Saturday, 23 July 2011

A Quest too far: Reflections on another Westminster Waltz

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.

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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faith with the taking of other people's property (since the very notion of property is itself an imperialistic and outdated value).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)?

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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.

12 comments:

Richard Collins said...

You should have held a 'Guess the response' competition - but then I think we would have all got the right answer!
Well done for trying though.

Genty said...

No surprise there. The Archbishop may feel he does not have to answer to the laity. But he will have to answer before God.

Anonymous said...

If Rome is notified for these happenings maybe the Abp will answer to the Congregation for Bishops and the Pope.

Sharon

Ben Trovato said...

Which is more distressing; the (non-) answer or the fact that nobody expected anything else?

GOR said...

Okay, playing the Devil's Advocate here:

Attempt #1: "Our Lord did not hesitate to dine with publicans and sinners, ergo..."

Attempt #2: "Jesus consorted with a scarlet woman and a known adultress, deinde..."

Attempt #3: "He who is without sin, inter alia..."

Attempt #4: "Age quod agis..."

Trisagion said...

GOR, no Devil's Advocate would eat if that's the best he could do.

#1 But He didn't put Himself at their disposal to argue that their sin was not sin;
#2 'Neither do I condemn you...go and sin no more.';
#3 Ches wasn't casting stones at anybody. He was asking a shepherd to pastor his sheep rather than consorting with wolves;
#4 Ches is certainly doing that.

Pat said...

Oh dear. More interminable 'dialogue'. I'm sorry, but sadly, these so-called 'dialogues' are usually anything but. I recall when (then at Westminster) Bishop Longley was in discussions with openly dissenting homosexuals regarding the Soho Masses.

Afterwards, members of the Soho Masses wrote the following about their negotiations in the 'gay' paper 'Pink News':- http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2009/10/01/new-archbishop-of-birmingham-helped-organise-gay-masses :- Martin Pendergast said:- “I can assure others who have commented that there was no demand on us to ‘remain celibate and agree that homosexual acts are wrong’ ” and also Terence Weldon (Eucharistic Minister and Soho Mass committee member) said:- “I agree with my friend and colleague Martin (above) who notes that during the extensive consultation process around the Soho gay Masses, Bishop Longley at no time expressed any demand that we remain celibate or agree with Church teaching”. Bishop Longley has been shown this and has never denied what was said about him. How could Bishop Longley square his silence with the teaching found in the 1986 CDF document on homosexuality, encouraging the bishops to do the following:-

“We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin. We would heartily encourage programmes where these dangers are avoided. But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve. . . "

" . . . All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous. . . "

People ought to read this document, it is very clear. Archbishop Nichols would do well to recall it occasionally. It can be seen here:-
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html

There is also another problem. In order to fruitfully 'dialogue' with people who dissent from Catholic teaching, one must be crystal clear about Catholic teaching, and regrettably, Archbishop Nichols' dubious views on homosexuality are a matter of public record, as has frequently been recorded on John Smeaton's excellent blog http://spuc-director.blogspot.com and also here:- http://vincentnichols.tumblr.com What hope for Quest if the Archbishop is unclear on this issue?

GOR said...

Trisagion: I think you missed my meaning in #4 (hint: not the literal one...). I was not being critical of Ches - rather trying to anticipate what a certain bureaucratic response might look like...

I commend Ches for his doggedness in trying to get a straight answer, but felt that it wouldn't be appreciated in certain quarters.

Anonymous said...

A good letter from Eric Hesster in THE CATHOLIC HERALD put this:
"Strange things happen in the Catholic Church in England. Last weekend, a Conference of the national Justice and Peace Network took place under the auspices of the Bishops’ Conference. Two of the two main speakers, on websites, make no secret of their support for abortion; one is a Trade Union leader who supports “ a women’s right to choose”; the other is an MP who wrote that abortion should be “should be safe, legal and rare”. I wrote about these speakers to His Grace the Archbishop of Westminster, who is Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference and the secretary wrote back saying that His Grace thoroughly supported the Conference speakers and approved of its being sponsored by CAFOD.
In late July, the organisation Quest, is holding a conference at the London Colney Pastoral Centre. This centre says on its website that it is “part of the Diocese of Westminster”. The Quest organisation is “a group for Gay and Lesbian Catholics”. It is not an official Catholic group and was taken out of the National Directory because of its refusal to accept the teaching of the Church.
Earlier this month, a Catholic church in the Westminster Archdiocese announced a Mass to follow the Gay Pride March in London.
In England, it seems that every kind of dissent is permitted, encouraged and, indeed, financed out of money of the collections of the faithful, but fidelity to the teaching of the Church is clamped down on."

EditorCT said...

Where was the "dialogue" with Pro Ecclesia? Nowhere to be found. Instead the Archbishop put the boot in. Yet he wants to befriend the homosexuals, who were more widely known as sodomites before the PC brigade worked its magic.

Blog article reads:

"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..."

Firstly, it is a very arrogant and uncharitabel assumption to presume that because "conservative" Catholics object to the perverse behaviour of same sex activity that they are thereby, ipso facto, unkind to homosexuals. Rubbish. I know homosexuals and I'm never anything but courteous to them. Doesn't mean I approve their behaviour, not will I ever encourage it, in any way. I can only imagine what the author of this article thinks about the earliest Christians, who dubbed sodomy one of the four sins "crying to heaven for vengeance." "Extremists" eh?

Reading your blogs I am reminded of a piercing article I once read in Christian Order about those who are desperate to appear to be "reasonable men" in the midst of this shocking crisis in the Church. It struck a note with me then, and it comes to mind every time I read one of your blogs. To be fair, though, I've only read a couple of your blogs,on the subject of the Quest conference hosted by Archbishop Nichols, but there are certain subjects which separate the sheep from the politically correct, and sodomy is one of them.

Ches said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ches said...

You really progress by insult, irrationality and silliness, don't you?

First, I said 'some Catholics' not 'conservative Catholics'.

Second, don't start extrapolating utter nonsense on stilts; the Church commands me to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Your insinuation that I do not hate the sin of homosexuality is sheer nonsense.

If you don't like what you read here, go somewhere else. You and Christian Order are not the measure of reason or the measure of orthodoxy.