*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Lies, and more anti-gay lies

11 January 2013

I HAVE got myself into quite a debate this week by suggesting in The Guardian that when we have a gay bishop in a civil partnership, he ought to lie about his sex life, if he is having a physical relationship with his partner and he is asked about it. Criticisms of this position came in from two sides: from those who think that lying is immoral under any circumstances - the Kantian position, as it were - and from those who read me as advocating a return to the ecclesiastical closet.

It is the second criticism that I take more seriously; so I would like to deal with that first. I believe that the Church's current position on homosexuality is not just unsustainable, but is downright immoral. It is cruel to deny people the joys of physical intimacy on the basis of their sexuality. For me, this is a denial of love itself.

I believe this to be such a terrible thing that I think that the whole theological edifice on which it is built needs to be collapsed. The way to do this is not for bishops to deceive the bedroom police: it is for bishops to ridicule them with a stage lie - as it were, by making a satire of the whole disgraceful situation. "No, I'm not," the bishop might say, and then wink, or something like that. This is not a return to the closet. It is active resistance to a system of oppression - a bit like disobeying an unjust order.

So, is this response immoral? I'd say not. Of course, ordinarily, a lie is indeed wrong, but not always. I would have no problem about telling a drunken husband, who was obviously intent on beating up his wife, that she had gone away for the night (when she was upstairs in bed).

Sometimes, lies are acceptable to avoid harm, and, although the would-be bedroom police seek to do the bishop (or priest) no physical harm, they are actually doing a great deal of psychological and spiritual damage. For many, the loneliness that such enforcers are intent on requiring is a lifetime of emotional torture. People have a right to be protected from that.

Furthermore, what I think I am doing here is actually telling the truth; for this is what may well happen, and everyone knows it. But we refuse to be honest about it, because we know that - given that there is no way of checking, other than by asking - the requirement of celibacy is unverifiable. In this situation, we can expect conservatives to amplify their rhetoric of enforced honesty. But, in a culture that lies to itself as much as the Church does, this heightened talk of honesty will be seen for what it is: another lie shaped by the Church's homophobia.

Canon Giles Fraser is Priest-in-Charge of St Mary's, Newington.

Media, page 28

 

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

The Church Times Podcast

Interviews and news analysis from the Church Times team. Listen to this week’s episode online

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)