Cardinal Nichols, the Synod and the Gay Agenda: Part II

by Deacon Nick Donnelly  •  •  September 25, 2015   

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In the first part of this article I examined the growing campaign in the run-up to the 2015 Synod to move the Church to accept gay unions as "positive." As one of the leading English-speaking Synod Fathers, I examined Cdl. Vincent Nichols' public statements on the possibility of the Church blessing gay unions and his seeming acceptance of gay civil partnerships as an alternative to so-called gay marriages. On his return from the 2014 Synod, Cdl. Nichols expressed his dissatisfaction with the treatment of homosexuality in the Synod's Final Report. He told the BBC that he wanted more "positive language. That's what we do in the Westminster diocese."

"That's What We Do in the Westminster Diocese"

Cardinal Nichols is well known for his personal commitment to controversial Masses held for homosexual people organized by the gay activist group, the Soho Masses Pastoral Council (renamed "LGBT Catholics Westminster" following the re-location of Masses to Farm Street). The dissenting Catholic newspaper The Tablet revealed that during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI, Abp. Nichols had come under pressure from Rome for his support of the "Soho Masses." Pope Benedict XVI, when he was the Prefect for the Congregation for the Faith, wrote a seminal work on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. In this authoritative document for the Church, Cdl. Ratzinger encouraged the pastoral care of homosexual men and women:

We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin. ... But we wish to make it clear that 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. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve. (Section 15)

However, the following facts suggest that the Soho Masses did not conform to the CDF's guidelines:

Clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. There is evidence that both Cdl. Murphy-O'Connor and Bp. Bernard Longley were "silent" about Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual activity when they founded the Soho Masses. According to Dr. William Oddie:

About the conditions set by Cdl. Murphy-O'Connor for the Soho Masses, Martin Pendergast (founder of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council) said: "I can assure others who have commented that there was no demand on us to remain celibate and agree that homosexual acts are wrong" and also Terence Weldon (Eucharistic Minister (sic) and SMPC committee member) said: "I agree with my friend and colleague Martin ... who notes that during the extensive consultation process around the Soho gay Masses, Bp. Longley at no time expressed any demand that we remain celibate or agree with Church teaching."

The need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin. Though Cdl. Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, warned about the "immoral nature" of homosexual civil unions, it appears that such unions were recognized during the Soho Masses. Martin Pendergast, a former Catholic priest in a civil union with long-time partner Julian Filochowski, claimed that homosexual civil partnerships were blessed in Catholic churches elsewhere and "celebrated" at the Soho Masses:

A lot of us who are in civil unions have had services of blessings in Catholic churches afterwards, and here at these Masses [at Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory Catholic church, Soho] on every third Sunday, if we are asked by people, we pray for people who have entered civil partnerships or whose anniversaries happen at that time.

Is LGBT Catholics Westminster Different From the Soho Masses Pastoral Council?

Archbishop Nichols' decision to close the Soho Masses and re-establish pastoral provision for homosexual people at the Jesuit parish of Farm Street has been presented as putting an end to the controversy. But is this accurate?

Even though Abp. Nichols gave his pastoral mandate to LGBT Catholics Westminster to minister to homosexuals, the group continues to openly defy Church teaching. The LGBT Catholics Westminster website displays in a prominent position a prayer written by Bernárd J. Lynch. Father Lynch is an openly homosexual Catholic priest, who has posted on his blog, "I am married to my husband Billy since 1998." Addressing his words to Pope Benedict XVI during the Holy Father's State visit in 2010, Fr. Lynch said, "I welcome you as an openly gay man." He demanded that the Church "change these totally dehumanizing teachings."

Terence Weldon, an active supporter of LGBT Catholics Westminster has written on his blog Queering the Church: "I have never since entertained even a moment's doubt about the validity of a gay sexual life in faith." Weldon wrote the following concerning Cdl. Nichols' presiding at the LGBT Westminster Mass and distributing Holy Communion on May 10, 2015:

The church was full, a high proportion of the congregation were there precisely (sic) they are gay, lesbian or trans, and Nichols will have known that many of those are in loving (possibly sexual) relationships, civil partnerships or legal marriages. A long line formed before him for communion, and all received the sacrament — exactly as it should be.

According to The Tablet, Pendergast, the founder of the original Soho Masses, has resumed a public role with the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council. Even though this group has received Cdl. Nichols' official mandate to offer pastoral care to homosexual persons, Pendergast has expressed their opposition to important aspects of the Church's teaching on homosexuality which they intend to submit to the 2015 Synod:

Two terms which have been used by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in regard to homosexuality are "objective disorder" and "intrinsic moral disorder." But these are inaccurate and theologically quite inappropriate — and the people who are most hurt by this sort of language are the parents of children who come out as gay. What does it mean to them to hear their children described in those terms?

Martin Pendergast and the LGBT Catholics Westminster group overlook the obvious: that the Church uses the terms "disordered" and "disorder" to describe other moral conditions, not just homosexuality. The fact is that according to the Catholic moral teaching, founded in the revelation of God, as sinners we are all objectively disordered, and can only be put in right order by the grace of Christ and repentance. What Catholic gay activists really object to is the divine truth that homosexual desire and arousal are so morally disordered that they are proximate occasions for sin, and that homosexual sex acts are gravely depraved, and as such may be mortal sins, placing their souls in danger of hell.

True Pastoral Care of Homosexual Men and Women?

Will Cdl. Nichols uphold the Church's doctrine and corresponding pastoral care of homosexual persons at the 2015 Synod? Daphne McCleod, the founder and former chairman of the faithful UK campaign group Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, has revealed conversations she had with Bp. Nichols in an interview with Lifesite News:

In one conversation, McLeod said, Abp. Nichols gave away what she believes to be the driving interest of the Catholic bishops in their tacit support of the homosexualist movement's agenda. They've been brainwashed into believing that is the only way to go. Nichols has said this to me: "We must have unity at all price. If I speak out against it, there'll be disunity among the bishops, and we can't have that." But she said this is to place unity above the truth. "Unity is their great graven idol. I can't judge their hearts, but I wonder what they're thinking."

The concern is that during the 2015 Synod, Cdl. Nichols will place the unity of the Synod and the bishops before divine truth about homosexuality. If the Synod Fathers repeat the irresponsible mistake of describing homosexual unions in positive terms, they mislead people to assume that God approves of homosexual sex and so abandon these poor souls to their sin.

This aspect of the Synod's impact shows again the importance of the integrity and integrated nature of the Church's teaching on love and marriage. The Theology of the Body, elucidated by Pope St. John Paul II, provides a unified and beautiful understanding of human sexuality. We endanger our relationship with God if we seek to unravel the integrity of sacred doctrine, abandoning divine revelation in any area of our lives.


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