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.


Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

once upon a reformation religious smorgasbord was a protestant pecadillo.

would that earnest seekers of the Truth, whatever the baneful pecadillos one was born with or acquired, understood that the discerning/authentic diners/seekers are really hungering for a la carte.

Patrick Sheridan said...

''The Jesuits are hardly known for their liturgical acumen...''

The best book on liturgy I ever read was written by a Jesuit.

Richard Brown said...

I started off with the same view as the Guardian, but suspect that the Archbishop is seeking to take an approach which is both inclusive and conservative.

Unless the Church intends to take up bell, book and candle and drive homosexuals from its congregations, it needs to consider what care it will extend to us. The Soho masses seem to me to be symptomatic of the segregated status that homosexuals used to have in secular as well as religious society. Many gay men look back at that segregation/independence with 'nostalgie du ghetto', and the same appears to be true in relation to the Soho Masses.

Bringing the congregation under the care of an established church, rather than celebrating 'separate' masses, seems to address anomalies and risks of schismatism, while continuing to provide some dedicated pastoral care. This compromise seems to be seeking to be at once progressive and inclusive (by welcoming homosexuals into the Church), and traditionalist (by ensuring that this is inclusion is in a mainstream congretation, not as a separate and potentially sectarian grouping). Even if you are suspicious of the Jesuits' orthodoxy, Farm Street is as established as English churches come (and, according to Terence Weldon's blog, it has been made clear that these will be scheduled Farm Street masses, not transplanted Soho masses).

The Bones said...

Thank you for your bravery in speaking out.

Matthew Roth said...

I just wish that he could have merged them with Courage and be done with it.

Webmaster Gareth said...

Will homosexuals be told that they must be celibate and refrain from promoting/defending homosexuality in order to receive the Blessed Sacrament?

One would hope so!

Anna J said...

Dear Fr Ray,

The Ordinariate news is very beautiful.

Surely it would be appropriate and respectful, at this juncture, to welcome the combined efforts of the Jesuits, Archbishop Vincent, (and Rome?), with charity and simplicity?
With kind regards

Patricia Phillips said...

They wouldn't merge with Courage. They are not interested in becoming or remaining chaste as they do not accept that homosexuality is disordered. That, in their words, is just mere 'Vatican 3rd level teaching' which can be safely disregarded. And Abp Nichols knows that they think and act this way. The dissent WILL continue at Farm Street - please mark my words. Watch the blogs after the first couple of Masses. I think you'll find solid evidence of promotion of dissent will be easily available.

Jacobi said...

Personally, I see no problem in homosexually active people attending Mass – provided they do not receive Holy Communion.

The Mass can give them strength to find the spiritual resource to become chaste.

A Catholic, whether heterosexual or homosexual is required, on pain of mortal sin, to abstain from sex outside of a proper marriage between a man and a woman.

One test of the integrity of the priests at Farm Street will be whether or not they explain the requirement on all Catholics, including the homosexually active, that they must be in a State of Grace and pleasing to God, before they receive Holy Communion. If they are not, then such people, objectively speaking, are committing a mortal sin, and if this is knowingly persisted with, sacrilege.

Perhaps ++Nichols could check?

One other question to ponder, is why is it that 99 % of the population, both religious and secular, get so obsessed with the problems of the 1% who happen to be homosexual (Office of National Statistics, report 2011). What about other minorities, say, eating disorders, 2.5%, (BBC report 2012) and no one seems to care much about us disnumerates 2.8% (my estimate 2013).

Mr Grumpy said...

I understand how people in this group have genuine difficulties with the Church's teachings - I shared those difficulties myself until very recently and indeed still find it a difficult area. The trouble is that saying to them "you're right and the Church is wrong" is not pastoral at all - it's just a soft option. Prayers should be said for all concerned.

Cana said...

This news item makes sense of Archbishop Vincent's recent publicised pastoral visit to EnCourage. He is clearly trying to set a new direction; whether this is due to pressure from Rome or is his own initiative, it is impossible to tell. He has certainly shied away from confronting this issue in the past, probably for PR reasons.

Anna J said...

