Take, for example, the moment when the Archbishop of Canterbury asked, "Who gives this woman to this man?"
If you watched carefully, as I did, you saw Michael Middleton, Catherine's father, take her hand and place it in the hand of the Archbishop, who then took her hand and placed it in the hand of the charming Prince William.
Now you see it, now you don't.
It was a deft sleight of hand which magically evaporated decades of struggle by feminist and other enlightened men and women who have worked tirelessly for the equality of women everywhere.
Well, at least, that's what the illusion was designed to convey.
So much for the "modern face" of the "New Royals"
There stood a young woman - well educated, bright, independent - who was being "given away" like so much property.
Oh, I didn't mind the white dress or the veil, even though the lack of her virginal status is not discussed in polite company - especially and obviously in the company of the Archbishop of Canterbury who steadfastly upholds the 'teachings of the church' with regards to sex outside of marriage.
If I were given only a mere quid for every non-virginal bride who walked down the aisle in a white gown and veil I'd still be quite wealthy.
When I preside at weddings, I always ask, "Who presents these two people for the Sacrament of Marriage?" And, I have asked the parents of the bride and groom - or, the best man and maid or matron of honor - to stand and say, "We do."
To me, that is consistent with what we do in the Sacrament of Baptism and, in those places where there is a "First Holy Communion" as well as the Sacramental Rites of Confirmation and Ordination.
The person or persons to receive the Sacrament or Sacramental Rites are "presented" or "sponsored" or have "Godparents" for this important moment of grace.
I have always found the "giving away" of the bride to be an odious throwback to the days when "traditional marriage" was, in actuality, a contract between two men - the father and the husband of the bride.
Catherine did not wish to include the word "obey" in her marriage vows. Good on her, as they say in Australia. But, she might as well have.
I was curious, as well, that there was only one ring at the ceremony. Hers. William, apparently, chose not to have a wedding ring. Apparently, this was okay with Catherine. Odd, I thought, but their choice.
This is not to question what Catherine chose to do. I may not like what she chooses but I would absolutely defend her right to choose what is right and good for her and her marriage.
My question, rather, is why does the Church choose to continue this arcane, odious, offensive practice?
I understand, from my friends Across the Pond, that this little ritual is in their prayer book - the 1662 version as well as the newer 'supplemental' books.
In my answer to my question 'Does that always happen in CofE weddings?', one British friend wrote.
The short answer is No.When I complained that an estimated two billion people around the world saw this ritual and will assume, as I did, that this is the way it is 'always' done in the Church of England - indeed, in the Anglican Communion - some seemed absolutely befuddled by my annoyance at the sexism of the ritual act.
This page from Common Worship: Pastoral Services contains the Note (6. "Giving Away') which provides for it on an optional basis.
Please remember that although this 1928 Proposed Book rite is still authorised, as shown here it is quite rare for it to be used nowadays. The vast majority of CofE weddings use this form.
"The custom of the father handing over the bride's hand certainly arises from a more patriarchal time when women were chattel. But the custom is to hand over the bride, not to the groom, but to the Church. In this respect, it was incipient women's lib, in that it gave the bride a notional moment of freedom, when she belonged to neither father or husband. Admittedly, the moment of freedom was more notional than real, given that it practically meant the choice to become a religious, but still . . ."But still??? Still, what? Still a "notional moment of freedom"? Is she not free, anyway? Are a woman's only two choices in life to become a nun or a wife?
Are you kidding me? Hello! Welcome to the Year of our Lord, 2011.
This was not 'women's lib' - incipient or otherwise.
It is sexism. Flat-out.
However, this . . THIS. . . is the response that really pulled my last, poor, tired nerve, and, in truth, prompted this blog/rant. Another otherwise intelligent, well educated man who also works for the cause of justice in the church wrote:
"I never thought of this loving gesture as "sexist".
"Most brides I have worked with love it."My stomach still wretches, just reading those words again.
This 'loving gesture'???? Most brides 'love it'????
Yes, I suppose the way slaves love it when you stop beating them.
The future of my work in this justice group is under serious consideration precisely because of these two statements.
I simply don't know how anyone can work for justice in the church and not see the injustice of this church ritual.
I mean, why isn't this 'loving gesture' extended to the groom, as well? Might not men come to 'love it', too? If not, why not? Really.
Ask yourself those questions and you might get at the root of my problem and annoyance.
Want to know why there is such a hullabaloo about the ordination of women and LGBT people to the priesthood and consecration to the episcopacy in the Church of England?
Indeed, would you like to know why there is an Anglican Covenant and why most Synods in The Church of England will support it?
It is due, in part, this 'loving gesture' which, 'most brides love' which is 'quite rare' and 'optional' in use in the Church of England, except, of course, where it is not - and, especially when it is broadcast 'round the world for all to see.
