Reflecting on the problem of religious homophobia a few days ago, I out the question, “How should Quest respond?”. I and the rest of the Quest national committee been giving a lot of thought to the core nature of our purpose and activities, as we prepare for a “strategy weekend” at the end of the month, at which we will be identifying some key priority areas, and ways in which these can be implemented and funded. In my role as webmaster, I’ve also been giving some thought to substantially expanding the information on our website, to make it more useful to our members and other LGBT Catholics, and to provide a better introduction to ourselves for non-members.
Along the way, I’ve had some thoughts on the nature of our activities, present and planned, which may form the basis of an expanded “What we do” section on the website. I would be interested in any response from members – which could feed into the discussion next weekend.
Our core purpose:
Our constitution describes our purpose as “to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
In concrete terms, we aim to
- Deliver pastoral support for LGBT Catholics
- Bring good news to LGBT Catholics
- Provide resources for LGBT Catholics
- Practice advocacy for LGBT Catholics
To which we could add, as a recent addition to our activities
- Work towards safer schools for LGBT Catholics
Delivering pastoral support.
A strapline on our new banner reads, “Pastoral support for LGBT Catholics”, and encapsulates what most of us think of as the primary value of Quest, as it is at present. The immense value of this pastoral support was abundantly illustrated two years ago, in the “Icon of Emmaus” workshop at conference 2014.
Specifically, this pastoral support is currently made concrete in a number of ways, at both national and regional level. Nationally, there is the annual conference, a quarterly magazine (“Quest Bulletin”), and this website. Regionally, our local groups offer a range of different activities and services, including retreats, opportunities for worship, discussions, and valuable fellowship and supportive friendship.
This support is offered in the first place to our own members in the United Kingdom, but is also available to others, here and worldwide, through the resources we provide on our website, in our publications, at our conferences and retreats, and at some local meetings, where non-members may also attend.
What more could or should we be doing?
One avenue we have long aspired to, but not achieved, is to compile a comprehensive listing of supportive priests to whom members and others could be referred, for spiritual guidance, or the sacrament of reconciliation, without fear of rejection. A related project, would be to compile a parallel listing of parishes where LGBT people can attend openly, with confidence.
Bringing Good News/ Proclaiming the Gospel
The word “Gospel” is derived from “Good News”. Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), emphasised this aspect of the Gospel message, and insisted that evangelization and proclaiming the Gospel is a task for all Catholics, not just for ordained clergy. In taking on this task in accordance with our own constitution, we are in effect, bringing good news to LGBT Catholics – and carrying out Pope Francis’ instruction (and have been doing so, since well before he issued it).
Specifically in terms of sexuality and gender, we aim to reassure our people that it is indeed possible to reconcile their sexual orientation or gender identity with their Catholic faith – and show them how this can be done. Are we in fact doing this, as much as we could and should be doing? We’ve often spoken about the need for the website to feature more on the “supportive” elements of Catholic teaching, and about hosting a proposed workshop on conscience, but these proposals have not made much progress.
Advocacy work for LGBT Catholics
As part of our task of proclaiming the Gospel, our constitution states that this includes “establishing and extending a dialogue between homosexual Catholics and members of the clergy through which the insights and experiences of each may gradually be interwoven and so achieve better mutual understanding both of the moral teachings of the Church and of the characteristics of its homosexual members (1 (b)(ii))”
In recent months, we have begun to implement this by writing to and meeting with bishops and other diocesan officers. We plan to continue this with meetings with more bishops and their teams, but also to expand this to other clergy, religious orders and lay groups.
What are we saying in these meetings, and what should we be saying? Up to now, we’ve mostly concentrated on just introducing ourselves and concrete proposals for co-operation, but could definitely do more. True “advocacy” would include promoting opportunities for more explicitly inclusive liturgies, and reminding them that relevant Catholic teaching is far more extensive, and more complex, than the simplistic “don’t do it” which is the popular understanding of the doctrine.
Advocacy should also extend well beyond direct discussions with Catholic people and groups, to indirect advocacy in the public sphere – in the press and broadcast media, and on-line. There is potential to achieve far more publicity for our work, if we take a much more proactive approach to seeking it.
Providing Resources for LGBT Catholics.
This could be seen as just one element of pastoral support delivered mostly through the website and Bulleetin, but also deserves some more explicit expansion. For example, to counter those elements of Catholic teaching and biblical interpretation that many LGBT people experience as hostile and damaging, we could provide information from more inclusive theology and biblical hermeneutics, as well as from natural and social science.
We could also be providing resources for our local groups, sharing materials and ideas that have proven useful.
Working towards safer schools for LGBT Catholics.
One of the important Catholic groups we are working with as part of our advocacy, is all those involved with our Catholic schools.
The Catholic Catechism insists that lesbian and gay people should be protected from unjust discrimination, and from any form of violence or malice, in speech or in action. All schools have a similar obligation in law to protect LGBT children. By working with Catholic schools, parent groups and church safeguarding teams as well as with the children themselves, Quest doing more than just providing theoretical advocacy – we are also contributing directly to safeguarding young LGBT Catholics, by protecting them from bullying and violence, in speech or in action.