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.