Thinking Anglicans

human ecology

The Pope, speaking on issues of sexuality, argues from the position of an organisation which has a vested interested in preserving a traditional totally male hierarchy. It reflects a view, now not universally accepted, that women have no voice and no vote, where husbands take over the property and the rights of wives, and in which the woman is ceremonially handed over from her father to her husband at her wedding.

Women’s emancipation in society has been one of the chief causes of a serious rift between Church and State in many countries where the ministry of Churches has remained restricted to men. Even formerly Catholic countries now describe themselves as having a secular constitution, and signs of the rift are most noticeable in areas relating to human sexuality:

  • Female emancipation
  • Legalisation of contraception
  • Legalisation of abortion
  • Liberalisation of divorce laws
  • Decriminalisation of homosexual acts
  • Equal rights for women
  • An end to oppression of gay and lesbian people
  • Legal frameworks for gay partnerships

It would be difficult to cite any other area in which Church and State have been more out of step with each other.

This unfortunately gives the impression that the only morality of interest to the Church is sexual morality. Indeed, it would now appear that the last time the Church could ever claim to lead a moral crusade to promote human equality it was over the ending of slavery, some two centuries ago. Since then it has been the State which has been in the forefront of promoting the dignity and equality of all people, whilst the Church has maintained its traditional inequalities by arguing for an opt-out from national legislation.

Clearly Church and State perceive society very differently. The State sees all people as having an equal and valid contribution to make, whereas the Church, in preserving a traditional male hierarchy, has a structure which appears more primitive and tribal.

Homo sapiens evolved the capability of operating in larger units than any other large mammal. As this happened the pattern of a clan under the headship of a dominant male required some adjustment.

With children taking many years to come to maturity, grandparents became important in helping them acquire the skills they would need for survival. And it was no longer only the breeding couples of this largely monogamous species which held the fabric of society together. A significant contribution has always been made by those who did not marry. Those who did not have the constant responsibility of feeding and rearing their own children had time to develop skills and enrich the community in other ways which would make them valuable to the whole group.

Such people were not perceived as a threat to married couples. The man who did not covet his neighbour’s wife has always been less of a danger to society than the heterosexual man who might want to tempt her away. The reason for having strict marriage laws is not because of what gay people might do, but in order to protect couples from heterosexual predators. It would therefore appear that once again the Pope has shown that the Church is out of step with society in its understanding of human sexuality. There is no danger to the species from gay people whilst 90% of people are attracted to the opposite sex. Gay people have never posed any threat to those who wish to live as heterosexual couples. They simply accept this as a valid lifestyle for those who wish to enjoy it.

Society in Britain, North America, and much of Europe is happy with this situation and has framed legislation to protect the rights of all people. By contrast the Pope is the personification of a wrong human ecology; one which fails to give rights to all people. And people wonder, seeing the Church of England’s hesitation over the ordination of women to the episcopate, whether having an Established Church which retains such an outmoded view of women has anything to commend it.

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Pluralist
Guest

I think that’s exactly right; in evolutionary terms (though may not be relevant here) the minority that does not fit but is carried by the group becomes an insurance policy against catastrophic environmental change. Here the gay couples and single people can add extra creativity into society.

BobinSWPA
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BobinSWPA

After all the sex scandal exposure, Cardinal Law’s coverups etc… The Holy Roman Catholic Church had to blame someone for all their ineffectiveness so let’s beat up on GLBT community. I think they call that scapegoating!!!

What Rome is finding out is what we already know, “it’s not easy trying to please all sides.” They can’t be too progressive since their biggest population is now in third world countries where they still have laws against gay and lesbian people and women owning property.

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

No doubt a watershed point for the Anglican Communion. And it begs the question, would we even be ready for homeless, unwed mother-to-be holing up in some barn? Somehow, a lot of us aren’t getting the message, and it shows in the leadership of Christianity.

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

I think the author is spot on in many ways. When it comes to women’s issues, there are certain churches where the pastor delights in telling his (it’s always his) flock that the male is head of the family in exactly the same way that Jesus is head of the Church (quoting St. Paul?). To me, that is an awesome appropriation of power. Jesus is absolute head of the Church. Jesus’ word is Law, period. Now, I understand that the saying has theological nuances, that Jesus isn’t an absolute dictator, etc. But, all too often those nuances are ignored when… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The more the pope and other conservative-traditional religious leaders talk this sort of flat earth nonsense, the less compelling their witness to Jesus of Nazareth as Lord. Any educated citizen can hardly avoid the parallels. Thus the church institution which put Galileo under house arrest, then apologized to him centuries after his death, now lays hard claim to propping up equally erroneous beliefs about human embodiment, gender, sexual orientation, and what is natural in nature. Funny how all of this whirling pea soup almost always reduces down to bitter tasting males only and males embalming fluid in the long run.… Read more »

Kevin Scott
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Kevin Scott

Homosexuality is not a threat to humanity.

