Sunday, July 17, 2005

maybe divorce should be an ecusa sacrament

I've noticed a pattern among some high-profile homosexual ministers in ECUSA. Many are divorced. A part of the rhetoric of homosexual apologetics centers on the notion of "sexual identity". The ministry of our Lord, it is claimed, was about the liberating love of the divine, enabling the faithful to live into their true, God-given, sexual selves. Consider the following from the Rev. Susal Russell, who heads Claiming the Blessing and Inegrity, and who is a partnered lesbian. It is exerpted from an article about Russell in the Los Angeles Times.

But delving into her past, she said, forced her to confront questions about her sexuality. She had never had much interest in dating in high school. Her closest friendships had always been with women. Her marriage, she said, "was never awful, but it never quite worked."

At one prayer service, she said, she had a breakthrough. "I heard in my head the voice of God," Russell recalled, "saying 'This is how I made you.' "

She separated from her husband in 1997, and they divorced two years later. She was ordained in January 1998.

Recall, also, that +Gene Robinson was married, and had two children, before discovering his own true sexual self, getting a divorce, and partnering with another man.

The logic of this line of thought, it seems to me, would indicate that Christian marriage in both the cases of Russell and Robinson, was a byproduct of sin. That is just to say, that their heterosexual marriages were the result of their failure to acknowledge their true selves, to live into the grace of their God-given sexual identities. Plausibly too, this failure was itself only made possible by the sinful reality of an oppressive and heteronormative ecclesial and cultural context which obscured the homosexual image and likeness of God at the core of their beings.

Divorce, therefore, because it is the condition of possibility for the full actualization of God's gift of identity in these cases, might accurately be called an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Perhaps it ought to be an ECUSA sacrament.

I'm obviously not the first to have such thoughts. Not long ago, the Episcopal Church's website in fact played host to a "divorce rite" (as well as to a "women's eucharist" which the authors' elsewhere called a "Eucharist to our Mother Goddess"). You may read about them in the Washington Times.

It would all be quite in keeping with the subjugation of the Apostolic Faith to the critical aparatus of our own individuality, all the rage now in ECUSA.

N. Wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?

I will [until something more gratifying comes along].

N. Wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as e both shall live?

I will [until it gets tedious or boring].

Non servimus.


J-Tron said...

Of course, there are many other heterosexual priests and bishops who have been divorced. Is there a statistical difference among gay and lesbian clergy? One would have to do a study to determine that. I doubt it. Especially as time goes on. The less gay and lesbian people are assaulted by the culture, the more likely they are to have a strong sense of themselves early on in life, avoiding the pitfall of entering into heterosexual marriage as a mask.

Pretending for a second that your suggestion is genuine and not rhetorical sarcasm, no divorce should not be made a sacrament. But there are moments when the release of a divorce is a blessing, rather than a curse. All divorce comes out of a place of sin, but that doesn't mean divorce is unnecessary. You and I are probably not tremendously far apart from each other on divorce in general. I don't believe in divorce over "mutual disagreement," nor do I think that a state sanctioned divorce dissolves a sacramental bond. Scripture is quite clear about divorce. But scripture does grant exceptions. Adultery is one of those exceptions. I would argue that domestic violence is another. If a man is beating his wife or sexually abusing his children, the wife should not stay with that man. If that is the case, the grant of a divorce may be a blessing. Does that mean that divorce should be celebrated? Certainly not.

I don't think you'd find many gay and lesbian Christians who've been divorced from straight spouses who would argue that divorce itself was a good thing or that their own divorce was a point of celebration, even if it did carry with it certain blessings. Some Christian organizations believe that a way of "curing" homosexuality is by encouraging gay and lesbian people to marry straight partners. I find this practice to be disgusting and wrought with sin.

No marriage should be dissolved lightly, even in extreme situations like adultery or abuse. If one discovers late in life that they are gay or lesbian, there should be a great deal of discernment done before dissolving a marriage. And any subsequent union should be entered into with humility, the way remarriage is handled in the Eastern Orthodox churches. But there are certainly times when grounds for divorce would include reasons of sexual orientation. At least, if one accepts the premise that homosexuality is innate. Ontologically, the sacrament couldn't have happened in the first place. Try as one might, one cannot baptize with koolaid or administer communion to a dolphin. A person who is truly gay or lesbian cannot truly marry a person who is straight.

father wb said...

Yeah, I imagine we are actually relatively close on the issue of divorce.

