Brentwood Cathedral in Essex, UK is due to hold a Mass on March 13th 2016 specifically for gay, lesbian and transgender people and their families. The event has been billed as an outreach to the gay community as part of the year of mercy. But I am wondering if this really is the right approach?
I suppose if we are promoting the un-holy trinity of diversity, inclusion and equality, then the week after this they should really be singling out another group of sinners to invite to their own special mass. Will next week’s mass be specifically for thieves and their families? Liars and their families? Or those who have a problem with masturbation, and their families?! (I wonder what sort of a turnout you would get at that mass?! – not many I bet!)
The point I am trying to make is that sin is something we should naturally feel a healthy sense of shame for. This is why Confession is confidential. This Mass on the 13th is almost being presented like being affected by homosexuality is something to be celebrated – or at least normalised. And while I am a firm believer in accepting the sinner, not the sin, I do feel here that the emphasis of the whole day is way off the mark.
I spoke to my chaste catholic gay friend about this and asked his opinion:
“No. It’s wrong. It’s stupid. It’s like a voluntary liturgical apartheid.” He said. “I went to one of the gay masses one time when I lived in Chicago. The pews were 90% male. They took the kiss of peace literally: Partners kissed each other, on the lips, in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. The homily? You’d never know you were at mass; The priest made no attempt to weave the readings or Gospel into a message specific to that particular flock. There were no calls to heroic sainthood amidst a decadent culture, etc. It was “just another mass.” Everyone (except me) went up for Communion.”
He went on to describe the culture that had sprung up around the so called ‘gay mass’:
“After that mass, many of the guys go to a local gay bar for ‘Show Tunes Night’ to get drunk, lust after other men, and try to hook-up. Right after mass. I’m still ‘friends’ with guys on Facebook who post about this. ‘Fabulous mass! Time for a martini bitches!’ So, yeah. I’m not a fan of the ‘gay masses’. You genuflect to the Church; the Church does NOT genuflect to you.”
I think his last sentence makes a really important point. Is it really the correct attitude of the church to bend over backwards to accommodate a particular group of sinners and make them feel special and elite? Is that really the way to a true conversion of heart? It seems to me that there is real danger in this approach as it could lead the sinner to believe that not just he is accepted by the church, but his lifestyle is accepted by the church. This eliminates the need for repentance and forgiveness. Is this mercy?
I can sort of understand the mind-set behind just getting them through the door, but it kinds seems like they are being invited there under false pretences. And I understand the one step at a time mentality, but one has to be extremely careful this doesn’t slip into the ugly guise of the dreaded Gradualism.
Should we reach out with mercy AND truth to those who have SSA? Absolutely. Should we create a ghetto for them? No. The church has never turned away repentant sinners, never. And it never will. I am worried that this gay mass, rather than leading people to repentance and forgiveness, is instead leading people to believe that the Year of Mercy is all about saying that certain sins are no longer sinful. In essence it is leading people to believe that the Year of Mercy is all about letting people off the hook.
My gay friend went on to tell me:
“A priest here who hosts a 1-hour call-in radio show makes the comparison: If we’re in the woods, and I see a bear come up behind you, BUT I don’t say anything to you, because I don’t want to upset or offend you, then the bear attacks you and you DIE, I am NOT being ‘merciful’! ”
I asked my friend what his approach would be instead?
“There IS an apostolate in the Church called Courage for homosexual men & women. There’s a branch here in Chicago, and their website shows 2 in London: https://couragerc.org/ I did not hear about Courage at the gay mass I attended in Chicago; I heard about it from a priest, in the confessional, at a parish that shines as a model of fidelity & obedience and doesn’t pander to the culture. Thanks be to God if your diocese offers that “gay mass” for the conversion of sinners, if they preach: “YOU are not a bad person, but your ACTIONS are evil, and God will grant you mercy IF you repent and sin no more,” but how often do we hear that?”
It seems pretty obvious to me. We are all sinners right? So why do the organisers of the Brentwood mass on the 13th seem to be promoting it as a celebration? My friend had an opinion on this also:
“I would probably say, it’s homosexuals or sodomite allies INSIDE the Church behind this, trying to subvert the faith from within, lasso-in their compatriots with a special mass, again, segregating them as ‘special’ and ‘elite’.”
I guess this though was in the back of all our minds right? I hope to God he is wrong on this, but as far as I can see it comes down to 1 of 2 possibilities:
Either the organisers of this mass are incredibly naïve in their approach to getting sinners to repent, or they have no intention of inviting them to repent and are instead treating the day as a celebration of “love” in all its forms.
Lord have mercy.