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Friday, 9 October 2015

Under the Cassock

This is something of an icky subject, and you might want to leave reading this blog until after lunch. In fact, I hesitated to bring it up, mainly because it involves Sean Tully, and so much of what he does makes me blanch.  I feel, however, it's a question that needs to be asked.  The question is: are Sean and Billy the Vicar "doing it"?

I'm not asking this question because I'm nosy, or because I genuinely want to dwell on the intricacies of Sean's sex life because God knows I don't.  I'm asking it because, as a man of the cloth, Billy's sex life is an issue.

The Church of England is - as it is with many topics of great importance - vague and at the same time strict about the issue of homosexuality and clergy.  Vicars may enter civil partnerships, but may not marry; they can be gay, but they are not expected to have sex.  The Church believes that if you're not married, you should practice abstinence, and therefore, as homosexuals cannot get married, they should be abstinent, while at the same time, they don't condemn gay clergy who choose not to be abstinent.  I know that seems to contradict itself but I'm just working with what I'm given (see this letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York).

Billy and Sean didn't immediately leap into bed together - their relationship developed slowly and respectfully.  But at a certain point, Billy started coming downstairs for breakfast at Eileen's, and they tried to get a double bed in a hotel in the Peak District.  They were clearly sleeping together at least. In which case, how do Billy's parishioners feel about the vicar's wife being a man?  Emily Bishop is blasé about it - let's face it, Emily's seen it all after fifty years on the Street - but the rest of his flock may not be quite as liberal.  There was the minor story of Sean's involvement in the church fete, but it was resolved quickly and without any further tensions.

If Billy is in a sexual relationship with Sean, then would he not feel a bit of angst over this?  I really like Billy - I think Daniel Brocklebank brings a great deal of charm to the part - but he's not done much more than been a bit chirpy and disapprove of Sean's excesses.  A little theological doubt would give him an extra layer.  On the other hand, if he actually does think that this isn't an issue in the slightest, does everyone else in his diocese feel the same way?  I feel like the show has glossed over what could have been an interesting and important storyline.  Daniel Brocklebank has mentioned that he put a lot of research into homosexuality and the church; he's also said that he's suffered abuse from angry viewers.  None of this has been reflected onscreen.

If Billy and Sean aren't having sex, though, and are merely sharing a bed and being affectionate to one another, how does Sean feel about this?  How is he handling a relationship that isn't as fulfilling as one he could get with a civilian?  Again, I absolutely do not want to know the details, but it raises questions the show isn't answering.

They could be saving the fireworks for when Billy and Sean get married, if that happens.  As a practicing Christian Billy would almost certainly want to marry in a religious ceremony, which he is specifically banned from doing.  I hope this won't result in him leaving the church - the last time someone on Corrie was forced to leave their job because of a same sex relationship, poor Jenna ended up wiping tables for six months before being written out altogether - but I do hope it's something the producer and scriptwriters have considered.

Making Billy both gay and a vicar may have resulted in a lot of amusing jokes but it also opens up actual debates and controversies the show hasn't touched yet.  If you're going to introduce a gay member of the Church you have to be committed to the ramifications, and Corrie seems to be unwilling to touch it.

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maggie muggins said...

Very thoughtful blog-post, Scott. Quite a long while back, I seem to recall Billy telling Sean that it was OK for him to be both gay and a vicar, but that maybe they should take it slow until people got used to them as a couple. It was broached in a very vague way, and as you point out, never really touched on much. Even what was said, would not have been enough to satisfy Sean's original question.

I'll check out the Archbishops' letters tonight, though they sound pretty contradictory from what you report. That's kind of sad.

Maybe the anger that Daniel has experienced from some viewers has slowed down any storyline for now. I agree that more layers to Billy would be welcome and could make compelling viewing and a chance for some interesting acting for both actors.

Gosh, I wish you were a writing consultant for Corrie! You sure have some good ideas and as I said - very thoughtful ones.

maggie muggins said...

Just remembered that it's 21 years since Linus Roache (William's son) played the conflicted gay Father Greg in Priest. Seems like with some, at least on the surface, friendly words coming from the current Pope towards the gay community, it might be nice for Corrie to be a bit more open about this storyline.

Anonymous said...

Good points Scott. I really don't know the situation in UK, although several years ago I remember my mother, who at that time was close to ninety years old and a lifelong C of E member, telling me about a new curate who was so nice, and a young lady who had her eye on him, but according to Mum was wasting her time because he was gay.

In Canada it is not an issue. Our Anglican priest lives with a man, and it doesn't raise any eyebrows. Our female associate priest was married to a woman, but has divorced and is living with another woman. No one seems to care about the nitty gritty of their relationships.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Canada as well. My Mum is an Anglican Church Member and she pointed out to me that members of the clergy as well as members of her church marched in Toronto's Pride Parade. Her Grandson (my lovely son) is gay.

Anonymous said...

You think Sean wouldn't be all over Billy whenever he had a chance? Not likely.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Very thought-provoking post. We haven't seen negative views from the Corrie residents. So far, attitudes have been supportive or neutral. Scratch beneath the surface and not everyone would be that accepting. I could see that Beth would think Billy couldn't be a real vicar with a lifestyle like his, or he might get downright abusive letters from his congregation. Is Sean the right partner, anyway? I wonder if he would get involved with the community activities of the church. He might be resistant at first but eventually find that it's the making of him.

Anonymous said...

I recall commenting some time ago when Billy and Sean faced some homophobic B&B operator that it would actually have been a much more interesting story line if they addressed the issue of Billy having sex outside of marriage. I would much rather hear about the Church writing Billy stern letters out of concern that he is not setting a good example in that regard (even though equally outdated) than the same old story of small-minded people who think certain kinds of love are wrong.

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