LONDON, December 21, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – With pressure increasing on the Catholic episcopate over the government’s “gay marriage” proposals, the archbishop of Westminster has reached out for the first time to an orthodox Catholic organization that helps people cope with same-sex attraction. This weekend, Archbishop Vincent Nichols attended the Advent Retreat Day put on by Encourage, the UK affiliate of the U.S. group, Courage.
“The archbishop spent a significant amount of time meeting men and women from (En)Courage, made up of single and married people, the parents of same-sex attracted children as well as other individuals seeking to understand and support those with same-sex attraction,” a media release from the Archdiocese of Westminster said.
A source in the Westminster archdiocese confirmed with LifeSiteNews.com on Wednesday that this is the first time there has been any official public contact between the country’s leading Catholic see and the world’s leading Catholic organisation ministering to same-sex attracted people according to the Church’s authentic teachings.
Speaking to the group of the example set by the 16th century English martyrs, who were killed by the Protestant political regime of the time for refusing to denounce the papacy, Nichols said, “Maybe today we don’t make that kind of sacrifice,” he said, “but anyone who wants to be a disciple of Christ will have to make daily sacrifices.”
“It is not possible to live faithfully to Christ without some daily sacrifice. It takes courage to try and find and follow the pathway of Christ, which is true for all of us,” he said.
Nichols heard the testimony of several group members, including Pablo, a man from Spain who said when he abruptly came to realize that his homosexual lifestyle had been based on false premises, he felt he had nowhere to go.
“I rapidly saw that the way my relationships had been formed was wrong. I found myself in fear and shock. Where could I go with this?” Pablo asked.
“Only the Church offered a message that fitted what I was then experiencing deep below the surface which I now know to be the truth. The Catholic Church’s teaching offers same-sex attracted people the truth,” he said. “My life began to completely change when I discovered (En)Courage, which was saying what I had discovered intuitively. I began to embrace chastity and stopped every sexual relationship. My life now has nothing to do with how I used to live. My identity is now in Jesus.”
Encourage bases its ministry on the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and presents members with five principles:
– “Live chaste lives in accordance with the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality”;
– “Dedicate one’s life to Christ”;
– “Foster a spirit of fellowship” in order to “ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone”;
– “Be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life”; and
– “Live lives that may serve as good examples to others.”
The meeting may herald a change in direction for the Archdiocese. Until now, many faithful Catholics have been strongly critical of the decision to refuse to discontinue the notorious Soho Masses that have been condemned as opposed to Catholic teaching on sexuality.
According to eyewitnesses, as well as documentary sources like published homilies, the Soho Masses openly endorse the “gay lifestyle,” approving and encouraging illicit sexual behavior and plumping for political changes including civil partnership legislation and now “gay marriage.”
Archbishop Nichols himself has a long history of ambiguous and confusing statements with regard to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. In 2011, he endorsed homosexual civil unions, saying they “provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision.”
“As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality,” Abp. Nichols added.
In 2010, an interviewer from the Daily Telegraph asked the archbishop, “Should the Church one day accept the reality of gay partnerships?” He replied simply: “I don’t know.”
“That tradition says human sexuality is for an expression of total self-giving in fidelity in a way that is open to the creation of new life. Now, that’s tough, that’s a high ideal. I’m not sure many people have ever observed it in its totality, but it doesn’t mean to say it has no sense,” he added.
Asked in the same year by the BBC whether he could foresee the Church changing its “position” on homosexuality, Nichols responded, “I don’t know…Who knows what’s down the road?”
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While voluminous evidence has been presented to the archbishop and to his predecessors to the contrary – including the public statements of the Soho Mass organizing committee – the Archdiocese of Westminster continues to maintain the official position that the intentions of the Soho Mass organization are in line with the goals of the Catholic Church.
One former auxiliary bishop, Bernard Longley, now bishop of Birmingham went so far as to accuse the Catholics concerned about the situation of being bigots. Realizing that the diocesan machinery was determined to continue protecting the Soho Masses, objectors started focusing their efforts on getting information to Rome, but have met with little movement thus far.
A new nuncio, Antonio Mennini, has been appointed to Britain by Pope Benedict XVI, replacing the John Paul II-appointed Faustino Sainz Muñoz, who was known to have been strongly supportive of the English Catholic Church’s “liberal” tendencies. Under Mennini, sources in Westminster have made it clear that the power of the so-called “magic circle” of ultra-liberal Catholic bishops in England and Wales may be coming to an end.
Under Mennini, who has the responsibility of guiding the choices of episcopal appointments, strongly pro-Ratzinger men have been appointed to the traditionally far-left sees of Portsmouth and Shrewsbury, with more rumored to be waiting in the wings.