Sunday, 19 April 2009

Frank Duff and an apostolate to homosexuals

There is a news item in this week's Tablet which reports the Archbishop of Dublin as saying that "for many youn gpeople the Church remains an alien place". He is reported as identifying the Church's uncompromising attitude towards homosexuality as of most concern to young people (wording taken from the Tablet report). I have not been able to track down the original message of Archbishop Martin to which the report refers, but it occurs to me that it might well mention a range of other factors "of concern to young people" in terms of their relationship with the Church.
"There is a dramatic and growing rift between the Church and our younger generations and the blame does not lie principally with young people", Dr Martin said. "Our young people are generous and idealistic but such generosity and idealism does not seem to find a home in the Church".

We also have the account of the Soho Masses group for LGBT Catholics, which can be read here. Just to respond, in passing, to their claim that the Catholic Church only began to "detail" its teaching in 1976, their subtle use of the language of "acceptance" (applied to the person) conflated with meaning "acceptance" (applied to their view that homosexual practice is morally permissible), and their portrayal of a division between the official, Vatican teaching and what ordinary Catholics are allowed to believe (justified on a "hierarchy of truths" position, which effectively makes questions of sexual ethics a matter for individual judgement). Whenever the Church has taught about marriage, about the complementarity of the sexes, indeed, even about the Church as the "bride of Christ", she has been implicitly making statements about same sex relations. The question is one of sexual and marital ethics - but it is also one that has a reference to ecclesiology and Christology. I think it is clear from their account that the Soho Masses group seek a change in the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality, and one can ask whether their work does really meet an ecclesial norm properly so understood. This is not to say that there isn't a need for the Church to have an apostolate towards people of differing sexual attractions - it is just to say that this is perhaps not the right one.

Interestingly, I came across an account recently of Frank Duff's engagement with an apostolate towards homosexuals. The source is an article in a journal Studies, an quarterly review of Irish life and culture published by the Jesuits. The article was written by Finola Kennedy, and is entitled "Frank Duff's Search for the Neglected and Rejected". The text of the full article can be read by following the link. This is the paragraph from the article that refers to an apostolate towards homosexuals. In the notes at the end of the article, Finola Kennedy includes Joe Quinsey among the people thanked for help in preparing the article. The sources for the paragraph appear to be Finola Kennedy's own experience of the Legion, and a conversation with Joe Quinsey, one of the Legionaries involved in this early work of the Legion. The date of this work is unclear from the article, though the placing of this paragraph in the article as a whole suggests some time during the 1940s.
At a time when the expression of homosexual relations was a crime and homosexuals were open to arrest, a praesidium to befriend homosexuals was started. Legion member, Joe Quinsey, recalls that, at one of their discussions about the work, Mr. Duff stressed that genuine friendship should be sought and contacts should be invited to a restaurant for a cup of tea or coffee as a part of general sociability. A discussion group for homosexuals as well as a number of talks were organised. Not all the ideas came from Frank Duff, but if someone saw a problem he was always keen to pursue a solution. He encouraged others to take initiatives and was extremely supportive.

There is clearly a story to be told here, and I suspect that the approach adopted by Frank Duff and the early Legionaries might well provide a very useful model for present day ministry in this field.


Anonymous said...

Frank Duff seems to have been ahead of his time. As you mentioned, his encouragement for "unmarried mothers" to keep their babies if they wished to instead of having to adopt them.

Terry Nelson said...

I agree - Frank Duff should be a model for the new evangelization.