The One and the Many
So now the Episcopal church has an "openly gay" (i.e. proselytizing homosexual) bishop. The Rev. V. Gene Robinson, 56, was elected bishop of New Hampshire on June 7, in a vote by clergy and church activists. Robinson abandoned his wife and two infant daughters in 1986 to pursue his "lifestyle."
The Episcopal church belongs to the Anglican communion, in which the Church of England is first among equals. That church is itself close to schism over the issue of homosexual clergy. The bishop who presides over the Diocese of Oxford, which covers some 600 parishes in the southwest midlands of England, has declared his intention to appoint as suffragan bishop — that is, a sort of assistant bishop, under his authority — a man who is openly homosexual. The appointment has been loudly opposed by scores of churches in the diocese and has given rise to a slightly farcical "duelling bishops" spectacle. Nine bishops signed an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury protesting the appointment; eight other bishops then sent a letter supporting it.
All this is taking place in the context of ructions within the world-wide Anglican communion over this same issue — openly homosexual clergy. Anglicanism is very strong in the Third World, especially in Africa. Out there they stick close to Scripture and are socially conservative, and they feel strongly that homosexuality in the clergy is contrary to church teaching and tradition. The bishop of Nigeria, whose diocese is believed to be the fastest-growing in the Anglican communion, is one of those who protested the appointment of Canon John.
And all that is taking place against the background of the recent scandals in the "other" catholic church. (We Anglicans consider ourselves to be catholic. At Eucharist we recite the Nicene Creed, including the line: "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church." The main difference of opinion is over the authority of the Pope in Rome, which we do not accept.) Those scandals revolve around the issue of homosexuality in the clergy. It is very politically incorrect to say that, but anyone who has been involved in the matter, or in reporting it, will tell you it frankly and angrily, and it comes loud and clear from Michael Rose's book Goodbye, Good Men.
Now, of course, homosexual clergy are nothing new, certainly not in the Church of England. The queer vicar was a staple of schoolboy jokes in my own childhood, long before "gay liberation" was heard of. It has probably always been the case that the Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy include a disproportionate number of homosexuals. Quite aside from the "glamor" element of priesthood in these churches — the colored vestments, delicate altar furnishings, chants, bossing about of altar boys and so on — priests belong, after all, to the "caring professions," to which homosexual men are disproportionately attracted. My mother was a professional nurse all her life until she retired in the 1970s. In those years there were very few male nurses; but every one of them, according to my mother, was assumed to be homosexual unless he presented convincing evidence to the contrary. A high proportion of those who work as servants to the British royal family are homosexual. (One of George V's footmen was arrested for sexual assaults on young boys. His Majesty, on being told, said: "Good grief! I thought chaps like that shot themselves.") Teachers in boys'-only schools likewise; Evelyn Waugh remarks on this somewhere, and so do I.
Not only are homosexuals attracted to the caring professions, they are usually good at them. A.N. Wilson's fascinating piece in the Daily Telegraph makes it plain that a lot of the homosexual Anglican clergy he writes about are, in fact, so far as the carrying out of their pastoral duties is concerned, excellent priests. In my oblique way, I made the same point about that schoolmaster of mine, in the column I linked to above. At the boys' school I attended, the repressed pederasts were far and away the best teachers. (Please don't send me e-mails arguing that pederasty has nothing whatever to do with homosexuality. I don't believe it.)
So … what's the fuss about? Isn't a homosexual just as entitled to be a schoolmaster, a nurse, a footman, or even a priest, as anyone else? Wouldn't it be unjust, not to mention unkind, to deny a job of this kind — they are mostly thankless and ill-paid jobs — to a person who, as I have just said, is likely to do it well? In the priesthood, of course, the issue of church teaching comes up: homosexual acts are proscribed in the Bible. However, Canon Jeffrey John, the priest at the center of the Oxford fuss, tells the world that the 27-year relationship with his partner (also an Anglican clergyman) ceased to be physical in the 1990s. He can therefore claim that he is not violating church teaching at all. Why deny him a promotion? Why would so many of us want to deny him? Why do I want to? Isn't this just "homophobia" — blind unreasoning prejudice?
For a clue to the answers, I refer you to Mrs. Leona Helmsley, a person perhaps not as well known out there beyond the Hudson as she is in New York City. Mrs. Helmsley is an 82-year-old lady who owns a number of swank hotels in Manhattan. She was in the local newspapers back in January because of a court case: an ex-employee, name of Charles Bell, was suing her for discrimination, claiming that Mrs. Helmsley had fired him for being homosexual. There were some gray areas in the testimony, but the following at least became clear:
- Bell had been hired by Helmsley's Chief Operating Officer at the Park Lane Hotel, who was also homosexual.
- His résumé was a work of fiction.
- He handed out blocks of rooms, at deep discounts, to members of a leather-fetishist group his boyfriend belonged to.
That last led to one of the best courtroom exchanges. Mrs. Helmsleys's attorney asked Bell about an incident when the lady walked into an elevator at the Park Lane and found herself face to face with Bell's boyfriend, all decked out in leather-fetish regalia and with a shaven head. From the New York Post courtroom report: "'He was dressed completely in black leather?' [the attorney] asked. 'Not completely,' Bell snapped."
