I write with apprehension; because Sex is always embarassing to write about. What does the writer reveal about himself? What does this piece he's written say about me? Is he getting directly at my sexuality here? Do I applaud him or condemn him?
But there is no getting away from the fact that Sex is one of the big new dividing points opening up between Christians (and by no means always solely between denominations). And between Christianity and the World. Not the least of the tragedy is that it is less easy to talk joyfully and affirmatively about God's gift of sexuality than one would like it to be.
I wrote a little while ago about Masturbation And All That. May I recall here the main point I was getting at: the fact that the World and its Spirit, Zeitgeist, have decided that this little practice is a matter of indifference and that people who carry on about it must have some very strange hang-ups. But it is 'Tradition' that the practice is "disordered". And that's not the only thing that is, according to the Tradition, disordered. The same split has opened up with regard to Fornication ... particularly in that form of it which is called Living Together Without Being Married. The two-millennia old Tradition of the Church unambiguously condemns it. But ... And what about the 'Marriage' of divorcees? It is condemned by the most explicit words of Christ, and yet has become mainstream among non-RCs - so much so that when I went to a New Incumbents' Lunch with the Archdeacon soon after I arrived in Oxford, I was interested to find that much of the conversation, between a couple of women 'priests', was about how embarassing and intrusive it is when the Bishop tries to check up on the circumstances of the break-up of one marriage before consenting to a clergygirl's next prospective coupling (lovely word from the 1549 Marriage Service, yes?).
And what about Humanae Vitae? As I point out below in Part II, this Encyclical proclaimed, in effect, that the sort of sexual culture lived by a great proportion of First World married people is disordered and unnatural.
Against this background, it is unsurprising that an integral expression of the Tradition is also less than benign towards genitally enacted homosexual relationships. Since pretty well every common Western form of heterosexual lifestyle ends up surrounded by question marks, it would be remarkable if the homosexual lifestyle escaped unmentioned.
There is a philologically nasty coinage "homophobia". Where I do think it has justification is when it is applied to the sort of middle-of-the-road 'moderate' Christian attitude in which Homosexuality is pretty well the only life-style which does attract criticism. For example, I wonder what is going on if a denomination has few problems with clergy who are remarried divorcees but is fussy about clergy in civil partnerships. In purely worldly terms, you might have thought that people would say "Heterosexuals have had the chance of getting married, homosexuals have not; so it's appropriate to be a bit more understanding of the problems of the latter than of those of the former"; but I haven't heard followers of GAFCON saying that. I would sympathise very much more with the Christian Superintendent Registrar who was sacked because her conscience did not allow her to solemnise Civil Partnerships, if she had not (I presume) spent the best years of her life cheerfully 'marrying' divorcees.
And - to move outside our First World culture - I do not desire to discharge unsubstantiated insults when I ask whether African Evangelicals with very strong views on homosexuality are quite so relentlessly hardline when it comes to polygamy. Is that going to attract heavy, even lethal, penal sanctions in Uganda? If not, why not? And what about males who have conducted themselves promiscuously and then infected their wives with AIDS? String them up?
What am I saying? That there is a distinct and coherent package of Traditional Christian doctrine about sexuality which accords ill with the mores which many Christians (especially but not only in the West), whatever their sexual orientation, absorb from the World and live out. Accepting that traditional package integrally is one thing; dumping some of the Don'ts (so that I and my sexuality are left comfortably uncondemned), while keeping the rest of the Don'ts in place (so as to have the luxury of condemning others), is unpleasantly self-righteous and is, I suspect, the sort of "Judging" of which the Lord spoke rather sternly.
Oh, and while we are talking about Judging: I do feel uneasy about a society which not only condemns pedophiles but works itself up into a great hysterical froth about them so that lynch mobs roam the streets, while regarding every other conceivable (bad choice of word, that) sexual practice (as long as consensual) as meriting Affirmation in the intersts of Diversity.
