Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Catholics say they will continue to celebrate a regular mass despite being banned from their current venue by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.
Nichols, the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, said on 2 January that the "Soho Masses", aimed particularly at LGBT
people, may no longer take place at the Church of Our Lady of the
Assumption and St Gregory in London's Soho district.
The Soho Masses have long been a focal point for Catholics favouring
the equal inclusion of LGBT people in the Church. They have also drawn
protests from socially conservative Catholics.
The Archbishop has previously been willing to defend the Soho Masses
as long as they do not explicitly host teaching contrary to the Roman
Catholic Church's position that sex should take place only within
He is now rumoured to have been pressurised by the
Vatican into taking a harder line.
Several LGBT Catholics have pointed out that the Archbishop has not
banned the masses outright and will allow them to take place at the
Church of the Immaculate Conception at Farm Street, Mayfair.
In a statement, the Soho Masses Pastoral Council
declared they were "very grateful to the Jesuit Community at Farm Street
for the welcome and hospitality they have offered there".
They added, "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."
Several participants have said that the church in Farm Street will be
a better venue, as the facilities are more spacious and accessible.
Despite the new venue, the move has been interpreted as a victory for
socially conservative Catholics. The right-wing Catholic commentator
Damian Thompson hailed Vincent Nichols' decision, calling the Soho
Masses "an embarrassment".
Significantly, the church in which the Soho Masses took place is to
be given to the Ordinariate, an organisation for ex-Anglicans within the
Roman Catholic Church.
Many of them left the Church of England over its
support for women priests and relative openness towards LGBT people,
meaning they are likely to be more conservative than many other Roman
Father Bernard Lynch, an openly gay Roman Catholic priest who helped
to found the Soho Masses, described the Archbishop's decision as
He told the Independent newspaper that the Soho Masses were "a beacon of light in a very dark church when it comes to LGBT people".
But gay Catholic blogger Terence Weldon, a regular participant in the
Soho Masses, urged LGBT Catholics and their supporters not to regard
the move as entirely negative.
"With that relocation will come
significant opportunities for further growth and expansion," he
Writing on the Queers for Jesus website, Weldon added, "If
we can make a success of developing a new model at the Church of the
Immaculate Conception, we should find that although the 'Soho Masses'
may end, Catholic LGBT ministry will be strengthened, and expanded."