Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Bashing the Bishops

Our Lords Spiritual, Temporal and Venal have not overturned the Commons vote in favour of allowing gay couples to marry.  However, what they have done is demonstrate both the anachronism of an unelected second chamber and the damage that the Church of England can do.  There are pressing arguments to do something about both areas of a major democratic deficit.

One of the key arguments that the status quo commands is that the British state has an officially-sanctioned religion of which the Head of State is the nominal head.  The Church of England is embedded in most aspects of ceremonial life, and therefore unpicking this will have unintended consequences beyond merely separating out government of all citizens from the spiritual adherence of what appears to be a generally-declining section of Christianity.

Unfortunately, there have been very few Bishops in the Lords of any moral or intellectual stature in recent years.  The moral compass that they exhibit is not exclusive, neither is their radar particularly well-tuned.  Apart from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, whose gentle authority and humanity tended to unite even non-adherents with a degree of respect, both the current and retired episcopate appears to be mediocre at best, and more generally ludicrous in its interventions in the polity.

To hear Lord Carey suggesting that gay marriage leads almost inevitably to bestiality, and then to have the current occupant of Canterbury prattling on implying it is the end of civilisation as we know it demonstrates both the scale of the problem and the ease of its solution.  Rather than leading by example they appeal to the same group of knee-jerk reactionaries who have given Farage the poll and ego boosts  of the last few months, without even preaching any tolerance, understanding or compassion.  Political, Tory appointments both.

While the Lords remains intact, there is no real reason to expel the Bishops from an automatic legislative role, as they are an obvious symbol of blight.  However, as the cupidity and greed of the Lords-for-hire scandal extends further, any reform will surely sweep an anachronism aside.  Whether or not the remainder of the unpicking of the Crown and its privileges are achieved, this seems almost inevitable.  And the Bishops have been the architects of their own undoing.  Perhaps they will mediate on Samson and his fate.

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