I tell this sad little tale to make a point. The point is that open homosexuality is — not necessarily, perhaps, but all too often — an infiltrating, exclusivist, corruptive and destructive force. It seems unlikely that anyone can help being homosexual in nature, and no-one should be subject to acts of unkindness or unjust discrimination on account of something he cannot help. On the other hand, an 82-year-old lady of dignity and accomplishment should not be confronted with outrageously-dressed freaks paying discount rates when stepping into the elevator of a hotel she owns.
Here is another case, this one from Michael Rose's book. Joseph Kellenyi is talking about his time as a student at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, a training school for Roman Catholic clergy.
The issue was never one of my suitability for ordination. Rather it was that the gay clique had been given power over who got ordained in Chicago. Furthermore, the faculty members in question were not willing to settle for tolerance from me, which I could give. What they wanted was affirmation and my respect, which I could not give. It must be noted too that at no time had it ever been suggested that I had a problem dealing with gay men, or was "homophobic." The issue was that they had a problem dealing with me. And the rector even admitted again that gay men don't like people like me. This of course raises the question of "heterophobia." I have heard time and again that the sexual orientation of priests and seminarians does not matter, as long as they are celibate. Yet when gays come into positions of authority they knowingly and consistently appoint gay men to important key positions.
(My italics.) So it will always be. Homosexuality, open and proud, is a subversive force — subversive, that is, of any institution in which it becomes entrenched. The Roman Catholic church has recently learned this. The Anglican church is about to learn it. The Boy Scouts of America would have learned it, but for a lucky break from the judiciary.
There is no reason why an individual homosexual might not be a good and honorable person, any more than there is any reason why an individual heterosexual might not be a liar and a thief. In matters social and organizational, though, the sum is often greater than the parts, and it is not the one we should focus on, but the many. This, unfortunately, is a very difficult thing to get people to do in a highly individualistic culture like ours. "What about Joe? He's homosexual, but a finer human being you could never wish to meet." Sure, we all know Joe; but his case tells us nothing about the probable behavior of an organization whose higher levels are 30, or 50, or 60 percent homosexual.
I do believe, with a high degree of certainty, that after a few more appointments of the Canon John / Rev. Robinson kind, my church will cease to be a vehicle for the teaching of Christ's gospel, and become instead a dating service for homosexuals. Its ethos will no longer be Christian, it will be "gay," like the ethos at that Chicago seminary (and many others Michael Rose reports on).
Long-time readers of National Review may recall Robert Conquest's three laws of politics, of which the second was: "Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing." (Conquest actually offered the Church of England as an example of this law in action.) I should like to hypothesize a fourth law, which I am going to call Derbyshire's Law.
Any organization that admits frank and open homosexuals into its higher levels will sooner or later abandon its original purpose and give itself over to propagating and celebrating the homosexualist ethos, and to excluding heterosexuals and denigrating heterosexuality.
The key phrase there is "frank and open." These things I am talking about are new in the world. Catholic seminaries of fifty years ago were not, to judge at any rate from the novels of J.F. Powers, plagued with the kinds of issues detailed in Michael Rose's book, though there must have been lots of homosexuals in them.
In this sense, the problem is not homosexuals or homosexuality. I am sure that God loves homosexuals and has a purpose for them. (I even think that their prowess in the "caring professions" offers some clue as to what that purpose might be.) The problem is the sexual revolution. The problem is hedonism. The problem is the preening vanity and selfishness of "coming out," of parading private inclinations, of a kind that repel normal people, as if those inclinations were, all by themselves, marks of authenticity and virtue, of suffering and oppression. A large part of the problem, too, is "heterophobia" — the dislike, mistrust and contempt which many homosexuals feel towards normal people.
My own reaction to all this is, well, reactionary. I rather liked the old order I grew up in, where everyone knew that the local vicar or the Latin master was a bit of an iron,* but that he kept his hands to himself and his private life private, and did a first-class job of work in his chosen line. Such a one could be a respected and admired member of the community. That homosexual schoolmaster in my National Review piece was known and liked throughout our town — a substantial place, pop. 100,000 — and widely mourned when he died.
The Rev. Robinson, with his selfish betrayal of two little babes, and Canon John, with his self-important announcements about his "lifestyle" and his bedroom activities, will never have that kind of respect and admiration, certainly not from me.** The church that they and their friends are busily colonizing will soon be one that ordinary Christian families will stay away from in droves.
Organized Christianity began as a religion for women and slaves. It looks set fair to end, at least in the Western world, as a religion for homosexuals. The only thing that might turn the tide would be a determined missionary effort by the diocese of Nigeria.
* Working-class English rhyming slang. "Iron" = "iron hoof" = "poof" = "homosexual."
** It seems that Canon John has in fact been less than honest about these matters. In an interview with the London Times, the canon said that he and his partner had never lived together. Some days later, it emerged that in fact the two of them jointly own an apartment in London, and give frequent dinner parties there.