I was talking about gays and lesbians getting divorces because (1) the lives of at least these two homosexuals (Robinson and Russell) have become so public, and (2) because what I'm really on about is the whole notion sexuality as constitutive (even partly) of "identity". I think that notion, theologically, is just an excuse for the selfish indulgence of the concupiscent will. But sure, that happens all the time with heterosexuals too. (I'm all for the equal applicability of the moral law to heterosexuals and homosexuals.)

What I don't believe, though, is that romantic love, an emotional bond, or any kind of attraction are necessary conditions for Christian marriage. If the law of our prayer is the law of our belief, there is absolutely nothing in the marriage service about finding one's spouse attractive in any way, nor even about agreeing to be positively emotionally disposed toward her. The language is all deontological. Its about duty. Sure, loving one another romantically is great, and I'm sure a great help, a great grace; but it isn't necessary. If that were so, the political marriages of yesteryear would all have been horribly and essentially unchristian.

And I'd like to dissociate myself from the Christians who talk about "curing" homosexuality. Maybe they're right (at least for some homosexuals), but I doubt it. I think they're rather misguided, and that they can do a lot of psychological harm to the people they try to "cure", and a lot of political harm to the cause of reconciliation and ecclesial unity.

[An aside: I've often thought that lesbians and gay men tend to be rather different psychologically. That is only possible, of course, if one is a gender essentialist, as I am. I just mean that the sexual psychology of men and women seems, in my experience, generally to be quite different. And if this is so, it would make sense that the difference obtain in lesbians and gay men respectively.]

Right, so I don't believe in divorce. I do believe that married people can, and sometimes (often?) should become "separated" -- i.e. live apart from one another -- but I think that they remain obliged to chastity, that the only licit sex remains for them with their spouse; and if sex with their spouse remains impossible, then, unfortunately, for them sex remains (morally) impossible. But I can testify that, while it is a real burden, its not unbearable. Sex for me too remains morally impossible, as I'm unmarried.

Lastly, I'm not sure what you mean in the last paragraph. I agree that one cannot baptize with koolaid or commune a dolphin (nor, for that matter, commune with koolaid or baptize a dolphin). And I agree with you that homosexuality is (at least usually) innate. But I don't see how it follows that "a person who is truly gay or lesbian cannot truly marry a person who is straight." The Church has never taught that Christian marriage is only between one straight man and one straight woman, but just that its only between one man and one woman, straight or gay. I grant that its probably unwise for homosexuals to contract marriage with a member of the opposite sex (and that they should therefore remain celibate), I don't see that it is impossible. Gene Robinson, despite apparently being innately homosexual, got married, and even had two apparently biological children. And I've known (a few) homosexuals who married members of the opposite sex, and who had happy fulfilling marriages, despite their orientation and their honesty about it with their spouses. I'm sure their marriages had burdens and challenges of a kind unknown to heterosexuals -- and I wouldn't lightly advise a homosexual to try it -- but their marriages, and the unique challenges they experienced, seem to all eyes to have been fulfilling and a powerful occasion of grace and sanctification in obedience.

What I object to, in general, is the notion that acting on sexual desire is a necessary or even an important part of living a full Christian life. And this goes for heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. What is important (again, for heterosexuals as much as for homosexuals) is the duty of obedience. In marriage, this constitutes obedience to God within the context of the sacramental vows of Holy Matrimony, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, until God shall separate the spouses by death. For unmarried Christians (heterosexual or homosexual), the duty of obedience to God is in abstaining from sex. And that is the law that has bound me all of my life, so its not as if I recommend it ignorant of the struggles it entails -- and while I do hope to get married, I know that its possible that I never receive that grace, in which case the duty of celibacy will be mine until I die). When Christians, heterosexual or homosexual, fall from the grace of chastity (as they almost inevitably will), their sin is then between them, God, and their confessor; and I will be dead-last in line to judge them for it.

Anonymous said...

You people really should start referencing the repository of information on the ontological sacraments, namely, Rome's, if you are going to go around leaning on definitions of sacramentality for your arguments. As I remember it, said repository in no way makes it ontologically impossible for a homosexual person to enter validly into a binding marital consecration, providing that fear or grave mistake or coercion were not involved. But Im not sure about that. I have to go home and check my catechism. Rome's, that is.

The Ranter said...

The interim at our former parish was also a divorced lesbian... and has been in multiple "covenant partnerships" since her ordination in 1998. From what I hear, she would not have been able to have a liturgical celebration of her divorce because her ex-husband dropped dead of an annuerism shortly after the divorce. She began her, I believe third "covenant partnership" when she shacked up with the woman who ran the Sunday School in my former parish, while she was (and still is) practicing there. Apparantly the Bishop was okay with this.