SPECIAL masses for gay Catholics at a London church are to be scrapped, the Archbishop of Westminster said today.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who has been one of the loudest voices opposing Government plans to allow same-sex marriages, said the fortnightly masses were not in line with the church's central teaching on sexuality.
In a statement he said that "people with same-sex attraction" would continue to receive pastoral care but the services at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street, Soho, would end.
Archbishop Nicholl said: "The moral teaching of the church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life.
"As I stated in March 2012, this means 'that many types of sexual activity, including same-sex sexual activity, are not consistent with the teaching of the church'."
He added: "The mass is always to retain its essential character as the highest prayer of the whole church. This 'universal' character of the mass is to be nurtured and clearly expressed in the manner of every celebration.
"The purpose of all pastoral care, on the other hand, is to encourage and enable people, especially those who are in difficult circumstances, to come to participate fully and worthily in the celebration of the Mass in the midst of the whole church, the people summoned by the Lord to give him, together, worthy service and praise.
"I am, therefore, asking the group which has, in recent years, helped to organise the celebration of mass on two Sundays of each month at Warwick Street now to focus their effort on the provision of pastoral care."
He addressed the subject in the Christmas Eve Mass at Westminster Cathedral, saying: "Sometimes sexual expression can be without the public bond of the faithfulness of marriage and its ordering to new life.
"Even governments mistakenly promote such patterns of sexual intimacy as objectively to be approved and even encouraged among the young."
He used his Christmas Day message to describe the gay marriage plans as "Orwellian".
The coalition Government is committed to legislating on gay marriage by the 2015 general election, and a Bill is expected to be tabled in January. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised his MPs a free vote on the issue.
In his statement today, Archbishop Nichols said the gay Catholic group had been offered the use of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mayfair, where it can meet for pastoral care on Sunday evenings.
He added: "In recent years this pastoral care has focused on the celebration of Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street.
"Over these years, the situation of people with same-sex attraction has changed both socially and in civil law. However, the principles of the pastoral care to be offered by the Church and the Church's teaching on matters of sexual morality have not."