Saturday, 14 March 2009

'Acceptance' masses in Sydney and the cult of homosexuality

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).

True acceptance

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.


dingo said...

Dear Terra,

The blurb about your website says that it is about the TLM. I'm not sure of your purpose or motive for delving into this long worn out issue about sexual orientation on this site.


Approx 5% of the population I understand is gay/lesbian, and less than 1% is transgender. I don't know what percentage might be defined as bisexual.

Research evidence appears to suggest that the proportion of gay/lesbian people is roughly the same across many difficult ethnic groups.

Dare I suggest that the same proportion of gay/lesbian people attend many of the TLM sacramental programs in Australia.

As a participant in my local TLM community and culture, I know of many gay/lesbian people who contribute to our beautiful Latin Mass liturgies in Sydney.

Research findings have also shown that up to 40% of clergy in RC Church reported a gay/bisexual orientation in the Anglo-speaking world. However, I assume that number will fall as gay men are now barred from ordination.

I recall reading somewhere many years ago... In 1962, gay men could be ordained after being celibate for 3 years. However, if a man participated in heterosexual sex outside of marriage, then he was not to be accepted for ordination???

I am not sure if the Acceptance blog is fully representative of the reasons that many Catholics attend theIR Masses. For many, this Mass provides an opening to assist many 'cradle' gays/lesbians return to the Church in their adult years and a pastoral opportunity for them to do so.

The reasons that many gay/lesbian people left the Church (at one time or another) are many. These include sexual abuse by clergy as young people, difficulties with celibacy (ie as for many heterosexuals), etc, etc.

Perhaps the (TLM) protesters outside the the Holy Mass in Sydney on Friday nights should consider the damage that they are doing to the TLM community by placing their agenda under this umbrella.

The Pontiff's recent words to the Bishops concerning SSPX might apply equally here: Let us ALL work for the evangelisation of the world rather than chasing the few remaining Christians out of the RC Church thru schismatic behaviours.

So, a message to the Friday night protesters: Become part of the solution rather than part of the problem for Cardinal Pell and the Church in Sydney! Will your actions further potentiate the difficulties for the Latin Mass community already caused thru the SSPX issue?

Finally, thank you for some of your kinder words on this sensitive topic. I hope that gay/lesbian people (especially young people) attached to the TLM community experience sympathetic pastors in the confessional and other sacraments. To the many kind and sympathetic pastors in the TLM community - a big thank you. Reconcilliation is two-way process!


Terra said...

Dingo - This blog is about topics of interest to those attached to the TLM, not just issues ABOUT the TLM. Since our faith should affect every aspect of our life, and it is my blog, that means anything I feel like writing about!

And as it happens I wrote on this topic today because it is the anniversary of the death of a dear friend of mine who died many years ago now, thankfully reconciled to the Church. I'd appreciate any prayers others might offer for his soul though, and for his family.

In relation to the protesters, I don't know whether any of them were particularly attached to the TLM or not - it is possible one or two were, but I imagine it was much broader group than that.

The issue I've raised (and I think that they were raising) is whether this Friday night mass is really for the purpose you describe, of bringing people back to the Church, and operates in a way that respects Church law, or not. From the website, as I've suggested, it is fair to assume not!

I'd be happy to get some concrete assurances that I'm wrong. You may be someone in a position to give them...

Your comments on some of the reasons people have left are important. And I think we do need to recognise that homosexuality is a serious disorder that is hard for people to deal with in a faithful way (and for parents, siblings and friends to cope with some of the self-destructive behaviour that is often associated with it). That means we need to be sympathetic to the problems homosexuals experience in attempting to do so. But it is not charity to allow sin to flourish unchecked, particularly sins which are a serious threat to the future of our society, which is why we perhaps instinctively react so strongly to open homosexuality, and why the Church has taken stronger steps in relation to ordination, not least in the interests of protecting against the possiblity of more abuse cases in the future.

I do agree that we should all strive to assist in bringing those outside full communion with the Church back to it. That is why I support the call for prayers the protest group have made. And I'm glad to hear that you and others have found TLM pastors to be sympathetic and helpful confessors etc.

I think however the reason that many of us struggle on this topic is the increasingly strident political demands of the homosexual community, such as for recognition of homosexual 'marriage', to permit adoption of children, and so forth, and attempts to prevent the Church from teaching her consistent views on this subject, in Australia and elsewhere. Cardinal Pell's recent Oxford speech details exactly what I am talking about.

If Acceptance want to avoid protests, it needs to distance itself from that agenda.

Anonymous said...

