As one example of how Pope Francis’ emphasis in Amoris Laetitia on “accompanying” gay and lesbian Catholics, together with his example of a more sensitive tone in pastoral care, comes news of a new initiative from Bishop Terence Drainey in Middlesbrough diocese. This is described in an article in the diocesan newspaper, Middlesbrough Catholic Voice, written by Fr Tony Lester, O.Carm.
Fr Lester was well known to London lesbian and gay Catholics of what were the Soho Masses, as a firm supporter of the congregation, and from time to time was a celebrant at our Masses when he could get down from his regular work in York.
In his article, Fr Lester notes that this is a direct response to Pope Francis’ lead during the Year of Mercy and his writing in “The Joy of the Gospel”.
Below is a section of the article, specifically referring to the motivation for the initiative, and how the it is planned to get it off he ground. (The full text may be read at the diocesan newspaper, Middlesbrough Diocesan Catholic Voice
It doesn’t take much imagination to have a sense of some of the very real wounds people who identify as LGBT and their parents and families might be living with. The bishop wishes to reach out to help heal those wounds. Is this going to be some kind of alternative Church? No. Our diocese has many groups and associations that focus on particular needs. The normal place of belonging for all their participants is the parish. This will be no different. Does it somehow go against the Church’s teaching? No. In taking this step, the teaching of the Church is not being changed in any way. Instead, other important aspects of Church teaching are coming to the fore and taking their proper place.
Father Tony Lester, O.Carm.
This is an important reminder that far from being somehow in conflict with Catholic teaching, inclusion and welcome for LGBT people is in fact required. This was confirmed at the 2014 Assembly of the Bishops’ Synod on Marriage and Family, when a clear majority, just short of two thirds of those present, voted in favour of a motion that lesbian and gay Catholics should be welcome in church.
The challenge for Middlesbrough, as for other dioceses and parishes, will be in determining just how this “outreach” will develop, and what form the resultant pastoral support will take.
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