by John Carey
The authorities at Westminster Cathedral have offered to pay compensation to the Gay Christian movement after deciding last week to ban the movement from holding a meeting at the Conference Centre, But the gesture has failed to placate the Movement, a militant pressure group for homosexual rights, who said that the Cathedral's behaviour still left a "nasty taste in the mouth." The row blew up last week when Canon Oliver Kelly, the Cathedral administrator stepped in to cancel the Movement's booking of the centre for its annual general meeting on March 31.
In a statement released through the Catholic Information Office, Canon Kelly said that part of the GCM's "statement of. conviction" was incompatible with Catholic teaching. The section he objected to runs: "It is entirely compatible with Christianity faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship."
Canon Kelly commented: "Catholic teaching is quite clear. There must be personal concern and pastoral help offered to those who are homosexual but human sexuality is a gift from God that finds its true expression within the context of a married, loving relationship."
He also objected to various elements in the full programme, including a eucharist, a slide show and a bookstall. In response the GCM pointed out angrily that the booking had been made and a £25 deposit paid last July, and that the full programme for the day had been sent to Canon Kelly's office on January 19. They said that they had offered to drop the things that had been objected to in the programme but said that Canon Kelly had refused to negotiate with them. And they accused the Cathedral of violating "a fundamental principle of natural justice."
However on Tuesday a spokesman at the Cathedral was at pains to stress that the decision was in no way intended as "A callous rejection of homosexuals."
The full implications of the booking had not been realised until a couple of weeks ago when they saw advertisements for the meeting appearing in the religious press which seemed to indicate that the meeting was intended to attract new members, he said.
"It became obvious that if the meeting went ahead here confusion could be caused in the minds of the general public and that people would think that a mature
decision had been taken to widen the teaching of the Church to embrace full sexual relations between homosexuals," he said. "At that point we had no option but to cancel the booking." He added that the Cathedral staff had regular meetings with Quest, a group of Catholic homosexuals.
Meanwhile Mr Martin Pendergast, chairman of the Catholic Renewal Movement, has
written to Bishop Harris, president of the Social Welfare Corn
mission asking him to intervene to stop "such blatant and prejudiced oppression." The Movement itself has written to the Cathedral authorities saying that something ought to be done immediately to clarify the "appalling system of
communication" there, which it said was "highly unprofessional and highly unchristian."
The controversial meeting will now take place at the Notting Hill
Methodist Church in Lancaster Road, London W11, where the Movement will be allowed to run the full programme.