20 January 2009


Somebody has criticised us for using terms like priestess and bishopess. Simple soul that I am, I am at a loss to understand the logic of this. Supporters of the Ordination of women devote enormous time and energy to attempting to show that the word presbytera in early Christian Latin and Greek means priestess (rather than, as any hellenophone could explain, wife of a priest). Similarly, that episcopa in a mosaic means bishopess (a word applied by Anthony Trollope to Mrs Proudie). So what's the problem? Is it that in their heart of hearts they know that their claims are spurious? Or is this a piece of lexicographical pedantry? Is my ferocious critic trying to tell me that the ever-protean modern game of political correctness now considers words like 'actress' offensive? If so, I must confess that she may be right. I have spent so much of my life teaching Latin and Greek that my reactions to the nuances of my native tongue may be a little blunt. Perhaps I had better stop making cracks about 'the bishop and the actress'; and promise faithfully to avoid funnies about 'the bishopess and the actor'. 'As the bishop said to the actor' perhaps must now become my stand-by formula.

But ... oh dear ... perhaps that will mean that I shall now be criticised for camping it up. It is so difficult to get things right, even if one is a father of five and celebrated ones Ruby Wedding a couple of years ago. (Another Anglo-Catholic priest-blogger, with whom I hope to stay next month, has six children, so he, like me, may not find he has much time or energy left for wooftering.) And it has long been a cheap game for our opponents to say 'You Anglo-Catholics are all woofters' - a remarkable and singularly nasty piece of group-slander, like the things Hitler used to say about the Jews. So I am sticking my neck out and risking onslaughts when I say that, while my view of the sinfulness of homosexual genital acts is totally consonant with that of orthodox Christian tradition, I do have just one caveat about the current preoccupation, in some circles, with the issues surrounding homosexuality.

It lets the heat off the sinfulness of so many heterosexual genital acts. Although dominical teaching is very clear that a so-called marriage involving a divorced person is in fact merely an adulterous liaison, I have heard ferocious verbal assaults upon homosexuals made by persons who themselves are living in a second marriage. I do think that they ought to have enough logic, even if they lack the common decency, to keep their mouths shut. [Bit of a zeugma in the grammar there.] And I do not understand why, if it is acceptable for heterosexuals so deliberately to modify the mechanics of their sexuality that the possibility of fertility is structurally excluded, it can then be wrong in principle for homosexuals to employ sexual acts in which procreation is impossible.

Accordingly, I think there should be a new Rule of Discourse to the effect that anybody who desires to make intemperate attacks on homosexuals, whether Anglo-Catholic or not, should first of all state clearly where they stand on the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

My view is that it is one of the great, prophetic, documents of twentieth century Christianity. There. My cards, at least, are on the table.


Jeffrey Steel said...

No time for it for sure! Looking forward to your stay with us as well.

Andrew Teather said...

It is a simple truth which you expound - quite marvellously - here. The other, far more tolerated blind spot is unmarried heterosexual couples having intercourse before marriage, with the intention, one would imagine, of having children, or at least not excluding that possibility thus giving birth out of wedlock. The resulting shotgun wedding, though, at least keeps the statistics up.

Disliking the noise that children make, I chose celibacy some time ago.

Wm Riley said...

Bravo Father. I agree on the prophetic nature of Humanae Vitae.


Will Riley

Maurice said...

Humanae Vitae is life-changing. Much misuderstood, scurrilously criticised, not-usually-read - yet life-changing. And that's from another celibate!

Unknown said...

Humanae Vitae has been almost universally condememned since the day it was released. However, the trouble with such prophetic documents is that they tend to stand out clearer and clearer as the structures around them crumble under the consequnces of choosing to ignore the inconvenient truth.

When we ignored Humanae Vitae we set out on paths which would lead to consequnces which no one at the time could imagine and it will only get worse until we face the original truth.

Dad29 said...

One possible reason for their bile is the "mirror effect"--that they see in the homosexuals' acts the reflection of their own.

bishop Williamson said...

father, gather, gather,

You don't need to go on and on about how straight you are. We inclusivists love you, just as you are.

I fully accept the inclusion of gay people into the life of the Church and the priesthood. You conservatives, however, believe they are intrinsically disordered. Intemperate language? Recent language from the Vatican about gay people verges on the homophobic.

And yes farv, language does tend to evolve. The word "sambo", for example, is considered by some (no doubt over-sensitive souls) to be offensive.

I do feel that actively gay clergy who reject the inclusion of women into the ordained priesthood deserve to have their hypocrisy fully exposed. There's a strong movement in Ecusa on this very point.

"....a remarkable and singularly nasty piece of group-slander, like the things Hitler used to say about the Jews"

Just so! You do like your Nazi references. Affirming Catholicism is a Nazi front.

Pointing out that conservative anglo-catholicism supports a strong gay sub-culture is a matter of fact. I can quite believe you miss this obvious fact (that Graham Norton, btw, is unlikely to ever marry).

I see your hearty support for the SSPX. Isn't that lovely Bishop Richard Williamson a member? Another blow against anti-semitism, no doubt.

You guys really deserve each other.

William Tighe said...

Just as you votaries of the Zeitgeist (or "choicers" in Greek) really deserve one another ...