Thursday, August 03, 2006

True or False?

What do you think? I propose:

(1) The one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has over most of its history knowingly ordained sexually active homosexuals.

(a) Indeed, the church may have ordained all manner of persons--patricides, kleptomaniacs, string fetishists. But of none of them could we make an assertion parallel to (1); they appear among the ordained, but with nowhere near a comparable frequency. Remember, I'm talking "knowingly" here.

(b) The church did so knowingly, even if officially disapproving. Prima facie, the church has a long history of hypocrisy around ordaining sexually active homosexuals. But an apologist for the church might reply "So what? Over most of the church's history, this was not widely known. It could be, and was, kept on the DL."

(c) "Sexually active" does not imply intercourse.

Now here is the kicker:

(2) The church will continue through most of its future history ordaining sexually active homosexuals.

How do I know? I am guessing, but I have some evidence. Despite protestations to the contrary, I bet the Church of England's stand on civil unions for gay priests institutionalizes the practice described in (2). Nor do I think the Roman Catholic Church will defrock its sexually active gay ordained. Here the church has a tradition--an immoral tradition, one that should not stand, but most likely will stand until Christ returns in Glory--of tolerating a contradiction between praxis and theory. Pious platitudes aside, this rank hypocrisy is a "fact on the ground" that you may, if you wish, chalk up to the hardness of our hearts.

But above all, you should keep (1) and (2) in mind when pious purple shirts proclaim brave new worlds of purity--whether speaking from Pittsburgh or Lagos or Canterbury. They are all of them already implicated; they will--I bet you, gentle reader--not repent. They could, you know, adopt either a tolerant stand, roughly with TEC and Canada, or they could bring back an Inquisition aimed at rooting out all sexually active homosexual priests and bishops. And remember, they will not just be looking for intercourse--unless we're friends of Bill, sex includes a little more than that. Indeed, I bet at the end of the day, precious few, if any, homosexual ordained would truly count as sexually inactive.

It seems to me that either stand is morally consistent, at least, even if the prospect of a new Inquisition aimed directly at sexually active homosexual priests and bishops is odious. But genuine Christian sobriety cannot know any other way. Tolerance--pastoral or doctrinal, as you will--or the Inquisition. I bet we shall see neither in the upcoming months and years. The real "Anglican Fudge"--alas--will be an altogether predictable survival of ecclesial hypocrisy, with Rowan Willaims leading the way.


At 3:38 PM, Blogger Closed said...

It is this hypocrisy which does so much damage to souls. I know, I've been there, and it's painful to undergo the outing from such. James Alison makes an important point that a real rooting out would at least force more to actually stand rather than continue themselves to be implicated in the "game". The "game" is what needs bursting. The slowly more honest TEC or ACC or the absolute no of ACNigeria is far superior to the CofE's wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

BTW: We're having a good conversation on lgbt experience at Fr. Nick's.

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Closed said...

And what doesn't count as sexual activity gets really complicated. After all, I would say that kissing and rubbing is sexual activity, muchless the many other ways two men or two women can pleasure and love one another physically. Even mutual masturbation is sexual activity, even masturbation alone while pining for one's beloved is sexual activity.

On the other hand, it would seem to me we've yet to truly discuss, as I mention in my post at Fr. Nick's , that a husband and wife can sodomize one another even by having sex in the "usual way" (penile-vaginal) even when open to procreation.

At 4:48 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I agree--the game needs busting. And it is disappointing that so many well intentioned, powerful ecclesiastics are so willing to keep playing: this is what the CoE seems happy to do.

And although--incredibly--there are some Anglicans who even now opt for Inquisition, I think most right wing Anglicans would opt for some variety of tolerance were they to lose the option of hypocrisy.

My rough standard for what counts as sex is taken from what would count as cheating or problematic in a heterosexual marriage: in a typical exclusive marrriage, even a passionate kiss or caress would be explosively volatile. Apply that to clergy, and you see how high the bar has to be in order to be morally consistent.

Given the consensus in all parties around permitting gay men to be ordained, what would the reformers say about such a high bar, given what they had to say about hetersosexual celibacy as a requirement in clergy?

You are right either Nick as well I think: very many Christian couples practice sodomy--at the very least including oral sex--and are quite happy to do so. Why do our self-appointed orthodox fail to
condemn heterosexual sodomy? They accept tacitly a crucial premise: the primary end of sex is unitive, not procreative.

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Closed said...

But the "game" serves the powerful ecclesiastics perfectly well, but it destroys souls.

I cannot demand of fellow gay and lesbian clerics in England, come out, because I know this is a painful process, having lived it through my partner, but it really is time to speak of the "game" as the problem.

The Reformer's knew of the tyranny of celibacy and I think were right to rather regularize a priest and his "maid" through marriage. On the other hand, I think having eliminated celibacy as a sign and option altogether we get the modern celebration of the heterosexual. Both have tyrannized those of us whose emotional and erotic life works toward completion in another of the same sex. The Reformers would have likely reverted to celibacy for gay men because they "naturalized" heterosexual desire in a totalizing way. But the principle of the Reformers that recognizes regularization and some sense of compassion and understanding that most are not called to celibacy seems to be the way TEC and ACC are going.

As for sodomy, I would venture that lust in the heart (meaning domination and possession) can make any sex act sodomitic. On the other hand, a desire to pleasure the other and praise God in thanksgiving for one another...what we call the unitive, covers even the reality that our sex is always mixed in motivations. Just my opinion, oh, and the way marriage was justified as a sacrament by monks in the 11th century.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Closed said...

It's a bar no one could meet...hence, St. Paul's recommendation if one burns.

Oh, and important point you have just made, which I've only read in one other theology piece. Sex is within the genus of touch. When one has made promises of one's body to another, any number of touch acts could in fact be sexual if done with a member of one's erotic affections and one is not paying attention to motivations which are always too easily justified.

I would consider a passionate kiss on my part or caressing of a man other than my partner cheating.

In fact, I'll take it another level, on at least one occasion by over-emotional involvement with a man other than my partner, I found myself in my heart knowing I was committing adultery, if I am permitted to so speak, and that involvement led to fantasies and more regular contact. I knew myself guilty. Though we never had sex even in maximalist terms of touching, I would aver that such emotional attachment may in fact be even more damaging than a one night stand to a committed relationship, not that I'm recommending that option. Eventually, I went to confession, transformed the relationship into a more healthy friendship.

I think women get it about these emotional attachments more than men in general.


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