Thursday 28 March 2013

That Letter

It is hardly a liberal list of signatories. It has David Alton on it, plus at least two (Labour) figures with Opus Dei connections. That really ought to give  pause for thought to the knee-jerk Pianische Monolothismus nostalgists, although I doubt that it will. The speed with which all of that collapsed indicates how strong it ever really was, or wasn't. Does that never occur to them?

Robert Flello, John Pugh, Stephen Pound, Bill Cash, Jonathan Evans, Ronnie Campbell and Paul Murphy all voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage. Most of the Peers listed will certainly do likewise. Pat Glass and Alasdair McDonnell abstained, but that does not necessarily indicate ambivalence, especially at Second Reading. It is about playing the procedural game. At the start of the process, even voting in favour can be in order to bring future amendments far removed from the intentions of the given Bill's proponents.

The strongly opposed Roger Godsiff, for example, also abstained, as did the staunchly Evangelical Stephen Timms, who had made a speech against, and Gavin Shuker, the only Pentecostal pastor in Parliament. It was very clear from the debate that, especially on the Labour benches, many of those who were voting for Second Reading were doing so in order to have the further debate. They had no intention of voting for Third Reading. If Pat "is in favour really, but she was away on Select Committee business," then she moves in very particular Catholic circles that would seem to give the lie to that: David Alton, Tommy McAvoy, Don Touhig, Robert Flello, John Pugh, Stephen Pound, Bill Cash, Jonathan Evans, Ronnie Campbell, Paul Murphy, Alasdair McDonnell.

On this particular issue, the Holy Father probably agrees with them, anyway. Regulars quite often cannot understand why Seculars are bound by celibacy. After all, they are not and have never been bound by poverty, to which it is most intimately connected. And these or any other laypeople are entirely within their rights on this one, precisely because it is purely disciplinary rather than doctrinal. The most orthodox priests in the Church are in the Eastern Rites and among converts.

Whereas the Latin Rite Priesthood has been normatively homosexual for a thousand years without a break, including in supposed Golden Ages such as the 1950s. In the Traditionalist Societies, it is absolutely endemic, but everyone pretends not to notice, presumably as they did before, and for some time after, Vatican II. Even if they never "did anything", then that would still set a cultural tone which the Church could do very well without, the sort of thing that one also finds among actors, for example. Of course, it does set precisely that tone, and it has been doing so for a thousand years. Breaking point has now been reached.

Meanwhile, in much of Africa, not only are most priests married in all but name, but they are not uncommonly polygamous in places. Again, though, they could not be more robustly orthodox about everything else, with all the fruits of that orthodoxy in the astonishing growth and vitality of the Church. Again, there is nothing purely post-Conciliar about this. Whereas many extreme liberals may not like the celibacy requirement, but they live perfectly within it. Many Jesuits, for example.

Really, and this has absolutely nothing to do with any "priest shortage", if a purely disciplinary measure is and has always been quite as scandalously unsuccessful as this, then it ought to be abandoned. But that is a great deal more easily said than done in this case. Where and on what are these wives and children supposed to live? What about divorce? And so on. As a product of clerical marriage, I am under absolutely no illusion as to what a peculiar and demanding manner of life it can be for all concerned.

Still, I have even heard Lefebvrist priests say that the celibacy rule ought to go; of course, they know that there is nothing doctrinal about it. People who mistake a distinctly rose-tinted nostalgia for Tradition, the kind who think that "the Latin Mass was the same everywhere" as if that would have been a theological argument even if it had been factually correct, need to appreciate, if they can, that they are only making themselves sound silly.

This debate now needs to be had. Urgently.


  1. All of them who were MPs at the time voted to lower the time limit on abortion. Not just the ones who voted against gay marriage, all of them.

  2. There is no theological argument to support a normative married clergy. Scripture and tradition strongly underpins the status quo in this respect.

    An attack on celibacy is an attack on the Church. Everybody knows this - including you, Mr Lindsay.

  3. I repeat, to abstain you must walk both the aye and noe lobby, Pat did not as she was not at the vote. Therefore she did NOT abstain.

  4. No, it doesn't necessarily work like that. That practice is actually quite rare. Staying in your seat will do, as will just not turning up.

    Pat keeps all the right company, based on this list of signatories. And that can only do her good in this constituency, you have to admit. Look what the largest town is.

    Anonymous 06:13, that's just amateur theology, which begins with what people think that the 1950s were like (they weren't - half of Latin Rite priests were homosexually inclined then, as now, and as at every point in the preceding millennium, with a high proportion of those actively so), and which then tries to construct theological rationales for it. Serious theologians never indulge in such things, by definition.

    I still cannot see how we could ever pay for married priests. But the Church could not possibly be done any more damage by them than She is, and has always been, by the present arrangement, which came into effect as one of those strange but recurring unions between utter cynicism and starry-eyed, well-meaning zealotry.

  5. Looks like you beat Emily's List and the Northern Cross to get old Irish Consett, old Recusant Esh and Ushaw College a sound Catholic MP after all.

  6. Yes. Yes, it really does look as if we pulled that one off.

  7. Even if 'half of Latin Rite priests were homosexually inclined' in the 50s (which they weren't), it's still no argument against the theology and tradition of Catholic practice which is as old as the Church itself.

    As I say, it is not a normative assumption that clergy should be married. Quite the opposite in fact!

    Your approach to this matter highlights the need for more outspoken cradle-Catholics. In this generation, once-were protestants aren't a boon, they're a liability....

  8. Living in a dream world. Half of Latin Rite priests were not homosexual in the 1950s, indeed! Again I ask why it never seems to occur to you to ask why that world collapsed as easily as it did. It was built on sand, is why. But then, it was not Tradition. Almost everything about was barely 100 years old by the time of Vatican II, and much of it was barely half that.

    There is no theology, as such, of clerical celibacy. If you knew anything about theology, then you would know that. I am told that the American New Right has made some efforts in the last 15 years or so, but no one takes them seriously. On this as on, say economics and Catholic Social Teaching, or foreign policy and just war doctrine, everyone else can see that they are well-meaning illiterates, best ignored and not allowed near the running of anything.

    There is a great deal of spirituality arising out of celibacy, but that is not obviously served by making it compulsory. As we now see. And as all grown-up people always could see, I expect.

    Most cradle Catholics are lapsed, and most of the rest are as liberal as hell. The Church in this country mostly ordains converts these days, plus people who received so little, if any, instruction at school that they may as well be. But then, when did England ever produce very may priests? She just imported them from a country which now ordains almost no one. But then, there are almost never any conversions there, which would account for it.

    Again I say that I am not a married priests advocate as such. There are enormous practical obstacles. But that is all that they are. And anyone who says otherwise, frankly, doesn't know what they are talking about. On this as on several other issues, they do enormous damage by presenting themselves as somehow the voice of Tradition. Nostalgia is not the same thing as Tradition.