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Archbishop Nichols ends ‘Soho Masses’ after six years

By on Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Archbishop Nichols (Photo: Mazur/

Archbishop Nichols (Photo: Mazur/

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has announced that Masses in Soho organised for gay people are to end.

He also revealed that the church where the Masses took place will be entrusted to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The fortnightly “Soho Masses” at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street were established by the diocese almost six years ago. They were intended to be “particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, their parents, friends and families”.

Archbishop Nichols said today that, while the Masses will stop, pastoral care of the community will continue at the Jesuit Farm Street church in Mayfair on Sunday evenings.

He also announced that in Lent Our Lady of the Assumption church will be “dedicated to the life” of the ordinariate. The archbishop said: “I hope that the use of this beautiful church, in which the young John Henry Newman first attended Mass, will enable Catholics in the ordinariate to prosper and to offer to others the particular gifts of the ordinariate.”

A statement from the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, which organised the Masses, said: “Following several weeks of reflection on the benefits and potential challenges which it represents to our pastoral outreach to the LGBT Catholic Community on behalf of the Diocese of Westminster, the Soho Masses Pastoral Council is pleased to accept Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ invitation to transfer our base of activity from the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory to the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Farm Street.

“We are also very grateful to the Jesuit Community at Farm Street for the welcome and hospitality they have offered there as well as to the Provincial and Superior of the Society.

“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. In this we have become victims of our own success, in terms of the number of people who have joined the Eucharistic community of our congregation.

“This means that, while the body of the church in Warwick Street is still adequate to our number, the lack of other facilities in the 18th-century building has become a limiting factor in organising social and pastoral activity and prayer, in particular for elderly, infirm or disabled people.

“We therefore look forward with much anticipation to the opportunity of using the greater space offered by the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and, since we have kindly been relieved of our responsibility of organising the Mass, to respond positively to the archbishop’s challenge to develop our pastoral work in this ‘new phase’ of our peripatetic existence.

“The Masses at Farm Street will, clearly, continue to be at the heart of our life in communion, and of our pastoral activity, and we look forward to participating fully in them. We are sure those priests with connections to Farm Street who have ministered to us at Warwick Street in the past will make us feel especially welcome.

“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.”

Statement from the Diocese of Westminster
2 January 2013

Pastoral Care

1. Many people come to the Church with the hope of finding understanding, compassion, mercy and truth. The Church endeavours to respond to their hope through the provision of pastoral care. For many years now the Diocese of Westminster has sought to extend the pastoral care of the Church to those who experience same-sex attraction. This care has been motivated by an awareness of the difficulties and isolation they can experience and by the imperative of Christ’s love for all. In recent years this pastoral care has focused on the celebration of Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street.

2. Over these years, the situation of people with same-sex attraction has changed both socially and in civil law. However the principles of the pastoral care to be offered by the Church and the Church’s teaching on matters of sexual morality have not. First among the principles of pastoral care is the innate dignity of every person and the respect in which they must be held. Also, of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation . The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life. As I stated in March 2012, this means ‘that many types of sexual activity, including same-sex sexual activity, are not consistent with the teaching of the Church. No individual, bishop, priest or lay-person, is in a position to change this teaching of the Church which we hold to be God-given.’ (Catholic Herald article 17 March 2012). This is the calling to which we must all strive.

3. At this point, and after six years of the pastoral care offered at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, it is time for a new phase. Two considerations give shape to this new phase. The first is to recall that the original aim of this pastoral provision at Warwick Street was to enable people with same-sex attraction ‘to enter more fully into the life of the Church’ ‘specifically within the existing parish structures’ (Diocese of Westminster press statement 2 Feb 2007). The second is the importance of recognising that there is a distinction to be made between the pastoral care of a particular group and the regular celebration of the Mass. The Mass is always to retain its essential character as the highest prayer of the whole Church. This ‘universal’ character of the Mass is to be nurtured and clearly expressed in the manner of every celebration. The purpose of all pastoral care, on the other hand, is to encourage and enable people, especially those who are in difficult circumstances, to come to participate fully and worthily in the celebration of the Mass in the midst of the whole Church, the people summoned by the Lord to give him, together, worthy service and praise.

