Sunday, 17 July 2011

A tale of two conferences: PEEP and Quest

I think there is a fairly widespread consensus that when the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (PEEP) conference was cancelled last month, the organisation had effectively shot itself in the foot, not once but twice. First, having secured Cardinal Burke's agreement to speak, they then advertised the conference in such an openly contentious way with regard to the English and Welsh Bishops that His Eminence could only withdraw from the event. Second, PEEP then cast around for emergency substitute speakers and found two, er, let us call them mavericks, Fr Paul Kramer and Robert Sungenis, who were so controversial that Westminster Methodist Central Hall pulled the plug on the event. If only they had taken a leaf out of Quest's book...

Quest, unless you are unaware, is ... well, let me say it in their own words on their homepage:

Quest is a group for lesbian, gay and bisexual Catholics. Its purpose is to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so as to sustain and increase Christian belief among homosexual men and women. Membership is open to all who share Quest’s aims, regardless of sexual orientation or religious affiliation. Transgendered persons should feel themselves especially welcome.

And what is the purpose of Quest? Well, let me quote what they state is their first aim:

The purpose of Quest is to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so as to sustain and increase Christian belief among homosexual men and women by:

1. associating lay men and women who are seeking ways of reconciling the full practice of their Catholic faith with the full expression of their homosexual natures in loving Christian relationships, and providing opportunities for them to meet together for worship, discussion and study.

Now, by all means have a look around Quest's website. John Smeaton, to whom we must be grateful for drawing our attention to this matter, quotes from several articles published on Quest's website which seem, on a cursory inspection, to be in keeping with Quest's general ethos. But I'm sure you might already know as much as you want to know about Quest after reading their primary aim, as quoted above: 'reconciling the full practice of their Catholic faith with the full expression of their homosexual natures.' It was certainly enough for Cardinal Hume who, according to somebody I spoke to yesterday, had Quest removed from the diocesan directory.

So, given the character and aims of Quest, why on earth am I saying that PEEP ought to have taken a leaf out of Quest's book? Well, because Quest will next weekend hold their annual conference at London Colney All Saints Pastoral Centre which is owned by the Archdiocese of Westminster. Indeed, their website says that they are 'Part of the Diocese of Westminster'. Somewhere, somehow, PEEP missed a trick.


I say PEEP could have taken a leaf out of Quest's book. After all, if you had some kind of Catholic group and you were holding your meeting at a diocesan pastoral centre, people would surely assume that your group met with the approval of the said diocese. And it seems that PEEP could do with a bit of diocesan kudos.

On the other hand, said someone to me yesterday, London Colney will rent out their conference facilities to anyone, builders, plumbers, etc., anyone... Yes, I answered, but the Catholic religion has no objection to plumbing and building, or at least none that I am aware of (please feel free to correct me in the comments). I am myself due to go to a wedding reception in a few weeks time at London Colney Pastoral Centre and now find myself scratching my head at the contradiction before us. On one weekend London Colney, the pastoral centre of the Westminster diocese, will host a conference for a group whose main aim is entirely contrary to Catholic teaching on human sexuality. A few weeks later, London Colney, the pastoral centre of the Westminster diocese, will host a reception for a Catholic wedding which will be, I'm sure, entirely in keeping with Catholic teaching on human sexuality. Is it just me? Or is the only thing that Quest and our wedding reception have in common the colour of their money?


I'm not one of those people who thinks that everything that happens in a diocese happens with the full knowledge and consent of the local bishop. But neither am I one of those people who thinks that everything the local bishop sees fit to approve is in fact fine and we should all learn to just hold our tongues. Did I just say 'learn to hold our tongues'? I cannot think where that expression came from.

But I'm curious whether Archbishop Nichols knows about this meeting. I'm curious whether he is happy that the pastoral centre of his diocese is hosting a conference for an organisation whose aims are to defy and undermine a Catholic moral teaching repeated again and again in recent years. And, frankly, I'm curious whether London Colney would open its doors to any other organisation which defies and undermines Catholic teaching, for example, Planned Parenthood or even the BNP? Okay, so perhaps those organisations don't qualify as spiritual groups. What if there were a Catholic Polyamorous Society (the CPS!)? There isn't one - the very idea is repugnant - but just supposing there was one, dedicated to the full expression of polyamory, just as others might be dedicated to to the full expression of their homosexual natures. "Yes," their webpage might say, "we want to help the Church achieve a more progressive understanding of exclusivity in marriage; after all, exclusivity contradicts the strong and frequent attractions that many people have towards multiple partners and leaves them with a terrible dilemma of conscience. Don't we have to think exclusivity through?"

So, do you think polyamorous Catholics would be able to book their conference at London Colney? Me neither. And why would organisations who sin against the exclusive character of the nuptial relationship be more disadvantaged than one which intends to deconstruct the intersexual nature of the nuptial relationship? Come to think of it, would PEEP be able to hold their conference at London Colney? Something tells me they would not.


I've spoken to a priest of the Westminster Diocese and he is going to write to somebody in the know to inquire into this event.

