We have come an interesting journey over the last few days on The Sensible Bond. For those of you who are not up to speed, by all means go and read the posts from Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.
Finally, yesterday, I did indeed receive a reply from the private secretary of Archbishop Nichols. More of that further on. So, it is about time we gather our thoughts together and reflect a little on Quest and on the conduct of the Archdiocese of Westminster in relation to Quest's conference. I am not going to concern myself with the justification of the Catholic understanding of human sexuality. For anybody in doubt on this point, I refer you to Paragraph 2357 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I am simply going to deal, first, with the problem that Quest's agenda poses, and then (in a second post later this afternoon) with the actions of the Archdiocese of Westminster in that light.
In one respect, Quest's very existence must be attributed to the failure of other Catholics to have the respect, compassion and sensitivity which the Catechism states we should show towards people with a same-sex attraction. Seriously, with some people, particularly of a conservative bent, the very mention of homosexuality induces furrowed brows and curled lips. If they thought about it for a minute, however, they would realise that that is exactly the way to drive those with same-sex attractions into each others' arms (no pun intended).
On another level, however, Quest is based on an entirely incoherent ambition of reconciling the full expression of the Catholic faith with the full expression of homosexual natures. I paraphrase Quest's first purpose. To savour the absurdity of this proposition, compare it for a minute with the possibility of a Catholic Polyamorous Society devoted to reconciling the full expression of the Catholic faith with the taking of multiple partners (because, after all, nobody is attracted only to one person). Or let us imagine the foundation of the Catholic Kleptomaniac Society, devoted to reconciling the full expression of the Catholic faith with the taking of other people's property (since the very notion of property is itself an imperialistic and outdated value). Quest's ambitions frankly are about as serious as that. We have just lost the sense of absurdity that such propositions ought to provoke.
In criticising the Archdiocese of Westminster for allowing Quest to hold their conference at London Colney, I am fully aware of the respect, compassion and sensitivity which must be shown to people with same-sex attractions. My contention, however, is that in allowing this conference to be hosted on diocesan property, the diocese has effectively acknowledged Quest as a serious partner in this important Catholic project. But Quest's purpose is so decidedly irreconcilable with the Catholic cause, that the actions of the Archdiocese cannot but harm pastoral ministry to people with same-sex attractions. THis is the right race but absolutely NOT the right horse.
I think of those Catholics who realise that their same-sex attraction can never be reconciled with the full expression of the Catholic faith. What an insult and offence to their painful, moral struggle the actions of the Archdiocese of Westminster have been in this matter. Why after all should they bother struggling? Why not simply embrace the squared circle and sleep with people of the same sex, especially if the diocese is prepared to extend its hospitality to them (excepting the Sexual Orientation Regulations question to which I will return)?
This is why I have pursued my little campaign in the last few days to get some answers from the Archdiocese of Westminster; specifically, I wanted to know whether the diocese approved the use of London Colney for the Quest conference, and whether the Archbishop backed the conference. Finally, after three unanswered e-mails and a further e-mail to the press and public affairs office, I received late yesterday afternoon an e-mail from the private secretary of Archbishop Nichols. Courtesy prevents me reproducing the entire text, but in the interests of fairness let me give you the substance of the reply:
1. The Archbishop was aware that Quest is holding their conference at All Saints, London Colney.
2. He has met with members of this organisation in order to engage them in dialogue.
I replied accordingly:
Dear Fr O'Leary,
Please assure his Grace of my sincere prayers and good will. He will no doubt appreciate, however, that your message does not begin remotely to answer either of my questions.
Very best wishes, etc.
Well, I asked my questions, and I eventually got the only answer that the Archbishop of Westminster was inclined to give me.
I'll tell you what I think of that later.