4. I am, therefore, asking the group which has, in recent years, helped to organise the celebration of Mass on two Sundays of each month at Warwick Street now to focus their effort on the provision of pastoral care. This includes many of the activities which have recently been developed and it is to be conducted fully in accordance with the teaching of the Church. Such pastoral care 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. It will not include the organisation of a regular Mass. In order to assist in this important work, I am grateful to the Jesuit Fathers of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street who have agreed to make premises available on Sunday evenings and are ready to extend a welcome to this group. I have asked Mgr Seamus O’Boyle to continue to offer my support and guidance for this group.

5. At the same time, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption is being dedicated to the life of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for their groups in central London. I hope that the use of this beautiful Church, in which the young John Henry Newman first attended Mass, will enable Catholics in the Ordinariate to prosper and to offer to others the particular gifts of the Ordinariate.

6. These new arrangements are to come into effect during Lent 2013.

An account of how the “gay-friendly” Masses first began can be read here.

  • Matty

    Good gracious listen to yourself. Deciding which building is better for which people. So what you think is a beautiful style is better for Anglicans than for gays? Are you crazy? Do you really think that Christ would want anything to do with such thinking? I think not. He would want to look into the hearts of people and he just might find the hearts of gays are just as wonderful as anyone else’s. he would also not be the slightest bit interested in whether a building was suitable for this one or that.

  • Matty

    If God made them to be attracted to their own gender that what God makes is good. Who are we to tell them that how God made them is sinful? Let’s concentrate on our own souls.

  • David

     Some people here expressed concerns and personal tastes and were attacked with the typical hypocritical liberal guilt trip. This false outrage is not Christian in character; do you really believe Jesus would persecute anyone just for having different personal tastes or opinions? if someone likes Gothic more than Renaissance or if they are worried about their friends being scapegoated- who cares? liberals condemn themselves by their false outrage over silly disagreements.

  • scary goat

     Yeah, that’s what I was wondering.  There was no Mass in our parish on Christmas eve morning.  2 in the evening/night though, the earlier one packed to the doors, standing room only, and midnight was decently full too.

  • Matty

    And are you happy to be the one at the door of the church who will forbid entry to some? Maybe at the gate of heaven God will ask us who we rejected at His door and in His name? I think sometimes it is easy to highlight sexual matters as being supposedly grave sins whilst ignoring sin within our hearts and done to those who suffer persecution, poverty, injustice and more. The Catholic Church has too long been obsessed with sexual matters of its laity – especially when it turned blind eyes to its clergy.

  • W Lewis513

    So we see what a crafty politician Nichols is. he has NOT stopped these Masses. He has asked the Jesuits at Farma Street to look after their “Pastoral Needs”. Shoulod they introduce Masses for homosexuals at athat church, he will do nothing. For if  he were to be callenge, his reply would be that Jesuits are not under his control. Thus Damian Thompson is wrong I do not think the Red hat will appear. This man is aploitican no a bishop.

  • Deborahmiddleton

    The Anglican subculture from which the Ordinariate emerged is extremely camp, concerned with dressing up both physically and spiritually – so it’s difficult to see this as a decisive blow against gay Christianity

  • PaulHalsall

    That was from the Vatican website.  And there cannot be a 19th century translation of Vatican II!

  • PaulHalsall

    Sure, like St. Paul’s Cathedral, or all the Wren churches…..

  • PaulHalsall

    the attendance varied from 90-120, but it was not the same group each time. 400 is the estimated total attendees.

  • PaulHalsall

    Same goes in Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Poland.

  • PaulHalsall

    The ordinariate is full of gay men.

  • PaulHalsall

    Most attendees use contraception and have no intent to stop using it.

  • PaulHalsall

    Other popes attacked then slave trade (that was after a number of them gave the Portuguese permission for slaving.)

    JPII was the first to define slavery as an intrinsic evil.

  • Danny

    To believe in Original Sin, the Fall …….. one must believe in the rest of Genesis, God
    created the world and Adam in six days, and rested on the seventh day, sorry I don’t
    believe that.   God created Eve, (WOman) who caused the fall, (misogyny) because of their sin, not only would God punish the man and woman, He also punishes their children till the end of time, Wow what a God to believe in, is that justice? Therefore do I trust the Pope, and his Bishop’s, do I trust you? And the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Or do I trust in God.   I know God as a loving, caring Mother.