No, I'm not exaggerating to make a point.
At Lambeth 2008, I was part of a consortium of justice groups working together to raise awareness, educate and yes, lobby, the bishops about issues concerning women, LGBT people and justice issues in the church.
Every morning, we gathered for prayer, conducted by one of the LGBT justice groups that was working for full inclusion in the church.
By the third day, I could no longer tolerate the 'exclusive' language of the prayer service and stopped attending. That night, at our debriefing session, I asked the group to please, please, please consider 'cleaning up' the language of prayer. Several other (American) women in the group said, "Hear, hear!"
The guys 'got it' - well, they got that the American women were pissed off and they desperately wanted not to do that. It was the women - the British women - however, who looked at me as if I had two heads and one was flopping.
They didn't understand, really, what the fuss was all about. It was 'their' prayer book. This is how 'we' pray, here. You Americans don't understand the British. We've been praying like this for centuries. It is 'our' language.
'We' understand that 'mankind' is not an 'exclusive' term - 'humankind' is cumbersome and odd and does not slip off the English tongue well. 'We' understand that the use of the male pronoun for God is neither descriptive or proscriptive but rather the way 'we' talk about God.
It made me angry, when it didn't make me feel very, very sad.
It taught me more than I wanted to know, really, about assumed, unexamined male privilege and internalized oppression.
I was reminded of a woman who had sat, for three long years, on the vestry of an Episcopal Church whose rector was undoubtedly a champion of many social justice issues - especially for LGBT people.
She could be described as a rather 'dykey'-looking lesbian - a quiet, gentle woman who fits right in with the rest of the folks in the computer/IT department where she is very successful - and not the 'type' of lesbian favored by her rector.
For three long years, she had endured being cut off in mid-sentence or her ideas being flat out ignored by her rector. During her tenure, she had regularly insisted that the parish newsletter be handled by a professional printing company, arguing that producing it on the church's Xerox machine did not reproduce the words or pictures in a crisp, clear way that did anyone any justice and did not present a 'good face' to the community as the evangelism tool it was meant to be.
When her term expired, the man who was replacing her on the Vestry said, at the very first meeting, "You know, I've been thinking. We really should do something about the parish newsletter. It really needs to be more professionally done."
"Great idea!" said the rector, "Let's figure that amount in the next budget."
My friend did a slow burn and seriously considered leaving the parish, taking her substantial pledge with her. I encouraged her to speak with the rector about the situation, which she did.
And, do you know what he said? He said, "I had no idea! I wish you would have said something sooner."
Language is a powerful tool. Words are the pack mules of language. Words shape and form and carry images and inform actions which are, in and of themselves, sometimes even more powerful than the words of any language.
This was my experience of the 'loving gesture' of the ritual of the giving of hands at Catherine and William's wedding.
It was not 'loving'. It carried with it the sexism and misogyny that is inherent in some parts of the church from the ancient to the modern.
I am absolutely convinced that, at the root of all homophobia and heterosexism is a deep and abiding sexism and misogyny that have been with us since The Garden.
Beyond the 'ick' factor of homosexuality lies the belief that gay men are men who want to be women, and who on earth would want THAT, for God's sake! And, women who are lesbians really only want to be men, and that's ... well, that's 'disordered'.
Neither of those two things are true, of course, but when your world - and mind - is small, it has a logic all its own.
Sexism, mysogyny, homophobia and heterosexism are the very present, unexamined assumptions which are deeply embedded in the words of the Anglican Covenant about the 'proper order' of the world and God's Anglican people.
It is no mistake that the question of the authority of women to function as priests and bishops is closely tied to the same questions about LGBT people and their role and function in the church.
"Lex orandi, lex credendi" - the law of prayer is the law of belief - was never more evident in the otherwise beautiful Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey last Friday.
Oh, how I wish I had a magic wand and - 'Abracadabra!' - change that particular scene to make it more representative of the Sacramental nature of that wedding.
Alas, I can not.
I take some comfort in the fact that soon and very soon, Catherine will figure it all out. She's very bright. She'll understand that her supposed low estate as a 'commoner' who is a woman in this marriage is just a sad, pathetic illusion to prop up the sense of the importance of the monarchy.
We are all equal in God's sight.
The real magic of that wedding will be the transformation of Catherine Middleton to Catherine Mountbatten Windsor, Duchess of Cambridge and future Queen of England, who will become her own person in that marriage - despite the delusions purported by that not-so 'lovely ritual'.
I'm betting solid money that the girl-child Princess of Catherine and William will not be having any of that at her wedding.
At that same time, thirty or so years from now, I'm betting that the Anglican Covenant will be but a sad footnote in the history of the Anglican Communion.
That is not prestidigitation. That is my hopeful prognostication.
Now you see it. Then, you won't.