Thursday, January 03, 2013
Soho Masses end: Mayfair Masses begin
Under the Bishop engagements in the Catholic Press last month there was a brief announcement that Archbishop Nichols had a meeting in Rome. Previously Archbishop Mueller expressed concern about the Soho Masses. The meeting was apparently between Mueller, Bertone and Nichols.
Both the CDF and the Secretariat of State have been very concerned about the the "measured support" given by the English Bishops to the Ordinariate; remember the Pope had to dip has hand into his own pocket to help to stop them going bankrupt whilst still in the cradle, Archbishop Nichols has until yesterday resisted making a church available to them. From the beginning the English bishops were deliberately excluded from discussions with the then Anglican bishops and the CDF in the preparations to set up the Ordinariate, and when it was finally announced, it was done from Rome and Vin was left doing an embarrassing joint interview with Rowan Williams, in which it seemed Williams was slightly more clued up than Nichols. The problem seems to have been that neither Rome nor the then Anglican bishops trusted Nichols or the other English bishops to co-operate with the plan that came directly from the Pope.
So, yesterdays announcement was apparently a major step forward for the Ordinariate, having at last a London centre but not necessarily a victory for Rome. The intriguing thing is the future of the Soho Masses. The problem hasn't been that they cater for a particular sexual minority. I am told by people who are sensitive to this type of thing that even the Oratories 11.30am Mass has more gay people than Warwick Street, the problem is not sexuality but orthodoxy and the politicisation of the Mass. Many people have been to these Masses expecting help to deal with their sexuality and found a dating agency.
The Archbishop has announced that the Masses will end and the "ministry", that supports the Masses, will move to the prestigious Jesuit Farm St Church in Mayfair, and they will be expected to integrate with the parish. Which actually seems to suggest that actually they will take over the Farm Street evening Mass.
The Jesuits are hardly known for their liturgical acumen or their orthodoxy, their provincial novitiate house in Birmingham recently hosted A Call to Action meeting, at the moment the Jesuits of Farm Street are quite involved in celebrating the Soho Masses. When the Soho Masses were set up by Archbishop Longley as Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's Auxilliary, with the blessing of Cardinal Levada the CDF Prefect, the intention was that various safeguards and monitoring would be in place, under Archbishop Nichols the Masses have taken place but with little or no oversight. Distancing the whole scenario by placing it under the Jesuits hardly bodes well for the supervision that is necessary for such a sensitive celebration of Mass. Can we expect a change? Well yes, a more prestigious London address for the Masses but hardly a change of style or tone especially as the Archbishop explicitly says there is no change in the personnel involved. Indeed Terence Weldon, one of the organisers welcomes the move in article which suggest the Soho Masses will live on.
There has been bungling and mishandling of the announcement, that we have come to expect; the Guardian, the Independent see it as yet another phlegm-flecked homophobic attack by the Catholic Church but as I say above this really should have been presented and dealt with as matter of Catholic "authenticity" and liturgical conformity. The Archbishop himself seems deliberately to be causing this distortion, he has promised to meet with "Soho Community", he has assured them of his support. I can't quite work out what is going on. Is His Grace really trying to ensure there is care for people with a same sex attraction or is he just cocking a snook at Rome and orthodox Catholic belief? Considering his rather feather duster approach, until last weekend, to Cameron's redefinition of marriage, one has to ask what is really going on.
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