Via Integra

Fr Mark's progressive Anglo-Catholic take on European Christianity

  • This is my collection of material about the current state of the churches in Europe. I am interested in looking at how they are dealing with the pressing issues of our time: the issues of gay people and women in ministry/ leadership are particularly pressing at the moment, as is the area of declining church attendance.

    I would like to see how Europe's traditional religious institutions are coping with the new Europe currently being forged, in which public opinion and ethical attitudes are becoming inceasingly pan-European, and are evidently presenting a series of strong challenges for the churches.

Britain – the gay issue

Posted by Fr Mark on September 4, 2009

UK_Royal_Coat_of_ArmsRoman Catholic school cannot sack head in ‘gay marriage’


Lawyers have told the Roman Catholic Church that it cannot sack a Catholic headmaster who has entered a civil partnership with a male teacher.

The Archdiocese of Liverpool has been unable to take action against Charles Coyne, the head of St Cecilia’s primary school, who has registered a partnership with Richard Jones, who is believed to work at a nearby school

Pope Benedict XVI has called civil partnerships “anarchic” and a danger to the family.

The couple, who live together, had a reception in a parish centre.

Local Catholics and family campaigners have urged the authorities to take action over the “scandal”.

One churchgoer said: “Senior officials are aware of this yet they have done nothing. It’s unacceptable.”

Norman Wells, the director of the Family Education Trust, said: “It is not unreasonable for parents sending their children to a faith school to expect the headteacher to be living according to that faith.”

The archdiocese – which is headed by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, the second most senior cleric in England and Wales – said it was powerless.

It said in a statement that Mr Coyne had run St Cecilia’s for many years and “matters relating to his personal life have in no way interfered with his management of the school”.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said senior officials, including Fr Michael O’Dowd, the episcopal vicar for schools and colleges, had discussed the case as issues of employment law were involved.

“Legal advice was sought,” the spokesman said. “The Church was advised that in this case nothing could be done, despite the fact that the head was acting contrary to Church teaching.”

One bishop, the Rt Rev John Jukes, said school governors should ask a head teacher to step down if he or she openly flouted the Church’s moral code.

“I would ask heads to think about the example they are setting to their pupils and the local community,” said Bishop Jukes, an auxiliary bishop emeritus in Southwark.

The bishop said each case was different, and added that it was possible for male friends to share a house together without breaching Catholic moral teaching.

A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said there was an expectation that the person upheld the position of the Church if they had been employed “to present and represent the Catholic faith”.

She added there were “a series of factors to consider” including “the specifics of the case involved and the type of role someone has been employed to carry out”.

The Rev Richard Kirker, the general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, predicted that Mr Coyne’s “courageous” step would be followed by others in senior posts.

“This will be very helpful to everybody who expects the Catholic Church to be open and honest,” he said.


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