  • liquafruta

    Who else can you pick on to stop having Masses for? In the end there will only be yourself left in the church!

  • chris_mcelhinney

    Charles. To suggest that a particular rite or tradition belongs in a particular type of building and architecture is to miss the point of what liturgy is. It is not a piece of theatre or some ancient museum piece. It is supposed to be our prayer as the people of God in the space time continuum in which we live, and has nothing to do with environment. To suggest that the Anglican tradition belongs in such buildings is to suggest that cricket can only be played at Lords or similar environments.  I wonder what type of building you feel the Roman Catholic tradition with all it rites is best suited to?  

  • Matty

    Oh Angela do you really want to cast that stone?  Do you really think God would make someone as they are and then call them evil for being that person?

  • Matty

    Burt – I hope your view of God changes to allow you to rethink

  • Charleshooton

    A very perceptive and highly accurate comment.

    I am not in a position to say for certain that the majority of men who convert from the bells and smells wing of the Anglican Church to Roman Catholicism are gay but a significant number are.

    In some respects I find it somewhat ironic and highly amusing that the Soho masses are abolished in the Warwick Street church so that the building can be handed over to the ‘extremely camp’ former Anglicans.

    Poor Vincent has really has no idea what he is letting himself in for. Clearly a man out of his depth.

  • Frank

      lazarus   Mollyb South Saxon and all you other…. Self congratulatory judgemental bigots…

    .What right have you all to interfer in the lives of others.
    Hurting them and showing no compassion what so ever to fellow christians on their own journey in faith.

     Which is NO business of yours

  • scary goat

    After giving the matter some thought, I wanted to comment on the other thread about “have the Soho Masses really been stopped?” but I found the thread closed for comments, I am guessing because things were getting “tricky”.  So I will post my thoughts here. 

    I am getting very confused about the whole thing.  I really think someone needs to clarify what “gay” actually means.  I was under the impression that gay was a euphemism for homosexual….as in LGBT.
    From reading the comments, it seems that this is not quite how everyone understands it.  Gay also seems to be applied to people of the same sex who love each other but are not (necessarily) sexually active.  I can’t help wondering if society’s propensity to relate everything to sex is causing us to apply terms to things in a confused way.  We seem, all to frequently, to equate love with sex where surely these are two different issues? 

    Since when has it ever been wrong for two people of the same sex to love each other?  Surely the problem is only active homosexual behaviour? If two people of the same sex love each other but it is not sexual, why is there a problem?  I would not have thought they were “gay”.  I would have thought they were “close friends”.  Even an occasional homosexual act….is that not simply a sin?  Can it not be repented of and we have the sacrament of reconciliation for repented sins.  Where is the problem?  That is between the individuals concerned and their confessor. 

    Where we have a problem is when it is NOT a close friendship, and NOT a repented sin, but an ongoing “lifestyle” of practicing homosexuality where the people concerned are intending to continue with this. 

    And this seems to be what “gay Masses” and segregated “gay pastoral care” is about.  Otherwise surely it is making an issue out of a non-issue.  Why would “close friends” need special provision?  Why would an ” occasional sinner” need special provision?

    There is a hullabaloo going on over the C of E and “gay” bishops.  But the qualifier is they must be celibate.  If they are celibate, how on earth can they be practicing homosexuals?  Surely it is practicing homosexual acts which are the problem?  There is, of course, the other issue regarding same-sex-partnerships.  It seems to me that it is “making a statement” where none needs to be made.

    Then we get “gay” people saying that their relationships are not necessarily sexual.  So in that case, why are they make an issue out of it where there isn’t one.  It all seems like an extension of the politically correct madness.  Why make a “statement” about being “gay” if someone is not a practicing homosexual…..and then wonder why people are getting upset about “gay Masses”? 

    It is because they are categorising themselves and thus “making a statement” and wanting special provisions that they are drawing attention to themselves.  That is why people are asking what is going on.  If they are not regularly active homosexuals, why the need for special provisions?  If they are, then surely people are right to question it? I mean, I don’t see any “single masturbators pride” movements….like it is a right to do so, although I’m sure many people do get the urge sometimes.  Its just a sin, which we try to avoid, but if in a moment of weakness we do, then it’s a sin, and there is the sacrament of reconciliation. 