Your informant has not given you all the information. The group did say the rosary outside St Joseph' Newtown on Feb 21st. What the informant did not say is that the 'someone in the Church' who had 'ordered them away' was in fact Cardinal George Pell. Despite this they still proceeded. So much for obedience to Church authority. The Cardinal would have the same concerns as many others that a Eucharistic celebration which is a regular part of the Parish's liturgical life, is being made the target of a demonstration of any kind. What does this say about respect, or more significantly a lack of respcet for the Eucharist?

A few other points to note. It is highly misleading to equate St Joseph's with St Mary's in Brisbane. The Mass is fully according to the Roman Missal and the General Instructions. The Friday night Mass is not a 'gay acceptance Mass' but in fact the Parish Mass for the day, as established by the Parish Priest and the Parish Council. St Joseph's is in Newtown, a parish with a high demography of gay and lesbian people, and this is an outreach on behalf of the Parish. It is not, as you describe, a Mass preaching 'open acceptance of these sins'. You might also note that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered on Friday nights at St Joseph's and the Parish second rite of reconciliation for Lent is on Friday night.

While your reporting of the Church's teaching on homosexuality is accurate, unfortunately many of your comments on the Friday night Mass at St Joseph's are ill informed and reflect little of the Gospel teachings, but clearly reflect a homophobic attitude, since, as you rightly say, any Mass celebrated is for a congregation of sinners, so to deliberately target this Mass can only be seen as discriminatory, Other Parish Masses are OK but not any where homosexuals are obviously present?

Terra, this comment is for your information. I suspect that you are unlikely to approve it and publish it on your blog.


Terra said...


Your reassurance that this isn’t a South Brisbane situation is good, but I think I indicated that in my original post. The other background on the mass, if true, is interesting, and begs several other questions.

As for obedience, if they haven’t been back since they were told to leave, then it seems to me they are being obedient. That said, obedience has its limits and they are entitled to make their concerns about the situation known.

Here is the problem. The Acceptance website advertises this mass as ’theirs’, and associates it with a whole other agenda. If this truly is a parish mass with an intended, perhaps the parish should request that ad be removed and advertise it in other ways.

It is good that reconciliation is available. I just hope that people are taking advantage of it, are confessing all of the things the Church teaches are sins, and not just receiving any way. Now it is true that homosexuals are far from alone in ignoring Church law on this subject. Be assured that the targets of my posts on this and related topics have and will continue to range far and wide!

But if a mass is targeted at a particular target group where there are known issues, I’d expect the priest to be reminding the congregation of the rules. Somehow I doubt that occurs.

As for the claim that to even speak of this issue is somehow homophobia, give me a break – and go and read the Cardinal’s Oxford paper.

On the one hand I’m impressed at your vigilant perusal of the internet, since I very much doubt the two commenters so far are regular readers of this blog. On the other hand, the two comments seem pretty much intended to suggest I have no right to say anything at all on this topic. Yet it is an important social issue, an important issue for the Church, and one that is important to me personally because I care about the souls of those in peril.

I’m the wrong gal to try to bully into shutting up. So don’t even try.

dingo said...

Dear Terra,

Just a couple of points:

(1) I object to the personalised comment (re: me not a regular viewer of this website).

I visit this blogsite several times a week. You're a great source of information on TLM activities both nationally and globally.

I also find the weekly page references to the Monastic Diurnal (St Michael's Abbey Press and prefaced by Dom Cuthbert Brogan osb in 2004) to be personally useful.

Further, I have previously provided comments about your previous association of homosexuality and St Mary's in South Brisbane on your blogsite.

(Incidentally, I believe that my comments were very much reflected in the homily of Abp Colleridge at the recent FSSP ordination to priesthood in Canberra. However, I'm not sure why my comments (and others) were withdrawn soon after these ordinations.)

(2) Acceptance and St Joseph's at Newtown: My understanding is that the Holy Mass at St Joseph's is part of the Parish's sacramental program.

I'm not aware of the Parish having any control over the website of either individuals (ie me) or groups (ie Acceptance) that attend there. Similarly, the Church has no control over websites such as this one.

(3) Homosexuality and St Mary's in Sth Brisbane: I attended St Marys on last Sunday. My purpose was to see for myself.

I last attended Holy Mass there in 1989. To my surprise things had very much changed over the two decades (except for the PP appearing to be a bit older).

Yes, I noticed lots of heterosexual couples with children. The Church was actually packed. However, there appeared to be a lack of both rubrics and, to my astonishment, homosexuals in the congregation.

Again, the association of Catholics (who happen to be homosexual +/- celibate state) with the St Marys sacramental program was difficult to fathom - at least on this occasion.

On a more positive note... the marble high altar, statues of BVM and several Saints, and the Church's architecture have been left intact following changes from Vatican II! That's irony for you.

