Following the Christmas tirade against same-sex marriage by the Pope and senior Roman Catholics, the only Roman Catholic congregation in England to offer special masses to LGBT church goers has now found itself homeless and closed down.The ‘Soho Masses’ at Our Lady of the Assumption church had provided a ray of hope for gay Roman Catholics in London for the past 6 years, and operated with the permission of senior clergy.
But now the most senior Roman Catholic in England and Wales has put and end to the masses, reaffirming that “same-sex activity is not consistent with the teaching of the church” and saying that it is not appropriate that Mass be offered as part of pastoral care for LGBT Catholics as the Mass has to “retain its essential character as the highest prayer of the whole Church.”Dismissing sexual orientation as a dangerous deception, the statement says that “of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation.”
Many people will interpret Vincent Nichols words and actions as further pressure on LGBT people to deny their sexuality, backed up by the threat of exclusion from this ‘highest prayer of the Church’ until they do.But to add insult to injury, the Church in Soho is going to be made available to the Roman Catholic Ordinariate instead – a group made up of disaffected Anglicans who have been offered a special place in the Roman Catholic Church because of their opposition to women’s ordination.
So the church which has acted as a beacon of inclusive Christian faith is to be turned into a centre for those who deny the equality of women before God, and the validity of women’s ministry as Priests and Bishops.Once again I find myself reminded of one of the most powerful stories of injustice in the Bible - the time when God sent the prophet Nathan to confront King David after he had committed adultery and murder. (1 Samuel 12)
Rather than face David head-on with what he had done, Nathan told David a story of a rich man with many flocks of sheep and a poor man with just one lamb who he loved dearly. When a guest came to visit the rich man, he did not want to slaughter one of his own sheep to provide a feast, so he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it instead.As King David’s anger raged against a man who would do such a thing, Nathan faced David with the words, “You are the man.”
Today the Archbishop of Westminster has taken the one much loved lamb from the LGBT Catholic Community – the Soho Masses – and slaughtered it to feed to his new guest – the disaffected Anglican Ordinariate.Today I believe that the Son of David’s anger is equally burning against any Church (Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, or Pentecostal) which builds its faith on the exclusion of others, and teaches others to do the same.
Jesus had a name for such religious institutions – he called the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees of his day hypocrites and blind guides for doing the same kind of things. In Matthew 23 he let his anger fly against those who place heavy burdens on people’s shoulders in the name of God, and who shut the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven in their faces.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)And he was very clear about the way we should regard such religious institutions,
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:1-4)Jesus last command was to go into all the world and draw all people into his Kingdom – not to go and find ways to keep people out.
When Church leaders exclude people from the fullness of the Kingdom of God because of their gender, sexuality or who they love, they would do well to pray that they don’t find the prophet Nathan waiting for them at the Pearly Gates… saying “You are the man!”