A cardinal in England has reversed a predecessor’s decision and recommended that his priests make use of the LGBT Catholic group Quest as a resource in their ministry.
Quest reported on its website that, in a November 11, 2017 letter, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster (London) encouraged priests to connect with Quest. The post opened with words from the cardinal’s letter:
“‘Among the many sensitive and pastoral issues around today is the situation of those who live with a same-sex attraction and are often very anxious about their journey to God and their relationship with the Church.’
“The letter then goes on to note three ‘initiatives in the Diocese which try to respond to the tensions that are often felt in this matter’, listing Courage, Westminster LGBT Catholics – and Quest, which he describes as ‘a national organisation providing support for LGBT Catholics, their friends and families’.”
Quest, founded in 1973, had a working relationship with England’s bishops for many years, the post explained,”including a listing in the official Roman Catholic Directory for England and Wales from 1992 to 1999.” But then, Cardinal Basil Hume removed the group from that directory which led to most priests cutting ties. On the reversal of that policy, the post commented:
“This recognition by Cardinal Nichols, as archbishop of Westminster and also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, will surely make it easier for other bishops and priests across London and the entire country, to meet with us, and cooperate in our shared desire for improved pastoral support for LGBT Catholics. . .
“For over forty years Quest have been providing much needed pastoral support to LGBT Catholics, through retreats, pilgrimages to Walsingham, worship opportunities in our local groups, our annual conferences, our regular Quest Bulletin, this website, social functions and simple fellowship. Much of the time, this has been in the face of active resistance from some in the institutional church. We should welcome this slow but steady expansion of LGBT ministry in selected dioceses, and look forward to continuing our work, now in greater co-operation with the bishops and support from them and their teams.”
The post also noted that this type of cooperation is happening outside the Diocese of Westminster, including a public LGBT Mass in the Diocese of Nottingham and conversations about similar ministries with several other bishops.
Cardinal Nichols’ record on LGBT issues is generally positive. In 2017, he said he “rejoiced” that society had become more accepting of lesbian and gay people, even while saying the institutional Church would remain “obstinate” in its teaching on marriage. In 2015, following his participation in the Synod on the Family, Nichols apologized to LGBT people and their families because such issues “didn’t get the attention that I would have hoped but I understand why [given how many issues were raised].” That year, he also presided at a Mass for the group “LGBT Catholics Westminster,” a pastoral outreach that Nichols inaugurated. He endorsed civil unions for same-gender couples as early as 2011.
Monsignor Keith Barltrop, who is Nichols’ representative for LGBTQI outreach, has similarly advocated for a holistic understanding of pastoral care for LGBT people, and said the Church should be “fully supportive” of transgender people who decide to transition after a period of discernment.
Welcoming Quest back into the Diocese’s formal support for LGBT Catholics and their families is yet another positive step upon which bridges are being built in Westminster, in England, and hopefully around the world because of the model for dialogue and collaboration these English Catholics have provided.