Westminster outlines plans for outreach and ministry for gay Catholics

 The Diocese of Westminster has now published the following plans for 'outreach and ministry to gay persons' In recent years the Diocese of Westminster has become increasingly conscious of the particular pastoral needs which are present in parts of the West End of London, notably in Soho and Piccadilly. In particular, a number of homosexual Catholics, together with their parents, families and friends, have expressed their desire for pastoral care from the Diocese. Before laying out the practical steps the diocese intends to undertake so as to meet these requests, it is important to be mindful of certain principles underpinning the Church's engagement in its ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination. 1. Underlying Principles The Mission of the Church is to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ and to minister to all people in his name. All people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected. (Catechism of the Catholic Church par 1700-1702). In understanding this teaching, the Church teaches that homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church par 2358). The Church utterly condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse directed against people who are homosexual. The Church recognises that "it is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs." (Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, par 10). The Church's pastoral outreach recognises that baptised persons with a homosexual inclination continue to look to the Church for a place where they might live in authentic human integrity and holiness of life. Being welcomed and participating in their local faith community is the foundation of spiritual support that the Church offers to them. Full and active participation is encouraged. This full and active participation takes place within the context of the wider Church and specifically within existing parish structures and pastoral services, always of course in accordance with the Church's teaching and liturgical norms. In seeking to meet these pastoral needs there would be no attempt to create separate congregations and exclusive services out of step with the Church's teaching. That teaching has been laid out in successive Church documents including the recent document of the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales, Cherishing Life,which states that in so far as a homosexual inclination "can lead to sexual activity which excludes openness to the generation of new human life and the essential sexual complementarity of man and woman, it is, in this particular and precise sense only, objectively disordered." (Cherishing Life par 111) That document goes on to say that a homosexual inclination "must never be considered sinful or evil in itself ..The Church teaches that sexual intercourse finds its proper place and meaning only in marriage and does not share the assumption common in some circles that every adult person needs to be sexually active. This teaching applies to all, whether married or unmarried, homosexual or heterosexual, engaged, single through choice, widowed or divorced. Everyone needs to develop the virtue of chastity so as to live well in his or her own situation." (Cherishing Life par 113) The Cardinal and his auxiliary Bishops would like to make it clear at this time, that they are openly expressing the teaching of the Church regarding homosexuality, following the statement made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which says, "Departure from the Church's teaching or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care, is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral." (Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, par 15). It is in the light of this that the Diocese is seeking to provide pastoral care for homosexual Catholics. 2. Practical Steps The Archbishop's Council of the Diocese of Westminster, reflecting on the pastoral needs of homosexual Catholics and their families and on Masses celebrated in Islington and at the Anglican Church of St Anne's in Soho, proposes that in future a Mass should take place at Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, a Catholic Church in the West End of London. This Mass would be part of normal pastoral outreach, open to everyone and would be celebrated on Sunday at 5pm twice a month. Celebrants of the Mass will be drawn for the most part from diocesan and religious priests who already exercise ministry within the Diocese, reflecting custom and practice where priests celebrating Mass in parishes are ultimately authorised to do so by the Archbishop of Westminster. The rota will be drawn together by the Vicar General, Mgr Seamus O'Boyle in collaboration with the local Dean, Canon Patrick Browne. Information about the Mass will be sensitive to the reality that the celebration of Mass is not to be used for campaigning for any change to, or ambiguity about, the Church's teaching. The arrangements at Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, will be subject to review after six months. The Diocese of Westminster will continue to develop its Pastoral outreach to homosexual people so as to enable them to enter more fully into the life of the Church. This includes the weekly Listening Service being provided by the Catholic churches in Soho and the West End of London which provides support and opportunities to speak with a priest at the Church of Notre Dame, Leicester Place. Notes: The Cathechism of the Catholic Church and other Church teaching use the term "homosexual". This statement is consistent with this terminology whilst recognising that other individuals or groups may identify themselves in other ways, such as 'gay', or 'lesbian'. In using the term 'homosexual' it is, however, worth bearing in mind that the Church "refuses to consider the person as a 'heterosexual' or a 'homosexual' and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, par 16). * In a statement entitled 'Our Place at the Table' , the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, which has been organising LGBT Masses in Soho since July 2005, welcomed the plans. It says that the conversations with the Diocese "have resulted in a stronger sense of ecclesial communion and a developing understanding of pastoral realities affecting the communities involved." "The outcome of our consultations offers the wider Church in England and Wales and beyond, the potential to develop more effective models of pastoral ministry within our LGBT communities, so strengthening ecclesial communion rather than creating disharmony." "Our growth in faith, the vibrancy of our community and worship, our commitment to all in the pursuit of justice, whatever their needs, have been nurtured by the hospitality we have received from St. Anne's Anglican Parish Church in Soho and its Rector, the Revd. Clare Herbert. We now embark on a new stage in a rich ecumenical relationship, which began in the context of the Soho bombing in 1997. Out of such tragic loss of life, new life, hope, and joyful community has emerged. "Our forthcoming transition is not a closure, nor even a beginning, but rather a further step in the journey of God's pilgrim, rainbow people, a gift to be shared not only between our two local communities but also with the wider ecclesial communities to which we belong. Although the place of our Eucharistic celebrations might have changed, our common life together, united in baptism, will continue through other ways of prayer and worship, study, and common action for justice within and across our communities. " Sources: Archdiocese of Westminster/SMPC

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