Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Under the Cassock

(This post was originally posted by Scott Willison on the Coronation Street Blog in October 2015.)

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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