Ethical conflation on the way to making sexual scapegoats

At recent lectures given at United Theological College, Cambridge University divinity professor Sarah Coakley gave her listeners some food for thought about our tendency to accidentally commingle ideas in the search for scapegoats, especially in the RC and Anglican traditions.

Anyone who has attentively followed the press coverage of the recent sex scandals in the Roman Catholic church in Boston, on the one hand, and of the divisions over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion, on the other, may have become aware of certain pressing contemporary ‘cultural contradictions’ on matters of sexuality and desire that these two crises enshrine, and to which I wish to draw explicit attention.

It might be objected that even to name these two areas of ecclesial public furore in the same context is already to have committed a dire, and offensive, fallacy of “castigation by lumping” (to quote Jeffrey Stout). For surely the abusive and illegal activities of paedophile Roman Catholic priests must in no wise be conflated with the honest and open vowed relationships of gay Episcopalians, including one of such who is now a bishop?

To this we must reply immediately that of course the difference is ethically crucial – not only in the eyes of the law, but in terms of the unequal power relationships, and the protective shroud of ecclesiastical secrecy, that have marked the Roman Catholic scandal in contrast to the Anglican one.

Read it all: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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