This new series of interviews with Quest members kicks off with questions put to Paul Begley.
Paul, who or what drew you to joining Quest?
A friend introduced me to Quest. He had
overheard me telling others that I was a Catholic
and so he told me about the group he belonged
to and invited me to join him at one of the local
meetings. My first visit was to hear James Alison
speak. My friend was chatting to a number of
those present and I felt a little out of place,
but I met some others and they asked me to
join them. On the next occasion we gathered
at a couple’s home for a meal and I came
away having thoroughly enjoyed the
evening. I was uncertain whether to
attend the annual conference in
Norwich that year, but after my
third encounter with the local
group I jumped at the
opportunity. Belonging to Quest
has made a real difference to
my life, enriching it through the
people I have met.
Are you active in your local
No. The local parish priest is
homophobic. A transgender friend
who used to attend Mass there was
informed that she should find another
parish in which to worship. She now
attends the local Anglican parish.
Are you ‘out’ to family, friends and
Yes to all three. I told colleagues when
we were away for a few days on a work
commitment. At first they couldn’t
believe it, they had in their minds an
impression of how a gay man would behave and
I didn’t fit that image. Many of my friends already
knew that I was gay, but I had never told any
members of my family. Telling my mother was
an emotional experience. In fact, it was a double
coming-out as she had something she wanted to
share with me. Afterwards there was a feeling of
being completely at peace. The rest of my family
half knew the truth about me, so they were not
surprised when they finally got to know.
You are currently a member of Quest National Committee responsible for Local Groups. How have you found this work?
It has been very rewarding especially watching the Yorkshire group grow in the past couple of years. But there have been frustrating times too. The closure of the Cambridge group because of a lack of support was very sad. I also made visits to Liverpool and Brighton, when hardly anyone turned out for the meeting even though they had been told that I would be visiting.
So do you think the local groups have any future?
Looking to the Yorkshire group as a flagship, I would say we shouldn’t give up on the groups, but their success depends on members taking an active role and turning up for events.
Your work is in the ‘care sector’. Would you say that your faith influenced your choice of work?
Definitely! When I was 15 my parish priest took me to a local special needs school to look around. It was then that I realised I had a vocation to work with challenged young people with complex needs. There are times at work when I am kicked, bitten, spat upon and worse. At the end of those days I offer it all up to God, I forgive those who have behaved this way, and I am back to work the next day ready to face whatever comes my way. What inspires me is the knowledge that God is love and that God’s love extends to everyone, without exception. I look at the lives of the saints, especially St Francis of Assisi, and see all that they had to suffer and just carry on with the work God wants me to do.
What changes would you like to see in the Church’s teaching on sexuality?
The Church needs to wake up to the 21st century otherwise it will die. It lives in the dark ages. LGBT Catholics are not harming anyone, so why does the Church treat us so badly?
What is the good news that we can proclaim to our LGBT sisters and brothers?
That’s a hard question to answer. A colleague at work, an atheist, asked me why I am bothered with the Catholic Church when they treat us so badly. Well, I know priests who are gay, I have gay Catholic friends, all of whom are supportive of me. When I go into churches I love to sit before the Blessed Sacrament to pray about anything and everything about my life. Deep within me is a strong belief in Jesus. Walking away is not an option.