but i don’t remember the part when when the service becomes about sexual orientation…our priest doesn’t inquire about such things…the gay people i know still go to mass…im from a smaller town so its known they are gay…I’m confused on how these issues become national news and im confused on why they are even a problem…

Jan 06, 2013 11:27am EST  --  Report as abuse
GA_Chris wrote:
The Catholic church is working hard to make itself even more irrelevant… no wonder they are loosing followers like choir boys loose their innocence

Jan 06, 2013 11:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.