The diocese of Middlesbrough reported in the September edition of “Catholic Voice” that after reflection by Bishop Terry, clergy, and parishioners, the Diocese would be initiating a new process of pastoral outreach and inclusion for LGBT Catholics. That process will be formally launched on December 10th in York, with a Mass for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends, followed by time for discussion on pastoral needs and proposals.
From their facebook page:
Mass to inaugurate the new service of Middlesbrough Diocese, which gives an explicit welcome to LGBT+ Catholics, their families, and friends, will take place at 4pm on 10th December 2017 (2nd Sunday of Advent) at the chapel of The Bar Convent, 17 Blossom Street, York, YO24 1AQ (just outside Micklegate Bar, 5 minutes’ walk from York Railway Station). Followed by tea, coffee, and mince pies. Over refreshments there will be an informal meeting to discuss the future of this new outreach. All are welcome.
This news from Middlesbrough follows a successful similar Mass last month at St Alban’s church in Derby (Nottingham diocese). That Mass in turn, followed an event last year in the Nottingham cathedral, as part of the diocesan contribution to the 2016 Year of Mercy. Earlier in 2016, Brentwood cathedral had also held a Mass for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends, as part of the Year of Mercy.
These moves to formal diocesan provision of proper pastoral support for LGBT Catholics and their families is most welcome. For too long, this important ministry was left largely on the shoulders of LGBT Catholics themselves, with the help of supportive individual priests. For years, the “Soho Masses” in London worked alone, with no diocesan help, before achieving formal recognition and accreditation as a diocesan ministry in Westminster. For over 40 years, Quest has had regional groups offering valuable support around the country, but for much of that time experienced no co-operation, and even direct opposition, from the country’s bishops.
Thankfully, that is changing. The Nottingham Masses followed extensive discussions between Quest members and the bishop. Quest has also been involved in discussions with bishops in some other dioceses. We wait with interest to see what results those will bring. The Middlesbrough initiative is the result of work by locals, not involved with Quest. It could well be, that under the radar, there are still more developments in still more dioceses.
It is clear from discussions at the two Family Synods in Rome 2014 and 2015, and from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” that followed it, that the institutional church is finally waking up to the importance of an explicit welcome and pastoral support for LGBT Catholics and their families. It is reasonable to expect that we will see more of this in future. However, there is still a very long way to go, and it is not enough to sit back, and wait for it to happen. With the exception of the Brentwood cathedral “Year of Mercy” Mass, the other developments have all been the result of hard work by local LGBT activists and their allies, both laity and priests. Wherever we are, whatever our personal circumstances, we must continue to work to expand lgbt inclusion and formal pastoral support, in our parishes and our dioceses.