Geoffrey Kirk has been listening to Bishop Gene Robinson and finds him percipient in his understanding of the issues
What would we do without Gene Robinson? He is the bellwether of the liberal agenda. Like God himself, if he did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.
Long ago, when women’s ordination was no more than an idea in the mind of Christian Howard, many of us were warning that gay marriages and gay bishops were the logical corollaries. Of course we were ridiculed. The issues were discrete and distinct, it was said. No connection between them could reasonably be posited. Evangelicals in favour of women’s ordination were especially adamant on the subject. I recall one particular Archdeacon…but it would be churlish to mock the retired.
Now Gene (bless him!) has come forward with a belated vindication of all those fears – as if the progress of the agenda were not now plain for all to see. Gene was addressing a conference of gay American Roman Catholic priests (like diligent Pharisees, revisionist liberals will encompass sea and land to make one proselyte, and with the same result). He concluded with the following advice: ‘It’s too dangerous for you to come out as gay to your superiors, but I believe that if you work for the ordination of women in your church, you will go a long way toward opening the door for the acceptance of gay priests.’
It is worth setting out, therefore (for those who still doubt it) why Gene is right about the connection between women’s ordination and gay bishops, and to state as clearly as we can what that connection is.
To begin with first principles: what is human life for? To this question orthodox Christians have traditionally replied that it is to be lived in obedient service to God and in the hope hereafter to enjoy him for ever. For liberal Christians, on the contrary, it is self-evident that the end of human existence is self-fulfilment and self-realization. We are, quite literally, an end in ourselves: I exist in order fully to express the person that I am.
From such an understanding it follows that anything which limits or curtails free expression of the self is wicked and destructive. Social or sexual stereotypes not only limit human freedom, but destroy individual potential. We are made, not to conform but to choose. Each person has an inalienable right to be what he or she wishes to be and (so long as the rights of others are respected) to do what he or she wants to do. The argument between liberal and traditional Christians therefore is one of teleology. Catholic Christians find fulfilment in conformity to the given (‘…whose service is perfect freedom’). For liberal Christians the highest good is the affirmation of the self (T am what I am’).
From this liberal understanding two things follow.
First, it follows that there can be no legitimate reason to prohibit anyone, at any time, from any role, social or sacramental, to which they believe themselves to be called. All professions should be open to both women and men, and no restraints (other than those strictly dictated by biology) should affect men and women in their relationships one with another.
Secondly, it follows that arguments in favour of such restraints and prohibitions must be maliciously self-interested (‘…he would say that wouldn’t he’). So the arguments for an all male priesthood are seen as part of an over-arching patriarchalist conspiracy and the arguments against gay marriage seek only to sustain the privileges presently (and unjustly) accorded to married heterosexuals. This hermeneutic of suspicion, moreover, attaches not only to contemporary protagonists but to the whole of the tradition and to the Scriptures themselves. There can be no appeal to authority because all authority is necessarily tainted.
Whilst it is by no means certain that Gene has worked all this out consciously, he knows it subliminally He knows that the principal difficulty for homosexual-ists is the explicit prohibitions of Scripture, and that it is not enough to appeal to some over-arching trajectory of’inclusivity’ against them.
Scripture itself must be relativized and neutralized. And what better to assist in that process than the ordination of women – where no specific text of Scripture can be cited, and where the unbroken tradition of two thousand years can be portrayed as a perversion of the real meaning of the Bible by a self-interested and repressive clique?
And if Gene knows only too well the uses of the hermeneutic of suspicion, he is just as clear about the dialectic of guilt. Women’s ordination in The Episcopal Church was swept forward on a tide of liberal guilt – guilt for the church’s attitude to black Episcopalians, which found institutional expression as late as the 1980s. The improbable analogy between slavery and an all male priesthood was a significant factor in the campaign to ordain women; perhaps the most important. Now the displacement of guilt is to be deployed (even less plausibly) in favour of gay marriages and the ordination of practising gays.
Rome, of course, is a tough nut to crack. Thus far the liberal tide has broken against that rock. Humanae Vitae still stands, and women’s ordination has been declared to be beyond the Church’s competence. It is obvious that if the Doctrine of Self-Fulfilment is to replace the notion of obedience to Revelation (if the gospel of Rousseau is to replace that of Jesus Christ) a breach must be made. Where better to begin, in a Church which accords such honour to the Mother of God, than with the role women play in the sacramental life?
It must by now be clear to every diligent observer that the Catholic Church is crucial in the fight for the very survival of Christianity in the secularised West. If the culture of secular humanism (or de-humanisation, as it appears to faithful Christians) is to be resisted and finally overcome it will be through the exercise of the Roman Magisterium.
Gene has, characteristically, got it absolutely right. If Rome can be forced into retreat on one major issue (and, improbably as it seems at the moment, women’s ordination may well be that issue) then the dam is broken and the rest will follow. If Rome stands firm, then the vaunted experiments of The Episcopal Church will wither on the vine.