([London] Times) The Pemberton Case—Same-Sex Marriage: an unholy union for the clergy?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This case comes hard on the heels of an attempt sponsored by Unite to establish that a beneficed parish priest is employed by his bishop or enjoys the status of a worker, thereby paving the way for unfair dismissal and whistleblowing claims. That was roundly rejected by the Court of Appeal in April. Lord Justice Lewison in his judgment sketched the history of the relationship between church and state and more particularly the jurisdiction of royal or civil courts over clergy from the investiture controversy in the 11th century right through to the establishment of the modern ecclesiastical courts. He appears to have accepted the proposition that employment tribunals could determine such questions as an attack on the balance that has been struck. Similar considerations apply to the Pemberton case, although the legal analysis is distinct.

While many will feel sympathy for Canon Pemberton, it should be remembered that even in the secular field, activities outside the workplace can result in a lawful termination of employment, although rarely. It should also be remembered that when ordained as a priest, he not only took an oath of canonical obedience to his bishop but also declared that he would fashion his own life “according to the way of Christ” and to be “a pattern and example to Christ’s people”.

What that amounts to cannot be a matter of private judgment. Plenty of other homosexual priests have at some cost followed the House of Bishops guidance and previous similar utterances from the hierarchy.

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Posted June 25, 2015 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]
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