In recent decades, the paradoxes inherent in an established national religion have put increasingly intolerable stress on the timbers of the Church of England, especially in matters of sexual morality. The ceiling joists are finally plunging through the plaster:
The Church of England is to allow gay clergy to enter into civil partnerships but only if they promise to abstain from sex, according to guidance issued yesterday. It has been drawn up to clarify the Church's position on the Civil Partnerships Act, which will offer same-sex couples a legal status similar to marriage when it comes into effect on Dec 5.
In a "pastoral statement", the House of Bishops said that clergy would be able to take advantage of the Act, but only if they reassure their bishops that they will uphold Church teaching. Clergy were also told that they should not offer formal services of blessing for couples who had been through a civil partnership ceremony, but they could pray with the couple.
So, Christian doctrine holds that a same-sex marriage is a contradiction in terms, but ministers of religion who reject this doctrine may yet enter into a same-sex menage provided they feign physical abstinence out of respect for a logically unconsummateable union: stark staring madness.
Who deserves the blame for the mess? You have to reach back to the urbane, compassionate partisans of marital birth control who first separated the unitive significance from the procreative significance of the sexual act -- to use the language of Humanae vitae 12 -- those are the lads who buggered it up. The gay rights crowd behind the latest fiasco have simply seized on the original theological blunder and taken it to its logical conclusion.
A national religion is beholden to civil law in ways a non-established church is not, whence the passage of the Civil Partnerships Act forced the issue on the C of E and resulted in the doctrinally vacuous compromise. But many Catholics are squishy at best when it comes to sexual teaching, and gaze wistfully across the alley in the direction of our emancipated brethren. The state of contemporary clerical life shows that many Catholic priests and bishops who plead for caution ("Give it time, give it time ...") are for all intents and purposes unconsummated Anglicans themselves. No cause for gloating; the future is here.
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Posted by: -
Jul. 26, 2005 1:52 PM ET USA
Once the Lambeth episcopacy 'okayed' homosexual unions for the laity in 1991, the horse was out of the barn. Back then they ineffectually tried to have their cake and eat it by restricting the clergy from such wondrous relationships. Now they intone that Canon Reginald and Hairy Hugh can have the appearance of a union but without the closeness (separate beds should do it, one assumes). So the union is 'good' but the sex is not. Yep, not a contradiction in sight...
Posted by: -
Jul. 26, 2005 11:40 AM ET USA
The future isn't quite here: JPII forestalled that by embracing the papal teaching mandate, but foregoing even a pretence of governing. This left the unconsummated Anglicans disappointed, but otherwise comfortable where they were. What these people need is a prod to move them to where they really want to be. This is probably at hand, thanks to our cowardly episcopacy which is engaged in selling the US Church's patrimony of churches, hospitals, and schools to pay for the recreation of perverts.
Posted by: patriot6908 -
Jul. 26, 2005 10:14 AM ET USA
You are right that we have many Catholic priests, prelates and laity who glance wistfully to the Thames and the Griswoldian Empire that occupies so much of mainstream progressive Protestantism in the US. On the other hand, the Church and our orthodox Protestant brethren have been strangely blessed to have these moral and theological Lilliputians as examples of consequences. Which include becoming: A. Morally irrelevant. B. Moribund. C. Extinct. Leaving our wistful ones on the same road.