A week or two back a reader sent me a note about what was described as 'Sydney's St Mary's', a church in Sydney (St Joseph's, Newtown) where a 'gay acceptance mass' is celebrated every Friday night. Now I have to say that from what I can see on the web, Newtown and its priests are certainly liberals and something of a thorn on the side of the Cardinal (though not, as far as I can see, quite on the scale of South Brisbane, for which we can all be thankful).
Nonetheless, there is something inherently very problematic indeed about the idea of a Catholic Church allowing Masses which appear at least to celebrate acceptance of homosexuality - as opposed to acceptance of homosexuals.
Homosexuals, it must be said, are merely sinners like everyone else, afflicted by a disorder that leads them to be called to chastity (CCC 2357-2359). In theory at least there is no reason to treat them differently to any other type of sinner, but rather recognise that they are struggling with 'deep-seated tendencies' to inherently disordered actions, perhaps falling from time to time, and perhaps even deluding themselves about whether they truly are sinning.
So the Church has always condemned actions such as violence against homosexuals, and the Catechism calls on them to be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
The culture of false tolerance
But of course in reality that is not these masses are about - they are about the increasingly strident demand that gravely depraved acts be treated as if they were morally acceptable; about demands that unrepentant practicing homosexuals be treated as if they were not sinning; and about social engineering that will destroy our society if let run unchecked.
Acceptance Sydney's website for example states as its belief that:
"Gay and lesbian people are created by God, in God's own image. It is OK to be Gay and Catholic. We are born gay and lesbian. We are proud to be gay and lesbian....Acceptance is striving for full recognition and acceptance of homosexual, bisexual and transgender Catholics, enabling them to celebrate their God-given sexuality and to receive the Sacraments as full members of the Catholic Church."
And, one suspects, receiving communion in the meantime regardless of Church teaching on the subject, putting souls at peril. So just why is this mass being allowed to continue?
At one level one can argue that lots of others are receiving communion who are not in a state of grace - those voting against life in our legislatures, unmarried heterosexual couples living together for example, married couples using contraception, or those addicted to illegal drugs. One could advocate prayer vigils outside of most parish masses in the interests of promoting the avoidance of desecration. But the difference is that we don't generally, let alone regularly (except in dissenting parishes like St Mary's!) celebrate masses preaching open acceptance of these sins!
So what can we do?
My informant tells me that a group had been going to pray the rosary outside the Church while this Friday night mass took place, but have been ordered away by someone in the Church. That's pretty sad if true. The Catechism, after all, urges that homosexuals be supported through prayer, sacramental grace and disinterested friendship.
The circular I received urged keeping a holy hour and praying for the conversion of those involved, and that sounds like a good thing to do. But as an act of charity, please remember also the dreadful toll that AIDS has taken on this group, and pray for the souls in purgatory of those who have struggled to obey the Church's teachings in this area, and/or have been reconciled to her before death.