The sin of Sodom at the Bishops Palace
The sin of Sodom at the Bishops Palace
A morality play in one act
[Scene; The Bishop’s Palace. The Bishop is having a quiet sherry in his study. There is a knock on the door]
Bishop: Come in.
[Reverend Arthur Bickerstaffe enters]
Bishop: Ah – it’s er…
Rev: Bickerstaffe, sir.
Bishop: Ah yes, Bickerstaffe How can I help you?
Rev: I’ve got to see you about the Civil Partnership, your grace. I made an appointment.
Bishop: Oh yes. Civil Partnership. (Pause) What’s that, exactly?
Rev: My partner and I are going to have a civil partnership registered, and under the new rules from the House of Bishops I have to see you about it.
Bishop: Is that so? I hadn’t heard of that. I’m a bit out of touch here, you see. What exactly am I supposed to do? Sign a form or something?
Rev: No, I think it’s me who has to sign the form.
Bishop: Oh. Now, which one would that be? There’s so much paperwork these days.
Rev: A Civil Partnership is when two people of the same sex sign a contract to live as a married couple.
Bishop: Same sex? Married Couple? Is this to do with that watchmacallit – gay priest business? The ones that are causing all the fuss with the African lads?
Bishop: I’m agin it. I don’t hold with it. I won’t have any truck with it.
Rev: You’re agin what, sir?
Bishop: Well, this homo malarkey. Don’t know why they have to make such a fuss. Why don’t they just get themselves a good woman and settle down? Upsetting the apple cart like that. There’s been no end of trouble down at Lambeth Palace, I understand. Rowan’s in a right stew over it.
Rev: Well, that’s what I’ve come about, sir. I’m one of the homos that’s causing the trouble.
Bishop: Are you, begad? Well, bugger me …. Which I don’t mean literally, you understand? I’ve got a wife and three fine fillies to me name.
Rev: Well, the new rules say that I have to come over to see you and promise that I’ll observe the church’s doctrines before my partner and I undertake this partnership.
Bishop: Oh is that all? Well, that’s fair enough. Although why you should have to promise to uphold doctrine when you’re wearing a dog collar, I can’t understand. You’re not one of these damned atheist clerics are you?
Rev: No sir. But I have to promise you that I will remain chaste.
Bishop: Chaste? What the hell does that mean?
Rev: I’m not sure, your grace.
Bishop: Oh well, anyway, do you promise to remain chaste? Just say yeah or nay and we’ll leave it at that.
Rev: The problem is, your grace, I’m not sure what chaste means in terms of… you know…
Bishop: What? What?
Rev: Well, nooky sir.
Rev: Yes, sir, you know - how’s-your-father sort of thing. The old rumpy pumpy.
Bishop: The old rumpy-pumpy?
Rev: I’m not sure how far me and my partner Jonathan can go in that department, you see.
Bishop (squirming): Well… er… I’m not very au fait with this kind of thing. This same-sex mucking about. I haven’t thought about it since I was at Harrow and even then it was just a bit of fumbling. Oh, and I suppose there was that time in the seminary with Rowan… er… but that was just experimenting. In fact, I’m going to have to take advice on this. Serves me right for not keeping up with things. Excuse me a moment, while I just phone a friend.
(He walks out of earshot and makes a call from his mobile)
Hello, is that Lambeth Palace. Hello, it’s Lancashire here – put me through to Rowan, would you?... Hello, Rowan? Hello, it’s Harry here… Yes, long time no see. Listen Rowan, I’m in a bit of a jam here. There’s a young chappy from Cleckheaton – St Barts – saying he’s getting married to his boyfriend. Do you know about this?.... (he holds the phone away from his ear) Oh, OK, sorry. Must be a bit of a sore point for you….. Now, this young man wants to know precisely what he’s allowed to do under the rules… Well, I don’t know… Can you bring me up to speed, old chap? What’s he allowed to do in the…er, rumpy-pumpy department?...