    Then there is the question of contracepting catholics and co-habiting catholics.  Yes, of course this needs to be addressed, but two wrongs don’t make a right.  And again, it seems to be the question of drawing attention to themselves.  I see these people in normal parishes, doing the best they can, refraining from taking the sacraments in some cases, or not drawing attention to themselves, in which case their problem is between them and their God and their confessor.  It is the fact that the gay people are drawing attention to themselves as a special case which makes people pay attention to them. 

  • Omerus

    Good news. But the problem remains: ‘Soho Masses’ Pastoral Council’s statement: “The Masses at Farm Street will, clearly, continue to be at the heart of
    our life in communion, and of our pastoral activity, and we look
    forward to participating fully in them”.

    This is a statement of war!!!

  • Poimier

    Forgive me for asking, but has “a source of scandal” been removed or relocated ?

  • ew88

    To me, it just looks a transition!  I am a Catholic, who is gay, and frankly, I find it offensive that the Archbishop of Westminster and various sexual liberators are placing me in a sort of sub-category. I am a Catholic. Please don’t patronise me with ‘special treatment’. I could just as easily become a protestant where sexuality is perhaps viewed more loosely, but instead I choose the truths of the Catholic Church.

    Giving special treatment (Own pastoral support, liturgy, repository stalls etc.) is separating us from the mainstream of the church – IS THAT NOT DISCRIMINATION?? What is wrong with going to the already established catechesis groups and parishes – I doubt they’re full!

    It is not our place to challenge the church. We accept it or leave. My driving instructor recently made the analogy of a football team: When someone asks you what team you support, you just say (As long as you like football, that is!). You don’t pick different parts of the team that you like. Similarly, you don’t stop supporting them when it becomes a bit difficult (perhaps a losing patch for example).

    My ‘team’ is the Catholic Church. Although I may find various teachings difficult at times, I don’t go around complaining about the fact that they exist, because the church (which has had far more experience than I) is guided by the Holy Spirit.

    The Church is not a ‘pick ‘N’ mix’ or ‘cafeteria’ faith. As a young person, I find that concept frankly unattractive and ‘wishy-washy’.

    My message to other Catholics who are gay:

    We have been called to a special life. To live a chaste and holy existence with the guidance of Christ and His Church. The Church in turn gives us the Catechism and the Sacraments to help and guide us. Let’s use the catechism and the Scriptures to lead us to a life of holiness!
    Sorry for the essay; I’m at uni, so don’t type anything under 1000 words! :s

  • A RusdellWilson

    Anglicanism is not wholly tied up with mediaeval Gothic churches. That is to place it in a museum. The Anglican patrimony, brought into the Catholic Church by the Ordinariate, is a living tradition, containing many elements. Perhaps the Gothic architectural tradition will be brought into the Ordinariate at a later day. The Soho church has not yet been designated the principal church of the Ordinariate, but it would be entirely fitting if were to be so designated. It must be remembered that the Ordinariate’s patron, blessed John Henry Newman, had little time for Gothic fundamentalism, and was no fan of Pugin.

  • Mattyatomic

    That is a great story. I too am gay and currently in the process of becoming Catholic as is my partner I too hope we will not receive any homophobia from our church. 

  • Thomas

    There is no such thing as a Gay Mass. It is meaningless to use an adjective before the word Mass unless the word is ‘Holy’ or such like. If the Mass is open to Catholics, as I assume it to be, then that means I, my family, and any other Catholic may attend. So how could it possibly be ‘Gay’? The use of distorting and twisting language is reprehensible. I will make a point, if opportunity permits, of attending the so-called Gay Mass because I understand the Church believes that Mass attendance is open to all the Faithful irrespective of their state of grace.The reception of Holy Communion is a different issue as that can be received only by those not in a state of grievous sin. Only the recipients of the Eucharist and God know whether that is the case or not. It is not my right or that of any person to probe into the conscience of another or to seek to speculate on their orientation, occupation, lifestyle or desires; nor is it stated in any religious book that I have the right to speculate on the state of another person’s soul. Clubs may have adjectives. The Mass is not a club. 

  • Kevin O’Neill

    Looking back on this story from January 2013 is very instructive.

    I wonder how many of the foamy-mouthed are also closet gays?