The same cannot be said for institutions such as the Vatican when they seek to de-humanize people. In this instance the deciding factor is sexual orientation; in other times, in other places it has been race, gender et al.

Humanity is corroded when human beings fail to recognise the common humanity of other men and women.

Joan of Quark
Guest
Joan of Quark

I have so far only seen an excerpt of the Pope’s speech, but found it interesting that he seemed to be basing his “tackling” of homosexuality on the view that “male and female are innately different” – so reminding many of us who are different from the norm in some way that we are targets for coercive normalisation too: such as straight people who have not married, or who have decided to remain childfree.

Of course, “tackling homosexuality” makes about as much sense to me as an agenda as “tackling brunettes” or “clamping down on six-footers”.

rick allen
Guest

So, does anyone have a link to the actual speech, as opposed to characterizations and characterizations of characterizations?

Donald Dodman
Guest

I was rather disheartened to read this article containing the Vatican’s understanding and attitudes about sexuality–any sort of sexuality. As a retired gay priest of the Canadian Anglican Church I spent my entire career carefully dodging and maneuvering around questions about my single status. I have recently published a book with Amazon, “A Priest’s Tale” which documents both the struggles and the delights of being a gay man and a priest. It can also be found through my web site, donalddodman dot com

rick allen
Guest

Here, at least, is the offending passage in German: Weil der Glaube an den Schöpfer ein wesentlicher Teil des christlichen Credo ist, kann und darf sich die Kirche nicht damit begnügen, ihren Gläubigen die Botschaft des Heils auszurichten. Sie trägt Verantwortung für die Schöpfung und muß diese Verantwortung auch öffentlich zur Geltung bringen. Und sie muß dabei nicht nur die Erde, das Wasser und die Luft als Schöpfungsgaben verteidigen, die allen gehören. Sie muß auch den Menschen gegen die Zerstörung seiner selbst schützen. Es muß so etwas wie eine Ökologie des Menschen im recht verstandenen Sinn geben. Es ist nicht… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“…the Catholic notion of human sexuality as subject to natural law as traditionally understood…”

And here is the crux of the problem…”natural law as traditionally understood” is scientifically incorrect. It has no relationship to the world as it really is, as we have discovered it to be after two centuries of scientific investigation…investigation that continues apace and continues to reveal that the traditional understanding of natural law is dead wrong.

Tobias Haller
Guest

If celibacy were given approval, then too many people might become celibate, and the human race would die out.

Oh, wait.

Blessed feast of the Incarnation — when perfect Truth dared enter this world in a completely unnatural way, and apart from the God-ordained pairing of male and female. Odd that God chose not to use what Benedict thinks all folk should choose; but then, the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.

Joe
Guest

If Rick Allen’s selection is right (and if my German is any good), then this is not all that strong a denunciation. Benedict is drawing attention to our ironic defence of nature and of natural patterns and processes when it comes to ecology and our reluctance to defend natural patterns and processes when it comes to human beings. He refers approvingly to Humanae Vitae (no surprises there), and he thus makes the same mistake that Paul VI made in reducing human nature to biological processes, and reducing sexuality to what we have in common with animals. Humanae Vitae is dehumanising… Read more »

John UK
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John UK

The full text in English is here: http://www.massinformation.org/2008/12/benedict-xvi-curia-address-in-english.html The passage on sexuality runs: “Joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit – thus we come to the central theme of Sydney which was, in fact, the Holy Spirit. In this retrospective, I wish once more to point out in summary the orientation that was implicit in the theme. 1. First of all, there is the affirmation that comes to us from the start of the story of Creation, which tells of the Creator Spirit that moved over the waters, created the world and continuously renews it. Faith in the Creator… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