Oh dear ... with trepidation I await proof that I will have offended and enraged at least three diametrically opposed lots of people for diametrically opposed reasons.
II. Humanae vitae
Since the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, there has been some discussion in the media and on the Internet about the acceptability or otherwise, to Anglicans who might or might not wish to avail themselves of its provisions, of the teaching of the Roman Magisterium about artificial contraception. I would like to recall some facts which are sometimes forgotten.
(1) Dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the RC Church in ARCIC was explicitly based on "The common ancient traditions".
(2) Lambeth VI (1920) declared "We utter an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception, together with the grave dangers - physical, moral, and religious, thereby incurred ... In opposition to the teaching which, under the name of science and religion, encourages married people in the deliberate cultivation of sexual union as an end in itself, we steadfastly uphold what must always be regarded as the governing considerations of Christian marriage. One is the primary purpose for which marriage exists, namely the continuation of the race through the gift and heritage of children; the other is the paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control".
(3) Even Lambeth VII, while allowing the possibility of hard cases, did not displace this as the norm.
(4) In the first edition of his influential book The Orthodox Church (1963), Timothy Ware simply wrote: "Artificial methods of birth control are forbidden in the Orthodox Church".
I do not think there is any doubt about what the One Great and Ancient Common Tradition teaches in this matter. The frequent suggestion that Humanae Vitae represents some sort of specifically Roman awkwardness is either deceitful misinformation or culpable ignorance. And furthermore:-
(5) It is true that the Commission set up to consider this matter by Paul VI came to a majority decision which was set aside by the Pontiff when he came to compose his Encyclical. But that 'Majority' decision was based on the assumption that the use of condoms and occlusive pessaries should continue to be excluded as totally immoral, but that the new technology of the Pill created a novel ethical situation. It was argued that, since the structure of the sexual act itself was not disordered by this technology, it did not fall under the same condemnation. Therefore it could be used by married people who were using their sexuality in a philoprogenitive way, but wished responsibly to 'Plan their Families'. (In fact, of course, this is exactly what did not happen; the Pill facilitated a great explosion of promiscuity - very soon, some English Public School doctors were putting all VI form girls on the Pill as a matter of routine).
This cultural orthodoxy was, entertainingly, the cause of its own rapid demise and of the reinstatement of the condom in the esteem of the fashionable. The promiscuity encouraged by the Pill resulted in an enormous increase in Venereal Diseases. The ethical gurus of secular sexual mores suddenly remembered that the condom could plausibly be represented as affording some protection against VD. Since their unspoken agenda is, always, at all costs, to encourage promiscuity, the poor old Pill came under something of a shadow while, now, Condom and Abortion form the twin majestic totems of our sexually incontinent cultural Establishment. Currently the Roman Pontiff is widely criticised for a negative approach to condoms (he is "deliberately murdering" millions of Africans); the Pill rarely now gets a mention.
My point is that, had Paul VI gone along with the majority view of his Commission in maintaining the 'ban' on condoms while embracing (a lovely picture) the Pill, and if his successors had maintained such a decision, the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church would still be in the position of being traduced and vilified because of its lack of enthusiasm for the now applauded condom.
The only way of being sure that you avoid the a fate of being condemned by our protean Zeitgeist is by a fixed policy of retreating promptly in the face of every latest advance in the thinking of the pornocrats who govern Western Public Opinion. Which is what PECUSA very competently does. (I'm sorry we never hear about PECUSA nowadays. It always sounded to me delightfully like peccousa, which would be a late-antique grecising feminine participle of a Latin verb.)
It seems to me that one has to decide between the Magisterium of Paul VI and that of Ms Jefferts Schori. It seems to me logically unfair to criticise either of these Pontiffs except from the viewpoint of the other. Condemning either one of them from the sort of middle-of-the-Anglican-road position taken, as I understand it, by some admirers of GAFCON and by followers of Bishop Duncan and by some in what I believe is called the Continuum, is pure crass ... sorry, I meant purely crass. Only an adverb can modify an adjective.