(4) A parting reflection from today's readings:

As per the Antiphon for the Magnificat at tonight's Vespers (MD pp 212*), "But the father said to his servants: Bring forth quickly the first robe, and put in on him, and put a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet". (See today's Gospel reading from Luke 15:11-32).

Perhaps the indulgent son was the young gay man that came back to his Father in heaven. How will we be greeting him?

It is worth reflecting on the impression of "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt van Rijn. It is portrayed on the recent Baronius Press edition of Fr J P De Caussade's, "Self Abandonment to Divine Providence".


Terra said...


Apologies if you are indeed a regular reader, glad to hear that. But I don’t resile from my basic point that the substance of the comments was that this was a no go topic.

On the association of St Mary’s with acceptance with homosexuality, I’m relying entirely on their public rhetoric. Their outreach on this front is one of their consistent claims to fame. As to not seeing any homosexuals at last week’s mass, in a crowd of a thousand odd, how on earth do you know? Do you know every single homosexual in Brisbane or every member of that congregation's sexual orientation? Do they wear a stamp on their forehead? In my experience, most homosexuals look and dress like anyone else, unless they are out to make a deliberate statement.

In any case, the issue isn't individuals or numbers, it is standing policies.

I do agree that the splendour of the Church itself is somewhat ironic, I understand the reason is that it has heritage protection.

As to my post (and associated comments) on the ordinations, I seemed to provoke a rabbit-hole or two that seemed to me to detract from the positive nature of the occasion. That was largely my fault in not thinking a bit more carefully about what I said and the way I said it, but the easiest approach seemed to be just to remove the whole thing.

On the Sydney case, it is true that the parish doesn’t have any control over the Acceptance website. But they do have control over whether these are termed official ‘Acceptance Masses’, and in fact the website includes the texts of sermons and other materials explicitly associated with Acceptance (for the Acceptance Christmas Mass, etc). I'm guessing they haven't even tried asking them not to associate themselves in this way.

I am certainly not suggesting that we turn away the prodigal homosexual (or any other type of) sinner. What I am saying is that they do actually have to repent!

And the message of the Church on this front should be absolutely clear.

I repeat, we should do what we can to support them. It is homosexuality - and its association with militant secularism - that is the problem, not homosexuals per se. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Anonymous said...

Whilst simplicity can be criticised, this complex issue of homosexuality and Catholic faith seems clear enough:

I can be homosexual and a Catholic

I can't be a practicing homosexual and a practising Catholic.

We, all sinners, need the prayers of each other.


Anonymous said...

Raising the issues of sexual orientation and inclusion in the Community of the Church is not homophobic. In the same way, challenging attitudes and misinformation as I did does not constitute 'bullying you into shutting up' And yes I have read what the Cardinal had to say in Oxford. The type of group he was identifying there is far from the group that gathers for Eucharist at St Joseph's Newtown.
I find it interesting that you did not quote completely from the Acceptance Website, which, as Dingo has commented, is not under the control of the Parish of St Joseph's. But the section that you omitted from the middle of your quotation says: "Acceptance Sydney fully supports the Catholic Church, its mission and values; however, our focus, like Jesus, is upon people. Acceptance Sydney's mission is to support GLTB Catholics, their families and friends, ACCEPTANCE SYDNEY DOES NOT SEEK TO PROMOTE HOMOSEXUALITY. IT IS NOT AFFILLIATED WITH GROUPS THAT AIM TO PUBLICLY CONFRONT CHURCH LEADERS NOR IS IT ASSOCIATED WITH GROUPS THAT CLAIM TO BE ABLE TO "CURE" HOMOSEXUALS."

Dingo's reference to The Prodigal Son is very apt and demonstrates the kind of compassion of The Prodigal Father in the parable who welcomes back without question. The Friday night Mass at St Joseph's has parishioners and family and friends present forming the congregation. It provides an opportunity for Catholic parents of gay and lesbian children to come to a safe place where they can celebrate Eucharist together. The parents of one family there on a regular basis belong to the Opus Dei movement. This is the kind of reconciliation that can happen. I am sure that these are some of the reasons that the Cardinal had in mind when he advised those who still went ahead. Incidently, this was not the only ocassion when people have disrespected the Eucharist, even to the point of taking photos during the Canon and then pointed leaving before Communion. On all ocassions, the people at the Mass treated these groups with respect and invited them in to celebrate Eucharist and also to join them for the cup of tea after Mass. The invitation still stands, I am sure. Unfortunately, their actions would seem to indicate that they have not come to celebrate Eucharist. In fact they are deliberately disruptive and disrespectful.
Thank you Terra for opening this issue, so that misunderstanding can be challenged and reconciliation begun.


dingo said...

Dear Terra,

Thank you for explaining the decision to move the earlier blog entry. I must admit that I was somewhat stunned and baffled that it had occurred.

