Monday 13 December 2010

Archbishop Longley owes faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics an apology

Bernard Longley (pictured), archbishop of Birmingham, has given an interview to The Tablet, in which he criticises (in similar terms to Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster) those Catholics who oppose the Soho Masses for homosexuals*. He goes on to contradict himself somewhat by disagreeing - rather weakly - with Archbishop Nichols and Bishop Malcolm McMahon on civil partnerships. (Readers will recall that Archbishop Nichols said that the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales was not opposed to gay civil partnerships; and Bishop McMahon said that he had no problem with headteachers of Catholic schools being in civil partnerships). You can read the relevant part of the interview at the end of this blog-post.

Daphne McLeod, chairman of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, which organises a regular prayer vigil outside the Soho Masses, has written a letter (see below) to The Tablet in response to Archbishop Longley's interview comments. Daphne has kindly given permission for her letter to be blogged.

To Daphne's excellent letter, I would add: what on earth is an archbishop doing giving an interview to The Tablet, the de facto house journal of British liberal Catholic dissent, including on pro-life/pro-family issues? Archbishop Longley owes faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics an unreserved apology.

* The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in paragraph 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

Letter from Daphne McLeod, chairman, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
The Editor, “The Tablet”
1, King Street Cloisters,
London. W6 OGY

11th December 2010

Dear Editor,

I am surprised to read Archbishop Longley’s attack on those of us who pray outside the Church of Our Lady and St Gregory during the five o’clock Masses for ‘lesbian and gay Catholics’ every first and third Sunday. His remarks include some inaccuracies which need correcting.

First, this is not a protest though that may be the way the homosexuals who organise these Masses describe it to the Archbishop. If he had spoken to any of us we would have explained that we are not protesting but praying in reparation for any sacrileges that might be taking place.

As it is we pray the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary, and the Divine Praises in reparation, the Divine Mercy Chaplet for all sinners and, at six o’clock, before we end, the Angelus. Although small in number we know we are joined by many who cannot reach London but who pray with us in churches, in homes and in convents.

Second, the Archbishop says he doesn’t know whether any of us “have made attempts to meet the people who are going to these Masses”. If he had asked us we would have assured him that we have met many of them and I would like to put it on record here that most of them are very friendly and perfectly honest about their homosexual lifestyles, introducing us to their partners and emphasising that they are in sexual relationships. So we are not ‘making any assumptions’ about them.

Some of us have been down to the Social Hour which follows every Mass where we have received kind hospitality enabling us to spend some time eating and drinking and talking to them and examining the books they have on sale. No-one, apart from the Archbishop, tries to pretend they are living or striving to live chaste lives.

Of course there are chaste homosexuals in the Church who do live chaste lives and they demand our real respect, but they would never ask for or attend any Mass arranged especially for homosexuals. They go to Mass in their own parish and only receive Holy Communion if they are in a state of Grace, like the rest of us. I know from phone calls I have received that many of them are very concerned about the Soho Masses where everyone receives Holy Communion in spite of openly admitting they are and intend to stay in homosexual relationships.

If Archbishop Longley really thinks we are so misguided, why didn’t he approach us and put us right when he was an Auxiliary in Westminster? He had plenty of opportunity. Indeed, once when we had both attended a talk in Westminster Hall I started to approach him to discuss this problem only to see him turn and run out of the hall and disappear. I pursued him but, as I can’t run as fast as I used to now I am 82, I lost him.

We know he has spent a lot of time with ex-Carmelite priest Martin Pendergast, his long term partner Julian Filochowski and the other organisers. At the first Mass they thanked him publicly from the altar for not insisting they make any changes to their homosexual lifestyles. This was repeated later on their web-site and in the Pink Paper, the paper for practising homosexuals in London. This paper also celebrated Archbishop Longley’s elevation to Birmingham as ‘their’ bishop getting promotion.

I do feel this pretence and condoning is not in any sense compassionate or pastoral. These Catholics need and deserve proper guidance, especially the young ones who have not received good religious instruction. I cannot forget the poor young man who said to me, “There is no need to worry about us Daphne, if it were still wrong these Masses would not have been especially arranged for us.”

Of course it is still wrong. St Paul among others makes that very clear and so does the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church and they both also stress that anyone practising this life style must not receive Holy Communion without repentance, Confession and a desire to amend their lives. Who is Archbishop Longley to change this age-old universal teaching?

Perhaps after reading this, the Archbishop might like to revise his own judgemental stance about us.

Daphne McLeod
Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
From the interview with Bernard Longley, archbishop of Birmingham, The Tablet, 11 December 2010:
"...Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor selected him to negotiate with a group of lesbian and gay Catholics who wanted a regular Mass celebrated for them, their families and friends. For some years the Mass had been celebrated in an Anglican church in London’s Soho and the cardinal felt it should be in a Catholic church instead. It was settled in 2007 that the Soho Masses Pastoral Council should be formed and would be responsible for organising a monthly Mass at the Church of the Assumption in Warwick Street. Conservative Catholics opposed to the Mass regularly gather outside to protest but Archbishop Longley has stern words for them. 'The Church does not, as it were, have a moral means-testing of people before they come to receive the sacraments and it is very easy to jump to and come to the wrong conclusions about people when you don’t know them. I don’t know whether the people outside have made attempts to meet the people who are going to the Masses in Soho,' he says. I question whether those protesting are making assumptions about those people’s lifestyles, to which the archbishop replies: 'I would assume that is the case, and so it isn’t for any of us to make those judgements which, in conscience, people make before God and also within the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation assisted by priests and other pastors within the Church. I think, at the end of the day, those sorts of protests are counterproductive and usually have the effect of hardening attitudes and polarising rather than fundamentally changing people’s minds.'

"Given his reluctance to make assumptions about the lifestyles of gay Catholics, it might be reasonable to assume that he would have no objection to civil partnerships. After all, the Archbishop of Westminster and president of the bishops’ conference, Vincent Nichols, does not oppose them. But Archbishop Longley thinks differently. 'I am not in favour of it because it establishes a legally and publicly recognised relationship which is too easily confused with the sacrament of marriage. Obviously it’s not marriage, because a marriage is between a man and a woman, but I do think it is very easy for people to be confused about civil partnerships and marriage as if they were the same thing.'

"Another of his fellow bishops, Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service, has said that a head teacher could be in a civil partnership and still live according to the Church’s teaching. But Archbishop Longley is doubtful about this. 'In those circumstances, a practising Catholic would not enter into a civil partnership in good standing with the Church. It would be a matter of concern, I think, in a school if a teacher were to enter into a civil partnership, but that would be something that would be the concern of the governing body of the school and clearly of the trustees.'"
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