Friday, 10 September 2010

Newsnight spreads confusion about the 'gay Mass'

Peter Marshall took another hard look at the Church on Newsnight (here from 19.10 to 32.03), this time looking at doctrinal orthodoxy. Exhibit A of the Defence's case against Pope Benedict as a "hardliner" was the "gay Mass" -- actually, a Mass for gay people -- in Soho, central London, which is approved by Westminster Diocese (and defended here by +Vincent).

Mark Dowd, who also discussed the Mass in 'The Pope's British divisions', his excellent radio programme yesterday, has written about the Mass for the BBC News magazine here, noting that it has Vatican approval (or rather, they know about it); but  Newsnight preferred to say that the Vatican's attitude to the Mass was "unknown".

In fact, they are thoroughly aware. The process of setting up the official diocesan Mass for gay people following years of "unofficial" Masses celebrated by Catholic priests for gay people in an Anglican church was carefully squared with Cardinal Levada of the CDF who, having been Archbishop of San Francisco, knew all about the need for special pastoral provision for gay and lesbian Catholics.

The Newsnight report ignored all this, assuming that "being gay" was somehow against Catholic teaching, or that people who attended the Mass were sexually active -- although this was not actually said. All Marshall could only say was that the congregation in Soho was "openly, boldly homosexual" (although many of the congregants looked distinctly unhappy at being filmed). It took +Vincent to point out that the moment of receiving Communion was not "a moment of judgement", and that those who assumed the worst of others "ought to learn to hold their tongue". (Among those not hearing that was a scary woman protester outside the church, who said "there wasn't a man among them" -- meaning, as it happens, the bishops).

The writer Peter Stanford (photo) sought to explain the "difficulty" by contrasting the Church's "moral clarity" with its "endlessly compassionate" pastoral approach.  But that only added to the confusion caused by the assumption that "being gay" was a problem for the Church, reinforced by Marshall's pay-off line: Pope Benedict "may have to decide you can be gay and a good Catholic, whatever Vatican doctrine [sic] says".

But Pope Benedict will have already decided that -- in line with Catholic doctrine. It is not a gay orientation which is sinful, but homosexual acts. Of course you can be "gay and a good Catholic".