An open letter to Deacon Nick Donnelly
Dear Deacon Nick,
From my investigations on the worldwide web I have discovered that you are a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Lancaster and Vocations Director for the Permanent Diaconate of that diocese. You are also a prolific blogger, indeed the author of the blog, Protect the Pope and owner of a Twitter account of the same name, in addition to which you have also written for the Catholic Truth Society. In your blog I read that you hold a BA (Divinity) in Theology and a Masters in Spiritual Formation. Above all these things, however, you are my brother in Christ whom I strive to love with every fibre of my being, even though, according to your blog, you have little regard for me because of my association with Quest and the deviant ways that you attribute to this group.
We have never met, but were we to encounter each other I would hope that it would be with warmth and in a spirit of brotherly affection. I would even dare to suggest that we should follow the advice of St Paul (Romans 16:16) and “greet one another with a holy kiss”, although you might consider the offer of such a gesture to be taking things a little too far.
The Office of Prayer during the Day for Thursday of Week 2, which is the office I prayed immediately before starting to compose these words, consists of verses from Psalm 55, quoted in the title above this letter. It also consists of the following scripture reading for use in the afternoon:
The Spirit yields a harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness, purity. Since we live by the Spirit, let the Spirit be our rule of life (Galatians 5:22,23a,25).
Contemplating the words of the psalms and the scripture reading, I found it exceedingly difficult not to think of your blog and those who contribute to it. The words found in the Office seemed to be an indictment of the tone so often adopted by yourself and your contributors. But on further reflection I had to repent of such thoughts and come to an understanding that the words were directed at me. It is all too easy to use scripture or the Church’s teachings to condemn others when so often we need first to see that they are intended for our consumption also. Jesus’ words immediately spring to mind, “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own?” (Matthew 7:3) In this instance, what you, and others, take from the words of the Office is not for me to judge or decide on your behalf. I do know, however, that some of my fellow Questors often get very angry about the uncharitable and intemperate words that are used to describe gay and lesbian Catholics, our families and supporters. Such anger can be very destructive and un-Christlike. In the light of your degree in spiritual formation, I feel certain you will agree that the lack of courtesy, forbearance, love, etc is responsible for so many terrible events that scar this world and the lives that God has created. It is therefore incumbent upon each one of us to weigh carefully the words that we speak and the actions we take in order to ensure that they measure up to the standards that our Lord expects of us.
I sincerely wish that you could meet the many men and women I have encountered in Quest over the years. I believe you would be genuinely surprised and delighted to find among them those who love the Church and who struggle on a day-to-day basis to be followers of the Truth. In his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis states that “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives (LF 4). He goes on to say that it is a transforming love through which we gain “fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realise that it contains a great promise of fulfilment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us.”
The image of gay and lesbian Catholics we find in your blog and others like it is frequently very far removed from the reality of the truth about us. Among Quest’s members are Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, readers, catechists, altar servers, sacristans, prayer group leaders; men and women who by choice or force of circumstances live celibate lives. True, there are others who are in, or who aspire to being in, stable, long-term, same-sex relationships. They are painfully aware of the fact that acts of intimacy within such relationships put them in conflict with the teaching of the Church. This is often a source of regret to them; nevertheless they are firmly convinced that they are not called to live as celibates, which is what the Church asks of them. They read in Genesis, “It is not good that the man be alone” (2:18); words which indicate that our most deeply-rooted vocation is to community, solidarity and mutual support and that the seed of this profound human vocation is indelibly sown in every human being; it is the essence of every woman and man. The damage that is done to individuals and those closest to them by demanding of lesbian and gay Catholics that they live chaste and celibate lives is considerable. Some have chosen to marry in the hope that this might be a remedy to their need for companionship or because parental or peer pressure has been exerted upon them to conform to society’s or the Church’s expectations. It hardly needs to be stated that the fallout from this can be devastating for all the parties concerned; the individual, their spouse, children, and grandchildren. Equally, loneliness, bullying, clandestine lives, fear have led some to suicide or recurring bouts of depression. When you write so disparagingly of gay and lesbian Catholics and their attempts to live good and fulfilling Christian lives you are contributing to the hurt and rejection that so many of us have had to endure for decades. Accordingly, it is incumbent upon me to pray for you and for your supporters that you will resist your strong urge to protect the Pope by denigrating, judging and criticising your fellow Catholics. As the Year of Faith draws to its conclusion and in the cause of the New Evangelisation we are all of us called to profess our faith in “God’s tangible and powerful love” (LF 17) and to see “things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes” (LF 18), the eyes of love. In conclusion I ask that you pray for me that the light of faith may continue to guide my journey through life “faithful to the memory of the Lord and sustained by his presence and by the working of the Holy Spirit” (LF 5).
Your brother in Christ,