Wednesday, 9 January 2008

49 - Religion: Michael Heath

in "Private Eye", 3 July 1981

A rare cartoon in "Private Eye" about gays in the clergy. One would expect there have to have been many over the years. However, since "Private Eye" has always been a small magazine with a relatively small page count, it has tried to keep a balance as to what topics were returned to and what sort of running jokes to keep going. For much of the '70s and early 80's "Private Eye" featured a long-running, occasional factual feature, "Church Times". This recorded various less than shining examples of behaviour in the Anglican Church. This could be embezzling, appropriating church relics and artworks, or various efforts at careerism. What it turned out to be much of the time, though, was a gay gossip column. Recurring personalities were referred to as "Merve the Perve" or "Davina", particular clergy would be noted as to the number and attractiveness of their male clerical assistants and how favours were being done, and names would be noted as to who was seen in which gay club or trolling along Old Compton Street.
This could be construed as homophobic. Or that one is pointing out hypocrisy in one of the pillars of society.
What can't be denied is that all this was actually going on. For one brief summer in the lateish '90s I found part-time employment in the administrative centre for a Diocese which shall go unnamed. It was blatant as to which ordained ministers were having affirs with their male housekeepers and which ones were going off on holiday to the Mediterranean and why. Of course, these were all men about 30 years older than me, and I generally looked liked something pulled backwards through a hedge anyway, so I was safe. But it did make me think there when protests about the ordination of women arose, there was quite possibly a particularly queer-tinged misogyny coming into play.

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