At this time two years ago, the Soho Masses Pastoral Council was wrapping up negotiations with the Archdiocese of Westminster on the transfer of the Soho Masses for LGBT Catholics from their previous home in the (Anglican) parish of St Anne’s, to the present home in the (Catholic) Church of the Assumption and St Gregory. At the conclusion of the initial negotiations, and some months later after a review of the results of this move, the Cardinal issued two important public statements. These noted (among other things) that the Masses were held with the blessing and authorisation of the diocese, but that they should promote the full and unambiguous teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.
I found this troubling at first, as there are many aspects of church teaching with which I disagree. However, I also knew that in my own conscience I was clear: for official teaching allows, even compels, dissent from official teaching where personal and informed conscience leads us there. It was this realisation that led me to a resolution to my problem: the way to reconcile the apparent conflict between promoting the official teaching, and my own dissent, is to take the Cardinal’s instruction literally. I propose in these pages to explore relevant teaching as “fully” as I can. Alas, I am not able simultaneously to promote that teaching unambiguously – because I find the teaching itself is riddled with contradictions.
Church teaching on Scripture is that we should not read or interpret Biblical texts in isolation: we need to read the Good Book as a whole, to understand the broader context. I suggest that to fully understand church teaching on homosexuality, we need similarly to read the broader teaching as well, to obtain the full context. So, for me, we need to look not only at the infamous statements of the Catechism and of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, we also need to consider other teaching and practice from both recent and ancient times. We need also to look at teaching on other matters: on conscience, on the place of the Holy Spirit in discernment of the truth, on the balance between Papal autority and the ‘sensus fidelium’ – and on Church teaching on justice & peace, and the obligation to combat injustice where we find it in the secular world.
I am no theologian, and have no expertise in these matters. I am, however, exploring these matters in good faith, and will share with you my discoveries and conclusions as I go.
If you too would like to share your own reflections with us, I would be delighted.
The 1986 document “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” is the standard starting point for discussion of standard, orthodox teaching as it stands today.