Cardinal Offers New Definitions of ‘Home’ and ‘Family’ to LGBT+ Catholics

When Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster (London, UK) presided at Mass for his diocese’s LGBTQ+ pastoral outreach group, he sermonized about new definitions of “home” and “family” which embraced configurations beyond the heterosexual nuclear grouping.

Nichols presided on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (January 13th) at Farm Street Jesuit Church in the Mayfair section of London, the parish where LGBTQ+ Catholics Westminster regularly meets for worship and events.

Independent Catholic News summarized the cardinal’s message:

“In his homily, Cardinal Vincent Nichols referred to the radical identity which all Christians have by their baptism, transcending all other identities. The community of Church, formed by baptismal unity, is rooted in love, and this is lived out in profound commitments of friendship, including marriage and family life.

“In this he echoed his [30 December 2018] Pastoral Letter to Westminster Diocese: Being ‘at home’, in its obvious sense, is to be in the circle into which we were born, bringing together the generations of which we are a part. Yet, ‘at home’ also means celebrating all the love and friendships that sustain us. It includes embracing again the important life-choices we have made, the duties of faithfulness and its graces, too …… a moment for thanking God for the family, the families, to which we belong, be they bonds of flesh and blood, bonds of friendship, or bonds created by freely given commitments, including the promises of religious life. The word ‘family’, then, is capable of including many different patterns and dimensions of life, and some bring with them the experience of sadness and failure.”

After the liturgy concluded, Nichols continued his affirming message, Independent Catholic News reported:

“Speaking after the Mass, the Cardinal commended LGBT+ Catholics Westminster as an important sign of welcome and inclusion within Westminster Diocese, not only as individuals who are welcomed but as an identifiable community which is at home within the Church.”

Nichols’ expanded definitions of “at home” and “family” are important not only because they are LGBTQ affirming in their scope, but because they recognize that definitions of these words based exclusively on heterosexual norms no longer reflect the reality of the way many people live.  Single parents, divorced spouses raising children, blended families, multi-generational households–all of these and more are quickly becoming the norm in societies around the world.  Instead of fighting to try to maintain a model which is not feasible for all people, Nichols’ conception embraces the reality and recognizes that in these new forms love and support grow bountifully.

While Catholics who oppose LGBTQ equality might criticize Nichols, it’s important to remember that while he embraces a new understanding of family, he has still been strongly supportive of the Church’s view that marriage is reserved or only heterosexual couples who are open to reproduction.   In his presentation at the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, he said that “people who live with a same-sex experience” must be welcome in the church, and he also re-affirmed the Church’s teaching that marriage is exclusively for heterosexual couples.

Nichols’ mind is clearly able to support a “both/and” mentality.  This approach allows him to warmly welcome LGBT people, affirm their family configurations, while at the same time holding to his beliefs on marriage.  Although this may appear to be a compromise to some, it is amazing that Nichols is still way ahead of most prelates in his approach to LGBT issues.  While he does not go as far as I would like him to go, I see this as a step along the way to full equality.  He is part of a small, but growing, number of church leaders who have been making more and more positive statements about same-gender couples over the past few years.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, January 25, 2019




3 replies
  1. Richard Davis
    Richard Davis says:

    Thank you for sharing the Cardinal’s positive message. I know that most LGBT Catholics would reject the idea of our relationships as being merely “sacramental,” rather than fully a sacrament, still I wonder if this might be a way forward. The Cardinal’s words seem to suggest a sacramental quality for LGBT relationships.

    The Catholic Catechism would seem to be addressing the LGBT community when it states that sacramentals are “instituted for the sanctification of certain states of life” and “In accordance with bishops’ pastoral decisions, they can also respond to the needs, culture and special history of the Christian people of a particular region or time.”

    The Catechism further states that the grace of “Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing,’ and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings…” sidestepping the intractable issue of priests presiding at LGBT weddings.

    While granted that “Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do,” (ex opere operato Christi) nonetheless the Catechism states that, “by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.”

    And “for well-disposed members of the faithful” sacramentals can sanctify “almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.” (See Catechism of the Church, Sec. 1668-1670).


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