Masses By LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Are Refuge for Those Seeking Home in the Church

Joe Stanley

The Catholic Diocese of Westminster recently marked the 21st anniversary of a pastoral outreach that welcomes Catholic LGBT+ people, their parents, families, and friends.

 “LGBT+ Catholics Westminster” began as a pastoral outreach after the city of London was rocked by a fatal bombing of a SoHo gay bar, the Admiral Duncan Pub. In response to this violence, the diocese instituted a bi-monthly Mass in the SoHo neighborhood, which has since been incorporated into the Jesuit-run Church of the Immaculate Conception, Mayfair.  

Joe Stanley, a past chair of the council that oversees the ministry’s activities, has been attending the LGBT+ Masses since 2002. Stanley told Positive News that “he was always fulfilled by his faith and didn’t believe that being gay should pose a barrier to him practising it.” Yet, when at age 13 he came out in 1960s Northern Ireland, he ended up in psychiatric treatment to try to change his orientation. As a result, he did not address his sexuality again until his early 20s.

“I was always quite comfortable going to mass and participating and seeing myself as a Catholic,” Stanley said “But, of course, I met lots of Catholics who hadn’t had the same experience.”

The Masses by LGBT+ Catholics Westminster have been “very successful in reaching out to a lot of people who hadn’t felt at home in a church before,” Stanley said. The ministry has also tried to raise global awareness about the issue of LGBTQ asylum seekers. Further, member Martin Pendergast spoke approvingly of the United Kingdom’s ban on conversion therapy when bishops remained quiet. To learn more about the group, you can visit their website here.

Pope Francis with pilgrims from LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council

While some conservative Catholics have opposed the outreach, the group has support from the local ordinary, Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Last year, while presiding at a Mass for the group, he offered new definitions of “home” and “family” which embraced configurations beyond the heterosexual nuclear grouping. Support has also come from Rome. When members of the ministry made a pilgrimage to Rome in 2019, Pope Francis greeted them personally in St. Peter’s Square after the Ash Wednesday papal audience. 

After almost 20 years of attending masses held by LGBT+ Catholics Westminster, Stanley commented that he has, “a real sense of God’s presence in the world. I don’t feel that He’s . . . going to exclude me from His presence because I happen to love my partner.”

Emily Win, May 22, 2020

4 replies
  1. Matias Wibowo
    Matias Wibowo says:

    Congratulations LGBT+ Catholics Westminster on your Anniversary. I was delighted to see you recall this unique history.

    It reminds me that Fr. Bernard J. Lynch S.M.A. celebrated that first Mass at the Chapel of the Holy Souls, Centrepeace, Camden. I can only imagine how difficult it was to find anybody to fill this radical role then.

    Recently, the President of Ireland awarded Fr. Lynch with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for his relentless work for people with HIV/AIDS and justice seeking for LGBTQI people in London and New York. It is a gift of spiritual reflection to appreciate this present time event and the legacy of 21 years ago. Huge gratitude to the LGBT+ Catholics, parents, families and friends, the organiser team, and Fr. Lynch who celebrated this transformational Mass 21 years ago! 🙏

    Reply
  2. Joe Stanley
    Joe Stanley says:

    Just for clarity’s sake:
    1) I was the Chair of the Pastoral Council 2006-2013 but no longer am.
    2) I wasn’t “sent” to see a psychiatrist by my parents; in tge first place my father had abandoned my Mother several years earlier, and I went to see a priest/psychiatrist after discussion with my mother.
    I’d be grateful if this could be corrected.

    Reply
  3. Steven Stencil
    Steven Stencil says:

    Sadly, the Church Hierarchy in the United States has been pastorally castrated when it comes to any holistic & positive outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.

    Reply

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