Bishop Stirs Up A Storm Over Sex
Holloway Clashes with Anglican Establishment as He Says Sodomy and Sadomasochism
Should Be Tolerated
July 11, 1999
20 North Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1YT
By Stephen Breen
The Bishop of Edinburgh has clashed again with the Anglican establishment by claiming
sodomy between priests ought to be accepted, and that sadomasochistic sex in general
should be tolerated so long as it is consensual.
Bishop Richard Holloway, the leader of Scotlands Anglican community, said the
Church had no right to interfere in the sexual behaviour of adults provided they consent.
Last year at the Lambeth conference, the worldwide Anglican church reaffirmed that
homosexuals can be priests, but insisted that they must remain celibate.
In his most wide-ranging interview yet, Bishop Holloway, the primus of the Scottish
Episcopal Church, states in the Weekend section of todays Scotsman: "What you
do with your sexual organs is not, I think, the moral question: its the nature of
the relationship and whether it is violent or abusive.
"Sodomy, as such, need not be either; it may be an unsafe physical practice, but
there is no doubt that sexuality expresses itself in all sorts of extraordinary ways,
including oral sex, fellatio and cunnilingus, and one might just as easily consider those
to be unnatural.
"So far as we know, the sin of Sodom was lack of hospitality and not anal
intercourse. For a priest to be in an established relationship with another male seems to
me not to contradict the possibility of a valid and fruitful priesthood.
"I know many examples where this is the case. What goes on in the bedroom is a
matter of private choice, provided its non-abusive and provided people are otherwise
trying to follow the Christian ethic."
Bishop Holloway is a leading liberal clergyman and long-standing supporter of gay
rights. Last year he urged gay clergymen to consider leaving the Church of England because
he claimed the Anglican community had become intolerant following the Lambeth conference
Bishop Holloway said there are no "moral absolutes" when it comes to sex,
except that it must be consensual. This was why paedophilia and rape were always wrong.
"Given these over-arching moral principles, there is still an enormous sexual
repertoire which can be mutually fulfilling and consenting, and I think that we should
mind our own business and not meddle with other peoples business," he said.
"This should be the case even if we are personally repelled, as indeed I am, by
certain aspects of sadomasochism, for example.
"Mutually consenting sadomasochism, however, stops short of the heavier kind of
wounding of people, and so I believe it is up to the people involved.
"I have no appetite at all for it myself, its a mystery to me, but it does
seem to be part of some peoples experience. I find it aesthetically displeasing, but
that does not give me the right to try and outlaw it.
"Between consenting adults, I do not think that you can say confidently you
can do this, but you cant do that. It is really up to the adults
A Church of Scotland spokeswoman said last night that sodomy among ministers and
sadomasochism may be a matter of personal conscience, but added: "In general, if the
Church did have a view about sodomy and sadomasochism, it would be more negative than
A spokesman for the Church of England refused to comment because Bishop Holloway is
part of a different primus On the question of sadomasochistic sex, the spokesman said:
"I am not aware of the Church having a position on this.
"We have always said the proper place for sex is in a stable, loving relationship
in marriage. Weve never been more specific than that."
The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland refused to comment on the bishops comments
because he is from a different church.
Mark Watson of the gay rights group, Stonewall, welcomed Bishop Holloways
comments about sodomy and the priesthood.
He said: "There is no contradiction between homosexuality and the priesthood. What
Bishop Holloway is saying seems perfectly sensible.
"Lesbian and gay people are part of society and should be accepted as such across
the board, and that includes the priesthood. In the teachings of Christ, he never once
mentions that he has a problem with homosexuality.
"The reference to sodomy comes in Leviticus where Leviticus mentions ten things
which he finds terrible. These include wearing clothes of mixed fibers and eating
shellfish. We seem to have conveniently forgotten the other ones but are stuck with
Bishop Holloway, who had planned to stand for the Scottish parliament as a Labour
candidate, said he admired Tony Blair for trying to fuse conservative economic efficiency
with the liberal conscience of the left, although he was anxious in case "new"
Labour lost its historic role of protecting the poor.
He also said he would be in favour of the Anglican Church eventually reuniting with
Catholicism providing there was reform in Rome to "diminish the tendency towards
authoritarianism" and moderating the understanding of papal infallibility.