Monday, September 21, 2009

Third Reflection on Rowan's Reflection

In the Archbishop’s view, for any province to undertake blessing same-sex unions or consecrating openly gay bishops, would be a major break with the way that the church has consistently read the Bible for two thousand years, and would be unacceptable unless a strong theological case were to be made and a high level of consensus achieved among Anglicans and across the ecumenical spectrum, which has not happened. At present, he suggests, anyone in a same-sex union is in a similar position to a heterosexual person living with a lover to whom he or she is not married, and so not able to have a role which involves representing the church. This standard would condemn Cranmer and Parker, both bishops “representing” the church.

Please note that Canon 7 of the Second Lateran Council (1139) provided that marriages contracted in violation of the ecclesiastical law regarding celibacy would not be regarded as matrimony--i.e., would be invalid. Thus, priests could not (in the eyes of the Church) marry. Those outside of the Church might recognize a couple as married, but the Church would view the priest as merely living with a woman not his wife. Such a priest would, according to Williams, be in the same position as a gay person living with a partner.

Consider the first two Archbishops of the Reformation. Thomas Cranmer, a widower, was ordained priest c. 1520; in July, 1532, he married again, but the marriage was invalid under Canon 7 of Lateran II. As Cranmer was consecrated with papal approbation on 30 March 1533, it might be argued that Clement VI knew about the secret marriage and decided to overlook it. Unless that is the case, however, Cranmer was, by Rowan Williams’ standards, precisely as unable to serve as a bishop as Gene Robinson.

Consider further Matthew Parker. Parker was ordained priest in 1527; in 1547, the first year of Edward VI, he married. Again, the marriage was in violation of both canon (changed in December of that year) and statute (changed in 1549). The statute of 1549 was repealed by Queen Mary's First Act of Repeal in 1553, and under Mary's Injunctions of 1554, all "married" priests were required to be deprived and divorced. Elizabeth then recognized existing clerical marriages by section XXIX of her own Injunctions in June of 1559, just in time for Parker to be nominated as Archbishop in August. So Parker, unlike Cranmer, had a valid marriage at the time of his consecration in December, albeit one that had been invalid when contracted and also for the preceding five years. (We might also note that its 1559 re-validization depended on the lay Royal Supremacy, rather than on any clerical power.) But so far as I know, Parker did not put away his wife during the time in which the then-invalid marriage would have made him, as a priest, an inappropriate representative of the Church.

It is particularly problematic that two of Dr. Williams' predecessors might not qualify for an invitation to Lambeth.

(Thanks to “4 May 1535+” for putting me on to this. See “4 May 1535+” comment at I am curious as to "4 May 1535+" relation to the Carthusian Martyrs.)

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