Last edited: February 14, 2005

Bishop Stirs Up A Storm Over Sex

Holloway Clashes with Anglican Establishment as He Says Sodomy and Sadomasochism Should Be Tolerated

The Scotsman, 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 Scotland’s 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 today’s Scotsman: "What you do with your sexual organs is not, I think, the moral question: it’s 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 it’s 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 vote.

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 people’s 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, it’s a mystery to me, but it does seem to be part of some people’s 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 can’t do that’. It is really up to the adults themselves."

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 positive."

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. We’ve never been more specific than that."

The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland refused to comment on the bishop’s comments because he is from a different church.

Mark Watson of the gay rights group, Stonewall, welcomed Bishop Holloway’s 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 sodomy."

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.

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