I am from Newfoundland, where the Roman Church was found to be shamelessly hiding and abetting pedophiles in the clergy and religious for decades. There was a public inquiry that slammed the way our social services system allowed it to go on, and pointed out just how far into government the RC Church’s power went. There was a lawsuit, and after nearly two decades of fighting its victims, the Church finally managed to get them to drop their case, and thus will NEVER fully pay recompense to its victims. Never heard of this? Of course not, we are a small… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“Here, at least, is the offending passage in German:” And here a first rough (I’ve just come back from a Christmas party… may you all excuse my mistakes and the rough style!) translation of the truly offending and extremely ignorant passage into English: Because the belief in the creator is an important part of the Christian credo, the church cannot and must not limit itself to telling believers about the message of salvation. It bears responsibility for creation and must proclaim this responsibility publicly. It must therefore not only defend the earth, the water and the air as gifts of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Since then it has been the State which has been in the forefront of promoting the dignity and equality of all people, whilst the Church has maintained its traditional inequalities by arguing for an opt-out from national legislation”. Tom Ambrose’s article here, on the Pope’s recent declaration on the moral equivalence of the need to preserve the heterosexual human environment from the possible proliferation of the sexual activity of homosexuals, as being on a par, or more important even, than protection of the ecological environment; seems pretty much ‘on the ball’. The clerical defence of the ‘status quo’ in the… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The old news in the most recent Vatican statement is simply that queer folks are, still, always – outside what the Vatican considers nature created as good by God. Repeating this in Advent is especially hard and tight-fisted and aggressive and mean. Just when perhaps some real global families are experimenting with how it might be to welcome their queer sons/daughters to the family table (along with committed partners? along with children?) – clunk goes the big Vatican fist to remind us that such jolly welcome might be sincere but stinky with bad faith, and might be outright dangerous to… Read more »

Dallas Bob
Guest
Dallas Bob

It is metaphysically impossible for the Roman Catholic Church to sink any lower. Seriously, how can thinking, educated people willfully associate with an organization like that? If the Episcopal Church adopted this type of backward, primitive theology, I would get up, walk out, and send a one sentence letter to my Rector – “Please take me off your rolls permanently”. But worst of all, mainstream, thoughtful, educated America thinks this is all Christianity can be – a dumbed down piece of superstitious nonsense that actually hurts people. This “theology” as espoused in mega churches and by the Roman Catholic hierarchy… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

I also quote the German original on my weblog, with my own trans. What the Pope may not realize is that people’s nerves are acerbated to fever pitch by the string of gaffes and dismissive utterances from Rome in recent months. Ruth Gledhill thinks the moment has come for the Roman Catholic dispute about homosexuality. It will dwarf your Anglican woes!

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

What certainly is a threat to the ecology of the world is overpopulation.

Not only does the Church encourage this overpopulation, but of course, demonises those least likely to reproduce.

Malthus was right. He needs rehabilitating and we need to seriously start talking about population control.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Tom Ambrose sees women’s emancipation as the common denominator of his bullet points, whereas I see the common denominator as being the [normalisation of the] separation of sex from a marital context, which is something applying to both genders equally. What all will agree is that some of the things in the list (e.g. divorce, abortion) are light years away from ‘freedom’ of any variety let alone the true Christian variety. They are directly opposed to it, and they are lose-lose situations. So we’ll raise our Christmas glasses to true freedom which comes hand in hand with life and with… Read more »

Brian
Guest
Brian

While what the Pope says may be ‘hardly earth-shattering’ I believe that previously his anti-gay rhetoric was couched more in terms of personal morality – that is, I am causing myself harm by doing this. Here he joins the camp of those who depict homosexuality as having the potential to destroy society – and it’s always ominous when a particular group is singled out as evil in that sense. As far as his analogy goes, pairing rigorously-grounded contemporary ecological concerns with outdated medieval rhetoric about ‘natural law’, just because both use the word ‘nature’ is absurd. Anyway – when someone… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“the [normalisation of the] separation of sex from a marital context” Christopher, it was the linking of sex and marriage that was “normalized”, and that a long time ago. Sex doesn’t, at base, have much to do with marriage or anything else other than reproduction, though in the context of a loving committed relationship it is worlds away from what it is without these things. Now how do I, a gay man, know that? I think it was a good thing to link the two, for many reasons, which may surprise you. But it is simply not the case that… Read more »

BobinSWPA
Guest
BobinSWPA

This is priceless, “Become gay now, and enjoy being discriminated against, reviled, jailed, beaten up on public streets, and as an added bonus, maybe even executed! Sign up today!” I worked as an organist for years in the Roman Catholic Church. Every priest I worked for/with was gay. I’d play funerals for other churches whose organist had full time jobs and met a good 1/4 of our diocesan priest. I know of only two who were straight. I often wonder how those who are still alive feel about their precious church? How can someone can beat up others for something… Read more »