It does our souls no good to dwell on the sins, (actual or imagined), of others. It is in the nature of love to cultivate a spirit of mercy; just as we hope to be looked on with mercy. It is also a work of love to seek to cover over the past sins of others; again just as we hope to have our past sins covered over. To that end I would like to state that the only regular attendee of the Soho Masses who I personally ever met is a wonderful mother; a sweeter soul one couldn't hope to meet. I pray for all my brothers and sisters on the blogosphere, this new year, to be filled with that same charity that we all delight to be met with.

Amfortas said...

I must look more closely at the people around me at the 1130 mass at the Oratory (by which I assume you mean the 1100)! Well, of course, there must be more homosexual people there than at Warwick Street. But surely this is a matter of statistics. I'm referring here to the large size of the congregation rather than the obvious draw that traditional liturgy has for some homosexual men.

Amfortas said...

I'm sure I'm not the only one struck by the irony of the Ordinariate taking charge of Warwick Street, given the history of that particluar church. Someone, somewhere will be turning in their grave at the thought of the words of the Prayer Book being uttered in so Roman a church.

Matthaeus said...

Richard Brown,

Your comments seem very astute.
There does seem to be a desire among some homosexuals to remain in their own little enclave. From this position, they can then say, 'see how hard done by we are' and use this as a basis for self-justification.

There are many heterosexual Catholics who experience temptations of the flesh and deal with them to verying degrees of success, in many cases falling into sin. What we don't see are special Masses for those cohabiting out of wedlock, those who have affairs, those who turn to prostitutes, etc. It would seem perfectly natural to remain within the community of a mainstream congregation, and, please God, to seek and find support towards repentance and amendment of life.

Anonymous said...

It does our souls no good to dwell on the sins, (actual or imagined), of others

You are absolutely correct, especially with regard to actual persons as opposed to Man in general. However, when it comes to homosexuality, the commentary by faithful Catholics is at least proportional (and likely not enough) to the current societal juggernaut to coerce Christians into accepting the normalization of disordered sex acts. If there is ever a Thieves' Pride Parade, I'm sure there will be much more Catholic commentary on the wrongness of stealing.

Scott W.

Physiocrat said...

@Patrick Sheridan

Isn't the standard work on the liturgy "The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described" by Adrian Fortescue?

The Guardian has made fools of itself again with mischievous comments and allegations of homophobia. The new arrangement appears to be an improvement from the point of view of those who have been attending these Masses.

It seems to me that the major objection to such Masses is their politicisation, and the only way to prevent it is to insist that the Mass is celebrated strictly in accordance with the GIRM and with bidding prayers left out.

BJC said...

Terence Weldon is just off the wall bonkers. If you read his last few posts on 'Queering the Church' it seems he works more or less full time on his many, many blogs and funds himself by working part-time as a pizza delivery man in the evening (I'm not kidding). Among his more enlightening recent posts have been 'The Parable of the Good Faggot' and another celebrating the 'Feast of the Queer Holy Family'. A sort of retort to ++VIn. Given he's so open and blatant about his dissent you have to wonder why ++Vin can't see things for what they are. He's not exactly making it difficult for him to form a judgement. Being rational about it this is not so much 'pastoral supervision' as putting the fox in charge of the chicken coup.

Genty said...

I don't think people are obsessed by the one percent, Jacobi, but are reacting to the demands that the 99 percent should conform to their world view.
Perhaps we should all take more notice of the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Luke 15:1-7.
Same percentages and Christ will continue to pursue the one that is lost.

GOR said...

I am not persuaded by the actions of ++Vin. It appears that he is trying to play both sides – offer a sop to the radical homosexual community and a (much belated) locus to the Ordinariate. It smacks of political maneuvering to me – more in tune with the political sphere than courageous promotion and defense of the Faith.

Just as Mr. Cameron has been persuaded by the miniscule homosexual enclave to foist a redefinition of marriage upon the populace, so Ab. Nichols - while apparently ‘abolishing’ the Soho Masses – has merely shifted the issue to the Jesuits.

He creates a diversion by belatedly - and probably under pressure from the Vatican - allotting a church to the Ordinariate.

As Sir Humphrey Appleby might have put it: “To watch a Cabinet Minister (you may substitute ‘certain hierarchs’..) in action is to watch the endless subordination of important long-term issues to the demands of urgent trivia.”

Fr Ray Blake said...

Mr Travers
Thankyou for the compliments but we are not discussing what you raise in your comment.

