Among the 16 men Pope Francis designated Cardinals over the weekend is the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. The Guardian reports that Nichols, though critical of the UK’s plans for marriage equality, seems to share some affinity with the Pope’s “Who am I to judge?” ethos when it comes to LGBT Catholics. He defended a special Mass in a London neighborhood popular with LGBT people that had been criticized by traditionalists. From the article:
Despite the immutable nature of church teaching on homosexuality and his own criticisms of the government’s gay marriage plans, Nichols’s outspoken defence of fortnightly masses for gay, lesbian and transgender Roman Catholics won him gratitude and respect.
The Soho masses ended a year ago, reputedly because of pressure from the Vatican and an outcry from traditionalist British Catholics who disapproved of what they saw as a celebration of homosexuality.
For six years, however, they were a fixture – and staunchly defended by the archbishop. In 2010, Nichols laid into critics of the Soho masses, saying: “Anybody from the outside who is trying to cast a judgment on the people who come forward for communion really ought to learn to hold their tongue.”
When asked by the BBC about the blessings of same-sex unions by some Anglican clergy, Nichols said he couldn’t predict the future for the Catholic Church:
“I don’t know. Who knows what’s down the road?”
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith appointed by Pope Benedict in 2012, was rumored to have put pressure on the British church to end the Masses. In keeping with Vatican tradition of promoting curia officials, Pope Francis also chose Müller to be elevated to the College of Cardinals.
Many Catholic dioceses in the US, including Washington, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston host special Masses that appeal to the LGBT community.