rick allen
Guest

“Is anybody among us really ignorant of just how being repeatedly slapped (fast, hard, slow, soft – does it matter with insults?) with these very traditional presuppositions of being dangerously outside the created goods of nature is conformed standard practice in most traditional preaching/evangelism?” In fact, traditional Christian teaching puts us all “dangerously outside the created goods of nature” insofar as it teaches that we all live in a fallen world. The doctrine of original sin is the primary means by which we see that any critique of others applies in spades to ourselves. It doesn’t mean that the critique… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Alas RA, no. The fact is a categorically different discernment lexicon is being used to name and weigh queer folks, than is used to name and weigh straight folks. Hence the mistaken and skewed natural law narratives which reserve a special bad faith place for queer folks, uninhabited by straight folks. This used to be a whole bad faith list of church life things – giving rise to those original nasty historical associations between, say, sodomy and heresy. That will help get you burned at the stake, at double risk. Now, we have passed through two more iterations. One dropped… Read more »

john
Guest
john

‘Thank God for the beacon of light in the darkness that is the Episcopal Church.’

I’m so glad to read such positive affirmation. I feel the same way about the Church of England (well, most of it …). We should be proud of our liberal churches. They will win.

Happy Christmas, all.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“In fact, traditional Christian teaching puts us all “dangerously outside the created goods of nature” insofar as it teaches that we all live in a fallen world.” It is actually the opposite. The Fall affected all of Creation, it fell with us. Thus we are part of the “created goods of nature”. That is why the Incarnation works: God assumes fallen created nature, “flesh”, if you will, in order to restore fallen created nature to its original state of grace. I’m really getting tired of all this “We’re all sinners, we’re all fallen” nonsense. It isn’t the statement that is… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“What all will agree is that some of the things in the list (e.g. divorce, abortion) are light years away from ‘freedom’ of any variety let alone the true Christian variety.”

I’m reminded of the punchline to an old joke: “What you mean ‘we’, paleface?” Christopher, I think you’ll find that “all” do not so agree and you should not be so quick to assume that your own prejudices are shared by everyone else.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

A valid question in all of this hoo-ha might just be: “Has His Holiness the Pope fallen short of what God requires of all men and women, in terms of his reluctance (and, so far, failure) to take his part in the reproduction of the human species?

Ot is it a case of ‘What’s good for the goose may not always be good for the Gander’?

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

What does this blog have in common with Sydney Anglican Forums? Answer: it contains such bile against the Catholic Church..you know you may be closer to the evangelicals than you think. Happy Christmas, dear fundamentalist liberals.

Simon ..you’ve got to allow this to make them think.

[Ed: I don’t have to if I don’t want to 🙂 Merry Christmas everyone! Simon K]

Ren Aguila
Guest
Ren Aguila

danfree wrote: ‘Plus second, all of the data suggests that gender is a complex continuum not two and only two separate categorical male/female distinctions which must be carefully kept uncontaminated. Male/female is the beginning of the variances, not the sum total of them, empirically speaking, in an evolutionary/adaptive process.’ Given that the Pope condemned the notion of “gender theory”, in that sense that gender is a continuum, is this your attempt to biologically justify this? Any examples? Pat O’Neill wrote: ‘Christopher, I think you’ll find that “all” do not so agree and you should not be so quick to assume… Read more »

counterlight
Guest

Things were so much easier and clearer back in the day when “as the Prince believed, then so did the realm.” That was so much simpler than leaving matters of doctrine to the vague whims of individual conscience. I’m sure there are still a few nostalgic sighs for those days to be heard in the halls of the Vatican and elsewhere. Blame those constitutions, and their liberal social contract theory and ideals of universal enfranchisement! And worse still, blame universal education! All this trouble began when the peasants began thinking for themselves instead of listening obediently to their betters. First… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“What has the world come too?”

Picking up on your irony, can I add that the world has come to a place where we seem to have the idea that we can vote on what it is we are going to tell God is His will.

Valerie
Guest
Valerie

Hello, Thank you for this web site. Please help me understand the Episcopal church’s stance on homosexuality. I beg you not to think of me as a homophobe; I am not. I only wish I could understand how it is compatible with scripture. I, along with St. Paul, count myself chief among sinners, and do not like singling out one behavior or action. I am just so confused. I would greatly appreciate any light you could shed on the subject. I miss being a part of the ECUSA. Thank you.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I only wish I could understand how it is compatible with scripture.” So does everybody else! I am a gay man who has no doubt whatsoever of God’s love for me, or that he has led me to the relationship I now find myself in. Yet I am not at all sure that sacrimental matrimony is meant for me, for starters. Yet, we need to understand what the ancients were talking about, how they understood the issue, and indeed, what Scriptural authority actually is. Despite what many Evangelicals would say, Anglicans are not traditionally fundamentalist or literalist. It is patently… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Hello Valerie

You could to worse than start here:

http://www.reluctantjourney.co.uk/

Happy Christmas!