Physiocrat said...

The Archbishop's actions did not stop him and the Catholic church getting accused of rampant homophobia just the same.

To judge from the tone of recent discussion groups in the Guardian, the Catholic church is the most evil organisation in the history of the universe.

Damned if he acts, damned if it does not, and whatever he does he is faced with accusations of hypocrisy.

Nicolas Bellord said...

@physiocrat: You are right in what you say but the reaction would have been much less if the situation had been dealt with much earlier or properly organised from the start. The longer one lets these situations fester the worse the eventual exit. But let us remember this was a situation which ++Nichols inherited from his predecessor.

Generally though I think we need to wait and see before condemning the new arrangements. It is proposed that the pastoral care should be in accordance with the teaching of the Church. Will the individual members of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council sign up to that? It would be better to have that in writing.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Well I said we should wait and see. However I have only had to wait about 15 minutes for ProtectthePope to draw our attention to the statement issued by the Soho Masses Pastoral Council which is available at:

Their "stop press" statement makes it clear that they intend to continue as before and this is just an improved venue. It finishes with the statement:

Our only reservation regarding the transfer of base is that our title becomes somewhat of a
misnomer, in that we shall be in Mayfair, rather than in Soho. However, given the value of
the title Soho Masses we shall continue to use it.

There is no sign of that essential conversion to accepting the teaching of the Church. The situation needs watching but my fear is that this is just cosmetic. Will Rome be fooled?

Patrick Sheridan said...


I'd have thought that the Ceremonial of Bishops held that, or a similarly conceived, position? Needless to say most people have never read it.

I meant the history of Liturgy, of course, not a compendium of modern Roman ceremonies.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

when the world ceases to call the Church of Christ 'evil', we should head for the post-modern catacombs. for the time being one has to concede that a large number of those who've grafted their seeking onto to the lgbt 'mass' were/are hungering for the truth; therefore that seeking was carrying the grace to make a sacrifice of the 'importance' of lgbtness (which is, in the end, nothing more than me-first - it is sin above sacrifice - nothing new = error). 

once upon a university course the idea of the audience-of-one was given a lot of time as a serious and - in the minds of the priests of humanism - a proper goal of media products given the new age of the hyper-individual.

this is happening with the mass - the mass-of-one (the one being the priest or the peeps - who can say?) it the proper goal of the humanistic lords-of-interpretation of VII?

the days of the anonymous seeker, unlabeled, Child of God, simply seeking to worship God (as God has revealed a worthy means of worship over long centuries) are being sublated by the worship of (insert name/label/background);

it's hard to find an argument to be disabused of the reason why the celebrant faces the 'seeker' now rather than God. as long as sinners insist on, or perhaps with the encouragment of clergy, a mass to suit their sins, the Passion of Christ is mocked.

Victoria said...

Will Rome be "fooled"?

Only if the situation is felt to be too difficult to be dealt with.

The situation in Brisbane Australia was left for 40 years until a group of courageous laity made it difficult for Rome not to react.

A courageous cardinal tried to discipline Charles Curran and perhaps stop the dissent movement in its tracks in the USA but Rome was "fooled" and didn't back up the cardinal and the rest is history.

I wish I could be less cynical but I don't have another 40 years to see if the mess that is Catholicism today can be straightened out.

JA said...

But Victoria, we have the promise of Christ Himself that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church.

Still, I know how you feel. While this promise can only be true, one wonders what has been the cost to souls of institutional Catholic greed, folly and stupidity in the last 50 years.

The time for sackcloth and ashes is here, or coming very soon.

Mr. John Heuertz, OP
Kansas City

Physiocrat said...


I met a man yesterday aged about 70 at the Tridentine Mass. Of Jewish origin, he had been brought up in Italy as a Catholic but lost his faith with the introduction of the "V2" reforms. Then he went back to Judaism and lived in Israel for many years, becoming involved with the Chabad Lubavitch sect. In recent times he lost his faith in that too and became atheist. Now he is interested in attending the EF mass again and it speaks to him.

The ultimate problem with the liturgy is as explained in the "Spirit of the Liturgy": the signifier becomes the thing signified. Get it wrong and it is stripped of its meaning.

Ratzinger's book should be a study text for all priest-candidates.

momangelica said...

