Q: What does Quest do?
A: Founded in 1973, Quest is a pastoral support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer Catholics, their friends and families. Through our website, Facebook and Twitter, the network of local groups in various parts of Britain, retreats, pilgrimages, the annual conference, and our Quest Bulletin we offer a pastoral, spiritual and social ministry.
Q: I am a practising Catholic and am worried that admitting to being gay will ostracise me from my community and family.
A: There’s always a risk attached to ‘coming out’. Only you can determine the quality of the love and support you have received from family, friends, etc. at important stages in your life and decide whether they can be relied upon to sustain you through this experience. Some parents, friends, etc. react negatively to this news, but many more are accepting and supportive. Generally speaking, ‘coming out’ should be an affirming and life-enhancing event.
Q: Isn’t being gay an ‘abomination’ in the eyes of the Church?
A: In the past the language used by the Church about gays was harsh and judgemental. However, among the less helpful things that the Catechism has to say about homosexuality, it clearly states that gays should be accepted “with respect, compassion and sensitivity”. In July 2013, Pope Francis told journalists, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?
Q: How do I know if I am really gay, and that it isn’t just a phase that I am going through? At least that is what my parents keep telling me.
A: Many young people go through a period of questioning about their identity, this is normal. Only you can truly know the feelings you have about your sexuality. It can come as a shock to parents to learn that their daughter or son is gay, leading to reactions that can sometimes be irrational and unpredictable. The response you have received perhaps arises from your parents’ concern for your safety, having heard or read about homophobic attacks (which, thankfully, are rare in the UK).
Q: Why is the Church so against homosexuals?
A: It is not so much a case that the Church is against homosexuals, but that the Church considers that homosexual acts are a disorder of God’s purpose for sex. The Church teaches that the sexual act is reserved for a man and woman united in the bond of marriage and is the vehicle for human reproduction.
Q: Why can’t priests be open about their sexuality?
A: All priests are obligated to be celibate and chaste (with the exception of married former Anglican clergy now ordained as Catholic priests and those who belong to the Eastern-rite Catholic churches). Of course, this obligation does not rob them of their sexuality neither does it mean that priests, straight or gay, do not struggle – and sometimes fail – to be chaste. Does it matter that, in general, priests are not open about their sexuality? There are gay priests whose reaction on being told that a person is gay will respond harshly and do considerable harm and there are straight priests who will give sensible pastoral advice.
Q: Why does the Church hate me as a young gay man?
A: The late Cardinal Basil Hume, a former Archbishop of Westminster, once stated, “To love another, whether of the same sex or a different sex is to have entered the area of the richest human experience”. This, and other examples of the Church’s response to homosexuality given above, does not speak of hate. What excites disgust or condemnation among some Catholics is the belief that all acts of sexual intimacy between people of the same sex are a ‘sin against nature’.
Q: Why does the Church say so little about being a lesbian?
A: The Church’s teaching on homosexuality makes no distinction between gay men and lesbians, both are expected to live chaste lives. The concentration on male homosexuality probably reflects male dominance in the leadership of the Church. It is also the case that biblical passages generally regarded as referring to homosexuality are almost exclusively concerned with male behaviour.
Q: Are there any sympathetic priests out there that can support me?
A: Yes, there are. Priests and religious may become full members of Quest and are often in need of the support and assistance that the organisation can provide. It may be possible for us to put you in touch with a priest, depending on where you live.
Q: Is there anything positive or sympathetic in the teachings of the Church about homosexuality?
A: In 1995, Cardinal Hume (see Question 7 above) published A Note on the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning homosexual people. In it he states that the Church “refuses to consider the [human] person as heterosexual or homosexual and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: a creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life” (para. 4). He goes on to say that ‘homophobia’ should have no place among Catholics (15) and calls for a respectful attitude and a sympathetic understanding of [our] situation.
Following the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in England & Wales in July 2013, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, while restating the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, wrote in a pastoral letter to his diocese, “We must pay particular and respectful attention to those who experience same sex attraction, offering them consistent pastoral care in love and truth” and he advocates a “dialogue and conversation with those who see things differently”.
Such statements fall far short of our desire for the acceptance of homosexual relationships by the Catholic Church, but they do at least represent a sea change in the language that has often been used in the Church when dealing with this matter.
Q: How can Quest help me?
A: By offering you the assurance that you are not alone, and that there is no need to despair. If you live within reasonable travelling distance of a local group we can also put you in touch with the local Convenor.
Q: What is Quest’s position with regard to transgendered persons?
A: There is no specific Quest position on transgendered Catholics. We nevertheless recognise that, like their gay sisters and brothers, transgendered Catholics often feel alienated within the Church, albeit to a greater degree, and yet are in need of emotional and spiritual support. Quest endeavours to provide a safe and accepting environment for the trans person to find this support.
Q: What is Quest’s position about bisexuals?
A: There is no specific Quest position in respect of bisexual Catholics. We recognise that there is a broad spectrum of sexual orientation along which people may be placed at various points. Thus, many people may be considered fully or partially bisexual. There are also a large number of married homosexuals. Quest is open to all.
Q: What about women?
A: In recent years an increasing number of women have joined Quest, reflecting the diversity within our community. A designated Women’s Officer serves on the national committee and events specifically for women take place from time to time. The first woman Chair of Quest was elected in 2011.
Q: What about young people?
A: People of all ages are welcome to join Quest and, whenever possible, a Young Person’s Officer serves on the national committee with the specific task of organising events for younger members.
Q: What about people from different cultures?
A: No one is excluded from membership of Quest. Irrespective of culture, ethnicity, colour, or gender; all are welcome. We consider that the fantastic beauty and diversity of God’s creation is something to be celebrated.
Q: Do you have to be a Catholic to be a member of Quest?
A: No; all who support the aims and purpose of Quest are welcome to join. However, in accordance with the constitution of Quest, only secular lay Roman Catholics are eligible for election to the national committee. Catholic worship and spirituality are central to what we do and who we are and it is the stated aim and purpose of Quest to reconcile “the full practice of the Catholic faith with the full expression of [our] homosexual natures” (Quest Constitution, 2a).
Q: How do you become a member of Quest?
A: Details can be found by clicking on the tab ‘Join Us’ on this website.
Q: Who can I speak to in confidence about a problem I have?
A: Quest can be contacted by calling 0300 123 1989 to leave a message with your phone number if you would like someone to call you back.
LGCM (Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement) http://www.lgcm.org.uk/about-us/
FLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) http://www.fflag.org.uk/
Rucoming out http://www.rucomingout.com/
Marriage and Family Life Project Office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales: www.everybodyswelcome.org.uk/lesbiangay.html