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Ren:

I suppose it depends on who you’re asking. Conduct a poll of Western Europeans and Americans (including Canadians) under the age of, say, 40…and you’ll get a very different set of responses, responses that indicate a far greater understanding and tolerance of gender differences and sexual orientation than in the older groups, or in more “traditional” societies.

I’ll also add that 50 years ago, if you wanted a consensus on mixed-race marriage, you’d have found it in the “opposed” position. The majority is not always not correct, it is often morally deficient.

Brian R
Guest
Brian R

Robert Ian Williams writes “What does this blog have in common with Sydney Anglican Forums? Answer: it contains such bile against the Catholic Church..you know you may be closer to the evangelicals than you think. Happy Christmas, dear fundamentalist liberals.” As someone who unfortunately lives in the Sydney Anglican Diocese and taught for many years in schools run by the Sydney Catholic Diocese I do not see a lot of difference. Whatever their other differences, they are united in hating the gays. The difference is that the thinking lay people and many of the religious within the Catholic Diocese do… Read more »

Chris Tyack
Guest
Chris Tyack

Um, am I the only person to realise that the pope’s address was not about homosexuality? It was about contraception. The pope thinks contraception is contrary to nature because it severs sex from its (natural) context of marriage and parenthood. This is straight out of Humanae Vitae (1969). In women artificial contraception enables a cleft between their sex (biology) and gender (behaviour) because they circumvent motherhood, in which femininity has traditionally consisted. The pope sees contraception as the occasion of the ‘masculinisation’ of society; it is a kind of market-driven colonisation of the human person. For this reason, too, it… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

Pat the analogy with mixed race marriage is totally false….it was only banned in some Northern European colonial societies, and then only with black people. Furthermore that legislation was in the context of slave societies, and only lasted for about 200 years.

In Racialist South Africa, most of the leading Afrikaner families had some Asiatic slave ancestry.

Oriscus
Guest
Oriscus

Valerie – At the risk of, I suspect, feeding a concern-troll, I would only add to what has already been said that it is a good idea to view Scripture as a starting-point, not the final word on any issue. God’s truth proceeds out of Scripture, it isn’t buried in it. It’s also, I think, important to remember that this is not an Episcopalian website – it is a site set up and run by members of the Church of England, with a reach to the worldwide Anglican communion, which includes the US-based Episcopal Church. Many viewpoints are represented here,… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Ren:

A barnyard epithet occurs to me. While mixed-race marriage may not have been “banned” in all societies, it most definitely made a pariah of the white member of the couple in “polite society” almost everywhere–until the middle of the last century. As for it being “black only,” research the attitudes toward Europeans marrying Asians among the British colonials before WW2…or the same among American troops in the period after that war.

The analogy is quite apt.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Oh of course, RIW, we all hate the Holy Church of Rome with an unjustified hatred. All the things I spoke of are utterly untrue, I made them all up because I am an anti-Roman bigot! Let’s see, need for strong centralized authority to ease all your moral quandaries, nice clearly set out rules, persecution complex, conviction that you are the only True Christians, inability to see your own faults, Romans, Evangelicals, what’s the difference? But it’s only some members of each camp that were separated at birth, right? “am I the only person to realise that the pope’s address… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

Please don’t let this web site go the way of Stand Firm and Virtue on line..vehicles of sheer hate… Indeed whilst there are anti- Catholics on the Sydney Anglican Forums the moderators do a good job in stopping over the top language.

I like the Martin Reynolds approach..he disagrees with much Catholic teaching, but he is always generous and charitable. He is also critical of liberals if need be.

Criticism is the guardian of our souls.

BillyD
Guest

I think that Chris Tyack is probably right – the Pope is addressing himself primarily to the issue of contraception, AFAICT. I may not agree with him, but this is not such strange stuff for a Pope to say.

counterlight
Guest

“…we seem to have the idea that we can vote on what it is we are going to tell God is His will.”

Or perhaps we have come to a point where we must all try to discern God’s will together, rather than rely on our self-appointed unaccountable Betters to tell us what His will is.

BobinSWPA
Guest
BobinSWPA

Ford, Oriscus Very, Very well said. I really never thought of expressing scripture as a starting point, not the final word. Thanks for the wording. My understanding is the RC Church in the U.S. hasn’t decreased in population or grown any. The influx of immigrants has kept the population of practicing RC’s about the same. The irony is, without the influx, the RC population in the U.S. is decreasing. My area of the U.S. is 40 to 50% Catholic (Pittsburgh). Many of my teaching colleagues are RC’s. Most are non-practicing and/or don’t agree with many of the teachings of the… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

RIW, come down off the Cross, there’s people in need of the wood.