Preparing for a “Great Sea – Change” for Gay and Lesbian Catholics

Francis’ short papacy has brought a profound change in the Catholic Church, at least in terms of style, and has offered also the prospect of some meaningful change in the position of lesbian and gay Catholics, in ministry if not (yet) in teaching. It’s entirely apt that the theme for next month’s Conference 2014 will be “So Hope for a Great Sea – Change”. There’s an important question to be asked though: are we content to sit back in hope for this possible change, or do we, as Quest, want to contribute to bringing it about? How?

That will be the substance of an important working session on the final day of conference. Some background, is that back in October 2013, Ruby Almeida and Michael Bennet, as chair and deputy chair of Quest, met with Archbishop (now Cardinal) Vincent Nichols of Westminster, to discuss the relationship between Quest and the institutional church. The detail of that discussion has been confidential for now, but was disclosed  as an important part of conference deliberations. During the discussions, Cardinal Nichols put forward a suggestion as a possibly fruitful source for reflection, Pope Francis’ words to the Brazilian bishops last year, during his visit to the country for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. A central part of that address, pointed out by Cardinal Nichols, was a reflection on the gospel story of the journey to Emmaus. Ruby and Michael embraced this, as it fits in perfectly with our new journey, post ‘Forty years in the wilderness’ which was our conference theme last year.

I personally was delighted that Cardinal Nichols has suggested that the Emmaus story could be a useful point of reflection on the future relationship between Quest and the bishops. Influenced by the interpretation offered by the Australian gay writer and spiritual director Michael B Kelly, I have written before on the value for gay and lesbian Catholics, of this telling of the journey of two disillusioned disciples away from Jerusalem, of meeting the risen Christ outside of the city – and the important but often neglected conclusion to the tale – their return to Jerusalem.

Some time after conference, Ruby will need to return to Cardinal Nichols, with our response to his suggestion. To assist and guide her, an important part of the final day of conference has been given over to a workshop on the Emmaus story, its lessons for us – and what it might mean for our future relationship with the institutional church.

Conference delegates were given some advance preparation for this process, and were encouraged to explore some of the links (on following pages), to the Gospel text, to commentary on the passage, and to visual, video, and literary reflections on the story. Quest members who were unable to attend, now have the opportunity to reflect on the same materials – and on their responses to the questions which were put to conference on the final day. (Those questions are published in a parallel post).

In the Gospel: Luke 24: 13-35  (the Emmaus story begins at v 13, but also read the opening of the chapter, which sets the scene) Pope Francis’ commentary: This is a lengthy document, much of it specific to Brazil. The relevant passage on Emmaus is section 3, “The icon of Emmaus as a key for interpreting the present and the future”. Address of Pope Francis, at the meeting with the Bishops of Brazil LGBT perspectives:

Michael B Kelly: If you have access to “Seduced by Grace” by the Australian theologian and spiritual director Michael B Kelly, read his chapter titled “The Road From Emmaus: the challenge of the future”. Some extracts from this chapter are available on the Amazon preview page , or read a summary at Queering the Church:  The Journey FROM Emmaus: Gay and Lesbian Prophetic Role

Michael Bayly: At The Wild Reed, see Good News on the Road to Emmaus Some images:

There are some great images, some with a specifically gay male, in Michael Bayly’s post at The Wild Reed, but countless more at Google images. This one (from the Emmaus Walk community) is useful for presenting the story in contemporary dress, and what could be an English setting:

Emmaus, modern dress

Video Then there are numerous video takes, available on Youtube or video, such as these suggested by Ruby (there are many more). Has some nice text though the actual song is not that brilliant. A short video piece A short reflection A rather long reflection A reflection through art   Literary reference: In section V of The Waste Land,  “What the Thunder Said”, T S Eliot wrote these lines: Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together                360 But when I look ahead up the white road              There is always another one walking beside you                Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded            I do not know whether a man or a woman          —But who is that on the other side of you?         365   In his notes to “The Waste Land”, Eliot added this in explanation: 360. The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton’s): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted. (Other references to this story of the expeditions, claim that there were two men walking, but three sets of footprints)