But I was struck by a comment made to the people protesting outside the Soho Masses. Mark Dowd told them that these Masses, for the LGBT community, were approved by the Vatican.
For those of my readers who are a little unclear, LGBT isn't a sandwich - that's a BLT - but it stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered.
Why anyone would want to go to a church while declaring their sexual orientation to all and sundry is beyond my comprehension. I don't describe myself as a heterosexual when I go to Mass... or when I do anything else, for that matter. My sexuality is my private business, and I don't feel the need to label myself with it.
Listening more carefully to the interview, I was struck by the following exchange:
[Mark Dowd] So did the parish priest, Mgr Seamus O’Boyle, get the all-clear from Rome for this controversial service?
[Fr O’Boyle] Well obviously, when you do something like this, some Catholics don’t like the idea; some priests wouldn’t like the idea of it, so, inevitably, Rome is aware: and the guidelines that we prepared were actually sent for comment to Rome so that Rome was aware, also able to say “Yea” or “Nay” and I have to say that at the time and certainly continually that Rome has been very supportive
[Mark Dowd] Is this at just some junior level or pretty high up?
[Fr O’Boyle] No that would be quite high up, and particularly because at the time it was Cardinal Murphy O’Connor who was the Archbishop and he could talk cardinal to cardinal as it were and he was talking to Cardinal Levada who in a previous life had been the Archbishop of San Francisco, had an understanding...
[Mark Dowd] Is it likely that the Pope knows about this Mass?
[Fr O’Boyle] It wouldn’t surprise me, he knows Cardinal Levada very well. It could be that it has been mentioned;
Fr. Seamus O'Boyle is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Westminster. So, presumably, he knows what he's talking about. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor had a chat with Cardinal Levada, and they had an understanding.
An understanding of what, exactly? And why was it necessary to talk cardinal-to-cardinal?
Terence, over at Queering the Church, appears to be convinced that Cardinal Levada has full knowledge of the "Gay" Masses (as some have taken to calling them.) He also writes that, responding to the observation that homosexual activity is contrary to church teaching, he had said in the interview:
"The simple fact is that across the world, Catholics disagree with, and do not comply with Church teaching – no, Vatican teaching – on a whole range of sexual ethics matters."
Quite apart from the dismissive "Vatican teaching" slur, I am rather concerned that his views are rather representative of the congregation. In other words, the Soho Masses are occasions where people who are openly flouting the teachings of the Church are going up to receive Holy Communion, and there is no apparent attempt to encourage them to examine their consciences.
Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that people of a homosexual inclination are not able to receive Communion. I am stating the fact that anyone in a state of Mortal Sin is unable to receive Communion - and that applies whatever their sexual orientation, whether they are gay, straight or sexually aroused by high-heeled black leather boots. Homosexual activity is a Mortal Sin. Exactly the same applies, in case you hadn't realised it, to heterosexual activity, outside the marriage act which is open to procreation. That means contraception is out too.
Terence, on the other hand, appears to think that, just because people all over the world do not obey Church teaching, that makes it ok. It doesn't - people all over the world commit murder, but that doesn't mean we should allow it to go unchallenged.
The complaints about the Soho Masses have been pretty vociferous, mainly because, according to William Oddie in his recent article for the Catholic Herald,
"It is now clear beyond peradventure that those who attend the Masses are nearly all what the archdiocese calls “non-celibate gay people” who intend to continue to defy Catholic teaching."
Despite the growing scandal, in the interview with Mark Dowd, Archbishop Nichols makes it quite clear that he will continue to support the Soho Masses.
"Anybody who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward for Communion really ought to learn to hold their tongue."
The problem is, of course, that we each ought to judge ourselves before coming forward to receive Communion. But, that assumes we have been properly instructed in the teachings of the Church. Sadly, it seems that catechesis is as inadequate at the Soho Masses as it has been in Catholic schools. Perhaps too many priests and bishops have been holding their tongues...