The Church's teachings are very clear around sexuality. To question the teaching does not essentially imply that the questioner is not leading a celibate state of life him or herself.

I believe that we are now moving our discussion forward a few notches. There are many directions that it could take. By focusing on one particular aspect of the topic, I do not wish to undermine the many others that are present.

As the topic is around sexuality, I would like to re-focus this discussion and see how the TLM community might provide a pastoral response here.

Let's see if we can get a discussion going...

Research has show that there is a significantly higher rate of suicide amongst young gay / lesbian people. This is often attributed to a lack of support from family and others in his/her social network.

I'd like to open up the discussion by asking a few questions:

(1) Do priests have a "duty of care" in their spiritual and pastoral guidance of young people presenting to the confessional with issues around their sexuality? (I assume that doctors and school counsellors have a duty of care if a patient raised similar concerns.)

(2) Where do trad Catholic parents of home-schoolers get support and guidance when their are concerns that their child might be gay/lesbian? Or, any other issue around relationships for that matter.

(3) The social stigma associated with being a gay / lesbian person may lead them to wish they were never born (ie perhaps wishing they were even aborted??). Do we
pray for all those aborted foetuses that may have been born as gay or lesbian people? Do we advocate on behalf of their 'life' too?

(4) How could we reduce this high rate of suicide in our own TLM community? What emotional messages do we give out when we condem the person rather than a particular behaviour?

(5) A young man experienced a calling to the priesthood but later discovered he was gay. He is now not permitted to be ordained as a deacon or priest. Religious communities of men assisted each other in the celibate life (so we were told). What supports are available today?

Hope that gets us thinking...


Terra said...


1. Please do not misrepresent the nature of the Acceptance site. The quote I used perfectly conveys the tone of the whole site. Catholic ‘values’ clearly does not mean Catholic doctrine in this case (as in most other instances it is used) – the suggested reading provided on the site for example is Shelby Sprong, not the Catechism of the Catholic Church!

2. Nothing you have said so far suggests that the group of protestors are ‘disrespecting the Eucharist’. The pages of this blog (and many others) are full of photos taken at the most sacred moments of the mass. Similarly, the rosary in or outside a Catholic Church- sounds catholic to me!

3. Bullying takes many forms. In relation to the homosexual community in the US, the Cardinal talked about the use of physical intimidation. But in his speech also gave examples of attempts to close down any criticism of topics, using the example of Islam, and to force people to act in ways contrary to their conscience, using the example of abortion. What we have here is a group of people who are legitimately concerned about their Church – because the actions of a few affect the whole mystical body. And raising it here quickly generated a comment questioning whether the topic was within the remit of my blog and my motives for raising it from Dingo, and a claim that I was being homophobic for even picking out this particular sin from you. A perfect illustration of the Cardinal’s argument in my opinion.

Terra said...


I would suggest that the high rate of suicide is most likely experienced by those who follow the empty and immoral gay lifestyle, not those who attempt to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church and frequent the sacraments.

Those who stay within the Church are supported above all by grace, and that makes all the difference.

Secondly, it is not enough to be celibate, one must also accept the Church's teaching on the subject. Willfully doubting the Church's teachings on matters of faith and morals is also a sin.

Thirdly, the task of a parent, priest or parish is to help teach the faith and help people live it, not about helping them indulge in some new agey existential angst about their possible sexual orientation. The purpose of confession, for example, is forgiveness of sins. I would have thought that there could be no better pastoral response then to encourage all of us to use the sacrament frequently.

Robert said...

The parish of Newtown is administered by Fr Peter Maher, who was until the end of 2008 the Chaplain of the University of Technology, Sydney (his contract expired and was not renewed, his position has been assumed by Fr Dominic Murphy OP and the staff of the USyd chaplaincy).

While a student at UTS I attended several masses by this priest which were anything but "in full accordance with the Missale Romanum". In fact, the same Cardinal Pell received uncountable complaints from Catholic students of UTS over the past decade or so (the time at which I have been affiliated with the university, I will not speak for a time before my own experience) and the obvious anti-doctrinal positions and advocacy of the Catholic Chaplain.

A simple example is this: when the World Youth Day cross visited the universities of Inner Sydney last year on Spy Wednesday, the UTS Chaplaincy decided to honour it with three flags - the Aboriginal flag, the "Peace dove" flag and the rainbow flag. The prayers were of an "acceptance and justice" nature, pointed in tone and substance.

I realise I may well be accused of character assassination, but please understand I simply wish to add my own experiences with the Pastor of Newtown in his capacity as Chaplain of UTS, and how it leads me to doubt the claim that these masses are being held in a spirit of faithfulness to the Magisterium.