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.