Father John Michael Hanvey is part of the T.H.O.M.A.S. team. He recently facilitated a seminar for Quest - the organisation set up by gay Catholics to help integrate sexuality with living the gospel life within the Church
The titles of the two papers I gave were "Sexual Theology" and "Reclaiming Friendship." Thanks to the very good turn out and the lively discussion and questions, it was a successful day. There was a great variety of people there, priests, doctors a journalist and many other professions represented, the age range was from young to retired.
All had one aim. To be true to self and to discover more how to be at home in the Church as a gay person, and also to have the courage to explore all of this in the context of theology and spirituality.
We looked at being comfortable before God. We talked about God's part in every act of creation, in our redemption and on going being.
It seems to me that theology must always make sense of experience, the Church is in part gay, and so on reflecting on homosexuality it is reflecting on its own being. How the Church behaves to minorities is part of its faithfulness, or not, against injustice. It is nothing less than the Church's option for Christ.
In 1995 there was a very powerful television documentary called "Better dead than gay" in it the main character Simon Harvey, a devout young Christian, takes his own life. The title of the documentary came from Simon's father who thought that if Simon had met the right woman, he would have been cured. The producer of this documentary basically said that Simon did not die because he was gay or Christian or both, but because people would not allow him to be who he was - who he was created by God to be.
We are all called by God to be our unique selves. Like so many areas of human experience and theology, our present understanding of homosexuality is incomplete and is undergoing constant revision. Theology never stands still and as Aquinas said it is not about head counts of theologians, but the quality of theological argument that matters - "Non Nomina Sed Argumenta." It is after all possible to be right even when in a minority of one, like Ghandi or Bishop St. John Fisher of Rochester, the only Catholic bishop in England openly not to take the oath of supremacy to Henry VIII
Quest, I believe has a very important mission within the Church. Sometimes its about reaching out to people who are confused and sometimes in despair, many are young and feel they have no-one to talk to about their sexuality and anxieties and like Simon Harvey may take their own lives. We know for certain here in the Northwest we have a higher suicide rate than the rest of the country for young men under thirty.
I feel that at least Quest should be permitted to let its existence be known in the National Catholic Directory. There must be enough Bishops, priests and lay people to support this - it's about saving lives sometimes and offering a supportive spirituality. There are too many people out there struggling on their own, living a very lonely Passion. As doctor Jack Dominion wrote in the Tablet March 2002 in his article "Ireland and the Sexual Revolution."
" Does it matter that the Church is teaching authority, and the young are speaking different languages and have different moral norms? Yes, it matters enormously. The teaching authority is talking to itself and the young are not listening. The incompatibility of teaching and practice is one of the many important reasons behind the young falling away from the Church, and the credibility of the whole Church is weakened."
Personally I have every hope in the Church and of the courage of people to be up front and challenging within the Church. We know that the paths many people go down are dead end roads - drugs, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity. But it would be less than helpful just to condemn. I personally feel there is a deep longing for intimacy and friendship among the young. I also feel that an organization like Quest is well equipped to offer other gay people in the Church and beyond, a hope, a spirituality, a theology, scripturally based, that speaks of vision and courage to accept the gift of sexuality from the creator. If we continue to repress these groups within the Church and elsewhere who exist to integrate spirituality, Church and sexuality then pornography and promiscuity will continue to substitute for mysticism. Wonder and praise for our own very being, will be out the window.
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