That was a good blog to put us into the picture, thank you Father Ray.
We had heard that the Soho Masses were coming to an end which was a relief and good news, now we know it isn't so straight forward.
Lots of prayers still needed.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

thanks for this man's story. seekers of Truth, of Our Lord, like blood hounds find this that and the other scent and then lose it...until we GET Our Lord present in Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, despite all the vissistudes of time, 'hidden' in a manner that many, according to Jn. 6, found less convincing than the serpent's pov - the fal(fatheroflies) pointing at seekers going, 'look here! look there!'

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Quote : “Personally, I see no problem in homosexually active people attending Mass – provided they do not receive Holy Communion.”

Your opinion does not count, with respect. There is no personal take on this matter, let me set the facts out.

1. All Catholics are obliged to attend Mass every Sunday and Holyday of Obligation.

2. All Catholics are obliged to confess once per year.

3. All Catholics are obliged to receive Holy Communion once per year.

Failure to observe any one of the above requirements constitutes a mortal sin (grave sin, call it what you will.)

If you do not agree with the above, that is your problem, assuming you have reached the age of reason and act with an informed conscience.

This has always been the teaching of the Catholic Church, so what is the problem ?

And if you spend your time at Mass counting persons whom you presume to be homosexual, Heaven help you.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

"we have the promise of Christ Himself that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church"

Yes, but the visibility of the protected 'Church' is no longer obvious.

The Church One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, needs all four living elements. When a Church has smashed the Altar of Our Lord, and 'removed' the sacred relics, when the tabernacle has been shunted to one side, or disappeared altogether, when the homily demeans the uniqueness of Christ and His Church or theres an endless array masses for this and that club of sinners or groups of societal demographically defined 'worshippers', when the consecrated hands, after the consecration, mingle in the 'sign of peace' with unconsecrated hands, when the particles - the pearls the Greeks called the fragments after the consecration - fall to the floor because niether priest nor people have ever heard of a communion paten and wouldn't see any use for it; in short when 1900 years of organic anonymous workings of the Holy Spirit are no longer evident at Mass, the apostolic element conferred by the bishop is niether here nor there, surely? If one, holy, and catholic are just words that denote one's local mass club - the church in large swathes of the west has long since ceased to be the 'Church.'

Physiocrat said...

@Jeremiah Methuselah
"And if you spend your time at Mass counting persons whom you presume to be homosexual, Heaven help you."

Interesting notion. How would anyone decide? It used to be suede shoes were the giveaway for men, and women with short hair and wearing tweedy things. Earrings on men, short hair, rings on certain fingers, are still potential indicators of sexual deviance. Perhaps they could be assessed on a points system eg 10% likelihood for each possible suspicious thing and add them all up.

There is a lot to be said for not having over-long sermons or people in the congregation might start looking round as a diversionary activity.

Cosmos said...

At first it seems that we should probably stick with the teachings of the Church in conformity with the Scriptures and the Saints.

Or maybe not, I mean, they are not very popular and seem very offensive to some people...

Perhaps there is a middle ground? Maybe we can uphold the traditional teachings of the Christian religion up to a point, but agree that some have to be dropped or ignored if they push back is too hard. Its a good thing we have people expereinced in political maneuvering in leadership position. I don't know how we get through this mess otherwise.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Cosmos: I take it you are being ironic! If not where exactly is it that one will get through the mess to?

Anonymous said...

Well, The Usual Suspects don't seem daunted at all:

Nicolas Bellord said...

There is an interesting piece in this week's Catholic Herald. Joe Stanley, the chairman of the SMPC, is quoted as saying: A certain number of us have realised how clever this move is because it gives us additional protection from Jesuits at Farm Street... a parish which is not within the diocesan structure.

So has ++Vin successfully offloaded his responsibility for the Soho Masses?

The leading article says that if the Masses had been successful "they could become a model for Catholics worldwide". But it goes on to say that the SMPC is to blame for the failure of this experiment. Perhaps we ought to be grateful to the SMPC?

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

cosmos may well be sinking into the comfort of cynicism in the yearly, and, no doubt, well earned retreat of a weary Father from the fray of the sireoflies...sigh.

meanwhile - has the Hobbit hit the UK yet?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Damasc Rose,
I don't publish comments that are several times longer than the original post!
Six, is a bit much - sorry!

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