Category Archives: LGBT inclusion

Catholid Priest Timothy Radcliffe’s Submission to the Cof E Inquiry into Human Sexuality.

The Pilling Report on the commission of the same name, purports to be an inquiry into “human sexuality”, but in practice, it deals primarily with one part of that rich diversity of what is meant by sexuality – that is, gay and lesbian sexuality.

The inquiry heard extensive submissions from a wide range of groups and individuals, reflecting a full range of opinion. One of these came from a senior Catholic priest, Fr Timothy Radcliffe, who was once the worldwide Master of the Dominican order.  With his permission, we are able to publish here, the text of his submission.

The Anglican Commission on Sexual Ethics

I feel very honoured to have this chance to share some thoughts on sexual ethics from a Catholic perspective. I must confess that I also feel rather unqualified.  I can make no claim to being a moral theologian.

It is frequently asserted that Christians are obsessed with sex, and with what we are or are not forbidden to do. But for most of the last two thousand years, Christianity has neither been especially fixated on sex, nor has it thought about it in terms of rules. Jesus says little about sexual ethics, except on divorce. Nor was it a central concern in the Middle Ages. Think of the two great classics of Medieval Christendom, the Summa Theologica of Aquinas and Dante’s Divina Commedia. Thomas had a positive view of our passions, including sexual desire. They are basically sound and good. They can go a bit astray and need education and the purification of grace. But sexual passion is good, and belongs to our journey towards God, the one whom we most deeply desire. Aquinas hardly ever refers to the commandments. Sexual morality is about becoming virtuous, not about obeying rules.

In Dante’s Inferno the top circles of Hell, where the punishments are lightest, are reserved for people who got carried away by their passions. They desired the good, but desired it wrongly. The really grave sins, for which people get a serious roasting, are telling lies, being violent and, worst of all, the betrayal of friends.

And it is only with the Reformation that we see the Ten Commandments placed at the centre of the moral life. The medieval stress on holiness as sharing the life of God is replaced with a new stress on obedience to rules. We see the rise of what Charles Taylor calls ‘the culture of control.[1]’ There is the emergence of the centralised state, absolute monarchs, standing armies, a police force, and the exponential growth of law. Human behaviour must be regulated and controlled. Sex must be disciplined!

I suspect that it is only with the Enlightenment that one sees the rise of our modern obsession with the regulation of sex. For example, it was at the beginning of the 18th century, according to Thomas Laquer that people began to worry in a big way about masturbation. There is a new hysteria about solitary sex.[2] What are people up to behind closed doors? So my suspicion is that both this obsession with sex and a stress on rules both relatively late and alien to traditional Christianity. Continue reading Catholid Priest Timothy Radcliffe’s Submission to the Cof E Inquiry into Human Sexuality.

CoE Bishops’ Statement on UK Same Sex Marriage – Not Truly “Pastoral”

In response to the imminent introduction of same – sex marriage in England, the Church of England House of Bishops has released a statement on suggestions for Anglicans to deal with the new situation, both for couples wanting church approval for their unions, and for lesbian or gay clergy wishing to marry. The document is called “‘Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage’, but in the view of the CSCS trustees, expressed in this public statement, this document is

ANYTHING BUT PASTORAL!

CSCS calls on pro same-sex marriage Bishops to speak out 

The Centre for the Study of Christianity (CSCS) supports, unequivocally, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 which enables same-sex couples to celebrate equal civil marriage with effect, in England and Wales, from 29 March 2014. CSCS rejoices with sisters and brothers in Liberal and Reformed Judaism, the Society of Friends, and Unitarian Free Christian Churches who have opted-in, to enable such marriages to be celebrated on their premises. CSCS also recognises that amongst people of faith and none, diverse theological and ideological positions might be held regarding same-sex marriage.

 Following its Annual Conference, Redefining Marriage?, held in Birmingham on 15 February 2014, CSCS expresses serious concern at the possible impact of Church of England House of Bishops so-called ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage’. This, and the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, appear to pre-empt the process of facilitated conversation, listening and reflection, called for by the Pilling Report and referred to in the 27 January 2014 Statement from the College of Bishops. The House of Bishops latest statement sets down answers, even before many of the questions have been asked.

Any true pastoral process in the LGBT context should begin with a listening to, and analysis of, the lived experience of people of faith, particularly its LGBT members, their parents, spouses, and families. It should then proceed to reflect on this in the light of developing, and not fixed, understandings of scripture, tradition, and reason. The latter should not rely on un-reformed views of natural law but, discerning the signs of the times, encompass the insights of contemporary thinkers in the fields of gender, sexuality, anthropology and other human sciences. The House of Bishops’ Statement, and indeed the Pilling Report show little evidence of such engagement.

 The Bishops’ Statement, if taken as authoritative even for the time being, could lead to pastoral chaos, as well as unwarranted intrusion into the lives and consciences of Church of England laity and clergy. We call upon those Bishops of the Church of England who have hitherto expressed support for same-sex marriage to come out and clearly state whether the House of Bishops Statement of the 15 February 2014 is issued in their name and with their support. If it is not we urge them to disassociate themselves from the Statement, declining to implement its proposed policies and procedures in their Dioceses.

 

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