LONDON — The Archdiocese of Westminster has designated the historic Our Lady of the Assumption parish in London to a group of former Anglicans who have joined the Church and are known as an ordinariate.
“I hope that the use of this beautiful church ... will enable Catholics in the ordinariate to prosper and to offer to others the particular gifts of the ordinariate,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols announced Jan. 2.
For six years, the parish has hosted biweekly “Soho Masses” that are organized for the attendance of "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered" Catholics in London. The group responsible for the Masses is now meant to “focus their effort on the provision of pastoral care” for people with same-sex attraction and will transfer to London’s Jesuit parish, Immaculate Conception on Farm Street.
Our Lady of the Assumption is a historic building, the sanctuary of which was rebuilt in the 19th century, and is located in the Soho district of London’s West End.
“We are very grateful to Archbishop Vincent Nichols for this gesture of goodwill and support for the ordinariate. The church is a beautiful example of ecclesiastical architecture in a very central part of London,” said Msgr. Keith Newton, head of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
“We will be challenged to provide a strong Christian witness to those who frequent the surrounding area of Soho.”
The ordinariate is an ecclesial structure Pope Benedict XVI allowed in his 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. Ordinariates allow communities of Anglicans to enter the Church, while maintaining the cultural patrimony inherited from their Anglican tradition.
Our Lady of the Assumption “will also provide a fitting place for the liturgical and spiritual traditions of the Anglican tradition to flourish, in complete union with the Catholic Church,” Msgr. Newton added.
“These demonstrate our fervent hope for the realization of the ultimate goal of all ecumenical work, the restoration of full ecclesial communion.”
He said the location, which the ordinariate will assume care for during the Lenten season, will allow his clergy to do mission work among the “marginalized” of British society, “faithfully presenting the teaching of the Catholic Church as the means by which light of Jesus Christ can shine on the dark places of our world.”
New Ministry to Homosexuals
The Archdiocese of Westminster’s announcement focused on the changes this signals for ministry to homosexuals in London. Archbishop Nichols announced that there should be a greater focus on “pastoral care” and that the “universal” character of Mass ought to be “nurtured and clearly expressed.”
“I am, therefore, asking the group which has, in recent years, helped to organize the celebration of Mass on two Sundays of each month at Warwick Street now to focus their effort on the provision of pastoral care,” which is to be done “fully in accordance” with Catholic teaching.
“It will not include the organization of a regular Mass. In order to assist in this important work, I am grateful to the Jesuit Fathers ... who have agreed to make premises available on Sunday evenings and are ready to extend a welcome to this group.”
The Soho Masses Pastoral Council, which has organized the Soho Masses in the past, welcomed the news.
“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.”
Terence Weldon is among the organizers of the Soho Masses and was also receptive to the announcement.
“We will no longer be organizing the Masses — but the Jesuits do a fine job themselves. Free of the burden of preparing all the details of the Mass, it will be easier to extend our celebrations from just twice a month to a regular weekly service. ... What we have come to know as ‘Soho Masses’ are not ending, but expanding,” he wrote on his personal website, “Queering the Church.”
Archbishop Nichols’ decision comes four years after his appointment as archbishop of Westminster and only six months after the appointment of Archbishop Gerhard Müller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The pastoral care to be provided by the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, the archbishop wrote, “will include support for growth in virtue and holiness, 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 in their local parish community.”
With respect to homosexuality, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Basing itself on sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstance can they be approved” (2357).
The Catechism adds, “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. … These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition" (2358).