“If you ever go across the sea to Ireland . . .” . . . so run the words of the Galway Bay song popularised by Bing Crosby. Well there was no need for us to head west to Ireland this summer because Ireland came to us in the shape of our two guest speakers and chaplain for the 2014 Quest Conference in the seaside resort of Scarborough. There was also a maritime theme in this year’s title: “So hope for a great sea-change”, courtesy of the late Seamus Heaney, and inspired by the “Pope Francis Effect”, and its hint of change at the heart of the Catholic Church.
This autumn edition begins with a report on the conference and elsewhere Queering the Church blogger, and Quest Committee member, Terence Weldon, discerns the stirrings of a sexual revolution in the church that passed it by in the 1960s. Scarborough is situated in the Diocese of Middlesborough, whose bishop, Terence Drainey, earlier this year (reported in the spring edition of the Bulletin) called for a “radical re-examination of human sexuality” based on “modern psychological and anthropological insights and the lived experience of lay people.” We should not expect that October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family will produce immediate radical results in this or other areas, but we may hope that the bishops will at least begin the process of creating a welcoming and inclusive place for those whom Bishop Drainey described as struggling and whose lives are “complicated and messy”. This will be far from easy because well over half of all Catholics live in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Developments that would be celebrated in, say, parts of Europe and north America may be considered incendiary elsewhere.
In striving for inclusivity, which some might describe as a faith without boundaries, there is a consequential danger that we end up believing nothing and abandoning the central and essential truths of Christianity. In the quest for pastoral solutions to difficult problems the Church must somehow hold in tension the cultural gap that exists between those who have a Western consciousness and the growing influence of the South within Catholicism.