The Vicarage Bedroom

Some time ago a friend of mine (we’ll call him James) who was once an Anglican vicar opined that the introduction of women priests had an unexpected consequence in the bedrooms of vicarages across the land. What made him think was the ad in a church paper for a new vicar for what had always been a conservative Evangelical parish. After stating what sort of person they were looking for the advertisers added, “Marital status not an issue.”

In former times, my friend observed, this would have meant “We are willing to accept an unmarried man for the post.” What it now means is “We’re not going to ask any questions about the vicarage bedroom.” Indeed, he knew of parishes in the Church of England with just about every permutation of modern “marriage” possible. Two men living together, two women, divorced and remarried people, single women with children, single men with children after divorce, men and women co inhabiting….you name it.

James said, “I think what happened when women were ordained is that a certain understanding about Christian marriage was also shattered. Before women’s ordination the man was the “father” of the parish. If he was a married man he and his wife and family became a kind of “first family” of the parish. If he was celibate he was father to all. Women’s ordination broke that. Suddenly the family structure of the parish was broken and one of the unexpected consequences was that the family structure of the vicarage was also broken. If women could be priests, then the traditional family no longer worked, and what was happening in society generally soon became the norm in the Anglican parish and vicarage.

Today in the Daily Telegraph we have this article about Canon Andrew Clitherow–a high ranking Anglican priest who is embarking on his third marriage, and what is most interesting is that his bishop Nicholas Reade (who has always dressed up as an Anglo Catholic) states that “There is no reason why Canon Clitherow should not remarry. The Church has long recognized both the strengths and fragilities of human love and seeks to provide encouragement and support for those celebrating new relationships after the pain of separation and loss.” 

This statement is just about as classic an example of mealy mouthed Anglican double talk as can be imagined, and the same squirmy language could be used to justify anything at all. So for example, faced with rioting and looting in the streets the Anglian Bishop would probably say, “The Church has long understood the cry of the poor, and sympathizes with those whose lives are shattered by poverty. We hear their desperate cry for help and understand that at times their poverty will erupt in rage and frustration.” (Other examples may be submitted to the combox)

Meanwhile in the New York Times an article which is about as shallow, vicious and anti Catholic as possible has been published by a woman who wishes to impose the misogynistic and Manichean opinions of a medieval cleric on the twenty first century Catholic church. This article  suggests that the Catholic church will regard the wives of Anglican priests (who are married and granted a dispensation to be ordained) will all be wanton hussies distracting the priest from his holy duties. The woman who wrote the article should take the time to meet some of these clergy wives. She’d find most of them to be smart, funny, hard working, down to earth, thrifty, normal women who just happen to be married to a man who ended up as a Catholic priest. I can’t help feeling the medieval academic who penned the article has been reading too many Gothic novels. Carl Olson fisks the article expertly here.

While we’re talking about the vicarage bedroom there is this item from the other side of the world right here in Texas where a mega church pastor, Ed Young and his wife Lisa (pictured above) plan to spend twenty four hours on the roof of their church in bed together. The whole thing will be broadcast to their congregations, and they will have the opportunity to share their understanding of Christian marriage. A life they say that is full of exclamation marks!!! full of “passion, purpose and pleasure.” Whaaat?  Whoops. They forgot to add the other word associated with the marital act “Procreation”.

Last week it was reported that one mega church pastor here in the USA had set up a tattoo parlor in the lobby of his church to appeal to the youth. I wonder if Ed and Lisa have set up a botox, face lift clinic and tanning salon in theirs? It looks like they might be the main customers. But I’m getting off track…

I could keep writing this morning on this subject, but will stop–not only because I have other things to do than blog, but because I’m left speechless at the state of Christianity. 

No wonder thinking and caring people look at this foolishness and sneer, and lest we think that these folks are just extreme Protestant kooks we only have to look at the number of Catholic families where they’ve given everything for the double income, the trophy house, the trophy wife and the trophy 2.5 suburban kids to see that plenty of Catholics also live for  “Passion, purpose and Pleasure.” They may not do it on the rooftop, but they do it for all to see because part of the “Purpose” is that everyone else can see how “successful” they are.

Lord Have Mercy.

  • JFM

    Evangelicalism, in a very large measure, has jumped the shark. It used to be the conservative expression of Protestantism. But it enjoyed so much success, it has become the new "mainline" church culture. Hence it now falls prey to all the idiocies we see elsewhere. And truly, do we think we would see any different in Catholicism if we had married priests. We have almost the same amount of weirdness from many of our "celibate" clergy who everyone knows are really gay. All quite depressing. Here is one sane Protestant voice:

  • John

    I don't mean to be a fatalist, but, the next step in the deconstruction is polyamory. If the "love is all that matters" argument is the point of the spear for gay marriage, then how can one argue against a "marriage" of three or four people? It is a slippery slope to end all slippery slopes.It's not about God. It's not about theology. It's about "justice."

  • priest’s wife

    A few years back, we enjoyed the show The Vicar of Dibley- irreverent and not catholic, but very funny.We just had to turn it off and give up during an episode where the woman vicar spends days in bed with a new lover. yuck

  • StevieD

    I see that Canon Clitherow was charged with helping clergy in his diocese who were suffering marital problems! This is not a joke, although a laugh might be in order.

  • shadowlands

    The Young's do have four kids and have been married 26yrs. One of his statements re marriage is that 'it is more for our holiness, than our happiness.'At least that's what he was saying in 2009, in his pajamas! See link below.

  • Julie Culshaw

    I would love to be present for one of your homilies. Because, if you preach as you write here, there must be people squirming in the seats and I would find that very entertaining. Keep it up, pull off the covers, expose the elephant(s) in the room.

  • Cheryl

    Greenville, SC in 2012 = Atlanta, GA in 1989. You may have an interesting experience, Father, when you visit my old parish in Roswell (a suburb of Atlanta, filled with exactly these sorts of trophy). John Zmirak has made the point that we might interpret a move to the suburbs as an act of self-sacrificing love that a man performs for his family. He willingly accepts his tasteless mcmansion, endless commutes, and terrible pubs to provide a safe place to raise his family, with good schools. The botox and bleach-blondes are just the habits of the natives of this savage land — they're trying to fit in.

  • Just another mad Catholic

    Personally I have no desire to know what goes on the bedrooms of Married Priests (be they ex-anglicans or Eastern Rite), all I care about is that he is a decent Priest.

  • 7fe44404-35f9-11e1-8f31-000bcdcb5194

    Newt Gringrich has been married three times, and is (I understand)in good standing with the Church, so what is the objection to Canon Clitherow having been married three times? Is it that he has not had his previous marriages annulled, even though the Church of England does not have an annulment procedure? Or is it that he is a minister of religion, and ought to set a better example?

  • Fr Longenecker

    1. Newt is a layman, not a priest. Canon Clitherow is not only a priest, but one who does marriage counseling and has written a book on love and marriage.2. Newt's first two marriages must have been declared invalid and he must have been granted a decree of nullity. For those who are interested, the logic of this is pretty simple3. It is possible that Canon Clitherow's first two marriages were invalid, but it would take a Catholic tribunal to determine this.

  • doctoreric

    John and Yoko did it better. Yawn.

  • Just another mad Catholic

    AS regards parish assignmnets I thought that anglican 'bishops' dictated assignments pretty much the same way that REAL Bishops do, am I wrong?