Reasonable and charitable comments only, please. Ranters, ravers and self-appointed lynch mobs will be deleted.


GOR said...

"Or is the only thing that Quest and our wedding reception have in common the colour of their money?"

I suspect you have put your finger on it here, Ches. Too often, parishes, dioceses and Catholic organizations in general don't look past income in scheduling these events. Here in the US a number of Catholic organizations have been embarrassed when such things have happened. I suspect some groups do this intentionally to attach a veneer of 'acceptance' to their agenda. One might expect that the 'Premier See' in a country would be more diligent in these matters.

Mater mari said...

An excellent and balanced post - no ranting and raving! - and spot on in every respect. I hope Archbishop Nicols is NOT aware of this event but, with great sadness, in view of the continuation of the Soho Masses, I fear he must be.

Our Lady, Mother most pure, pray for us.

geronimo said...

I hope Archbishop Nichols wasn't aware of the booking, but given this, and this, and this, and this... would anyone be surprised if he was?

I only hope that someone in Rome is paying attention to the situation in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Trisagion said...

I wonder, Ches, whether a not inconsiderable part of the issue might be the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Westminster Diocese might well have received the same legal advice that my own has received about refusing commercial hirings to bodies whose views on homosexuality do not accord with our own. In simple terms, the advice is that to refuse a hiring on such grounds is nonlonger legal.

Ches said...

Trisagion, my first instinct is to say that Christians are not called to be victorious; they are only called to be worthy of victory.

Look, I agree there has to be an element of calculation in any general strategy. I merely wonder where the tactic of not defying the law on sexual orientation fits in overall with what I presume to be the the bishops' strategy of preaching the gospel.

Pat said...

Although Quest was removed from the Catholic Directory during Cdl Hume's time, the policy now seems to be to turn a blind eye. This conference is not the first held on Catholic premises. A previous one was held at Digby Stuart College in Roehampton. Dr Tina Beattie spoke for them, and a priest of the Southwark Diocese celebrated Mass for them. The bishop (then +Kevin McDonald) was informed but didn't act.
Also, the occasional 'gay Mass' at the Holy Cross Priory, Leicester, was initially advertised under the auspices of Quest, but they changed the name to 'Leicester Gay Catholics', much in the same way as the dissident group 'Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement' used the name of 'Soho Masses Pastoral Council' to secure the Masses at a Catholic church in Warwick Street, Soho (they had been using an Anglican church).
The Quest bulletin (only available to members)also reveals that there are some smaller local Quest groups who have 'house Masses' and meetings in parishes on occasions.

geronimo said...

Still, they do a lovely line in rainbow pulpits... (photo: Pride Mass, 2011 - hosted by the Archdiocese of Westminster).

Pat said...

Further info about the Quest rehabilitation:-

Donna said...

>What if there were a Catholic Polyamorous >Society (the CPS!)?

Please, don't give them any ideas !

Dan said...

I'm not terribly sure I would characterize the initial PEEP advert announcing Cardinal Burke's presence to be "contentious" in any way. I've seen it, read it and studied it, and aside from some overly enthusiastic verbiage - no more, no less - it was pretty innocuous. Cardinal Burke, I believe, overreacted a bit on this one. Also, he did NOT want to identify with anyone clearly and uncompromisingly upset with his brother Bishops. He was, as you may recall, slapped down by Rome for that very reason recently when he was going to preside at a public Mass in the Ancient Rite. I wish he would have shown more courage here and less "romanita", but, alas...

As far as the replacement speakers are concerned I am not overwhelmed by Father Kramer's eccentricities and would personally have preferred to see someone else. But at that late date he may have been the only one available. As for Sungenis, I don't know enough about him to comment one way or the other. From the little I've read (and it is only a little) I find his views unexceptionable.

Try to remember, too, when you criticize these honest, hard-working Catholics like Mrs Daphne McLeod that they have been in the fight most likely longer than you've been alive on earth. I think you owed her at least the respect due to age, if not due to her exemplary Catholicism.

Ches said...

Whichever way you dress it up, Dan, they blew it and got themselves needlessly ambushed. I see no disrespect in commenting on the fact. Meanwhile, if you really think this post is an attack on PEEP, I advise you to grow a thicker skin. Just my point of view.

EditorCT said...

Although I really can't be bothered tailoring my reply to get myself out of the ranters ravers etc category (those who call a spade a spade) I can't resist posting this for two reasons.

Firstly to object to the inaccurate and uncharitable description of Father Kramer, a priest in good standing, as "a maverick" and same for Robert Sungenis who seems to have fallen foul of the politically correct world for daring to question the numbers involved in the holocaust (I suggest folk stick to checking the numbers who died in any other world event, the Irish famine or the Highland clearances, because nobody will turn a hair) and for daring to suggest that, like everyone else, the Jews who are saved, will be saved through the merits of Christ's death.

Secondly, I can assure you that Archbishop Nichols knows about the Quest Conference. I am one of probably very many who wrote to him about the matter. He knows. He approves. End of.

Ches said...

Good, Editor CT. I'm glad I'm not the only one.