Cardinal Nichols’ Apology to “All Those Who Have Left in Tears”

For the Feast of All Saints on Sunday, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, issued a pastoral letter to be read in all churches of his diocese. Drawing attention to the synod’s emphasis on mercy and accompaniment for those in difficulty, he included in his letter a clear apology to “all those who have left in tears.”


In the final round of small group discussions, the German language group had included a specific apology to lesbian and gay people in their written report (which was unanimously agreed by all, including the conservative Cardinal Mueller). Cardinal Nichols’ apology is not specifically directed at lesbian and gay Catholics, but is certainly intended to include us. He knows full well that our people are among those who have “left in tears”: he has been told so, often enough. He is known to have met fairly frequently with openly gay individuals, and also with representatives of LGBT Catholic organisations. He has received at two written reports on the subject, one which I wrote on behalf of Quest, and another prepared by the LGBT group meeting at Farm Street parish, Mayfair. I know that he has read both reports.

It is also worth noting his assertion that at the synod, the German bishops’ apology was not the only one. No others made it into the written record, but Cardinal Nichols says there were “many”  who wanted an expression of regret and apology.

Here’s the relevant extract (read the full pastoral letter at the diocesan website).

During the Synod discussions, many wanted us to express, humbly, a word of regret and apology that this often has not been the path we have taken. I am glad to do so now.

The purpose of this focus of our pastoral work is very clear. It was beautifully expressed in the first reading at Mass last Sunday: ‘They left in tears. But I will comfort them and lead them back; I will guide them to streams of water … For I am a father to Israel and Ephraim is my son’ (Jer. 31.9). To all who have left in tears I want to offer a hand of welcome, especially during this coming Year of Mercy. With time we hope to fashion a clear invitation for you to come to meet the Lord, to ponder His ways in your lives, to sense his mercy and his truth and to grow in strength as his baptised disciples in the family of the Church.

2 thoughts on “Cardinal Nichols’ Apology to “All Those Who Have Left in Tears””

  1. True, Cardinal Nichols’ apology is not specifically directed at lesbian and gay Catholics. . . .

    But even if it were, words of apology are good first step but NOT NEARLY ENOUGH!

    The apology has to include the way that almost all bishops and priests stood mute and were complicit with Cardinal Ratzinger in ramrodding his untested, misguided, and disordered thoughts on homosexuality down the throats of the whole church. The apology must also include the way that Dignity and other LGBT organizations were blackballed and excluded from meeting on church-owned property. A sincere apology must further include steps for lifting the censures that were imposed upon priests and nuns who supported the quest for a proper LGBT spirituality that went outside of the rigid boundaries set by Ratzinger’s disordered thoughts. . . .

    I am seething with anger as I write the finishing lines of my short book on “What Jesus Would Say to a Lesbian Couple.” Here is a big risk venture. No more playing “Mr. Nice.”

    I am writing by way of casting off my shame for keeping silence for twenty-five years while training future priests and lay-ministers. Privately I heard the pain and felt the tears of homosexuals, but in the seminary classroom a cold fear crept over me. I made small safe steps, but I failed Jesus by never creating the open dialogue that might have exposed how the “official church” inadvertently fostered “hate speech and hate deeds” against those very persons whom I, in the name of God’s love, felt bound to cherish and protect. No one is safe until “All our Children” are safe.

    If you’re interested in pursuing this topic, I’d be pleased to have you read it. . . .

  2. An addition to yesterday’s post:

    A sincere apology must further include steps for lifting the unfair dismissals of lay pastors and gifted teachers because they came out of the closet or because they supported same-sex marriages. And how about those who have been refused communion because they have chosen to celebrate a covenantal love for their partner?

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