God, this is terrible. Just a minute. (To Reverend) Tell me, Bickerstaffe, what were you thinking of?
Rev: Well, I wondered how far we could go and still remain chaste. We’re going on our honeymoon, you see, sir, immediately after the ceremony, and we’ll need to know what exactly is permissible in the way of physical interaction.
Bishop (into the phone): Physical interaction. What can he do on his honeymoon without breaking the rules?
… Oh God. (To Rev) The Archbishop says there must be no (coughs) genital contact.
Rev: Does that mean we can’t touch each other’s genitals or does it mean that the actual genitals of both of us mustn’t come into contact with each other? I think we need clarification.
Bishop: Did you hear that, Rowan? What the hell am I supposed to say?.... Oh. (To Rev) It says in the rules and regulations, apparently, no mutual genital contact, but that’s open to interpretation. I’m sure it means that you mustn’t, you know – handle it.
Rev: Well, in that case, would frottage be OK then? Could I rub it up against him if he didn’t handle it? Or what about sucking him off? So long as I didn’t handle the knob and popped it straight in – would that be acceptable?
Bishop (into phone): Oh Jesus Christ, Rowan, what am I supposed to say to that?... (to Rev) You’re not supposed to touch each other genitally in any way below the belt.
Rev: So, not even a J. Arthur, then?
Bishop: A J. Arthur?
Rev: Yes, you know, sir, cockney rhyming slang. J. Arthur Rank.
Bishop (bewildered): J. Arthur Rank? J. Arthur… (it dawns on him). Oh, no, I said nothing below the belt. No. J. Arthurs. That would be below the belt, wouldn’t it?
Rev: Will it be OK to suck and tweak his tits, then?
Bishop: Are the breasts out of bounds. Rowan?.... (to rev) The Archbishop thinks that might be OK so long as there is no lascivious intent. You mustn’t have dirty thoughts while you’re doing it.
Rev: I’ll think of my Auntie Florrie as I apply the tit clamps, your grace. What about the anal regions – do they count as genital for this purpose? Will it, for instance, be OK to give him a bit of finger?
Bishop: A bit of finger? Well, I…
Rev: Only I was thinking that if fingering was a mortal sin, every GP and proctologist in the country would have to be damned to hell.
Bishop (bewildered): I see your reasoning…
Rev: On the same basis, could you just confirm for me whether anal intercourse is OK one way or the other.
Bishop: Well, even I can tell you – that’s sodomy. It’s forbidden in the Bible. Quite clearly. God didn’t reign down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah because they didn’t pay their council tax, you know. He did it because they were fond of – well, sodomy, and God doesn’t like it.
Rev: But according to the new interpretation of that passage, the sin of Sodom was actually inhospitality, not bumming.
Bishop: I wish you’d stop saying that.
Bishop: Well…. er …. Bumming. It conjures up pictures.
Rev: So if I believe that the sin of Sodom is inhospitality and not buggery, will it be OK for us to… you know… that thing that you don’t like me to name.
Bishop(into phone): What do you think, Rowan?... Well, I know, but he says he can do it in good conscience and remain chaste. And there was that time at the seminary… yes, yes, I know we were only young. Right, cheerio. (He rings off. To Rev) The Archbishop says you must search your conscience and if you think sodomy is not sodomy after all, then you’ll have to make your own decision. Those laddies in Africa – you know, the ju-ju bishops who keep coming to the conferences and kicking up about how they should be running the show because there’s more of them than there are us. Bloody cheek.
Rev: Yes sire. Thank you sir, that’s been very helpful. Now I think I’ll have to be going.
Bishop: Haven’t you time for a sherry? After all, if what you say about the sin of Sodom is correct, then I don’t want to be named as a sodomite by not offering you a drink.
Rev: That’s very kind of you, sir. Now, maybe you could tell me where you stand on fellatio….
(The Bishop freezes).