The cross-dressing bearded nun story

Forgive me, but I can’t help but be interested in the cross-dressing bearded nun story which was in the Herald today.

The short version of the story is that a minister removed a picture of himself dressed as a nun from facebook, where it was his profile pic, following a complaint from someone belonging to the Roman Catholic church who lived in his parish.

I think that the notable thing is that the presbytery seemed to downplay the incident and regard it as fairly low key whilst the Roman Catholic complainant was obviously terribly upset.

Yes, it seems that we now have a situation where a Presbytery seems untroubled by a minister cross-dressing and appearing as a nun whilst the minister himself took notice of a Roman Catholic who appeared to be upset. It strikes me that this is a whole new phase in the psycho-sexual development of religious sensibilities in Scotland for a number of reasons.

I’m trying to work out whether posting a picture of yourself dressed as a nun when you happen to be a Church of Scotland minister breaks the Church of Scotland’s current moratorium on discussing human sexuality in public.

The whole story in the Herald is intercut with comments from the Scottish Catholic Media Office but their placement seems to be a little naughty as those comments were made previously and unless I’m mistaken don’t refer to the bearded presbyterian nun story at all.

The pic on facebook has now been withdrawn. It was in the Herald this morning but I can’t find it anywhere online. That’s a pity, because Mr Caldwell looked rather fetching. Well, rather fetching if you prefer the beard and wimple look, I guess.

I’d have liked to have posted it on here to ask what folk thought of it, particularly as we have a dedicated readership which includes nuns of various sorts.


  1. Yasmin says

    I’m not sure if the Church of Scotland were right to downplay an incident which offended someone but I can see that it was reasonable for the minister to think dressing up as a nun wouldn’t be badly received as he didn’t seem to do so with any sectarian objective. The minister did the right thing in apologising and removing the picture and so this matter seems resolved to me. As to whether this constitutes discussing human sexuality in public – I’m not quite convinced it does!

  2. Hermano David |Brother Dah•veed says

    The article states that he dressed as a nun for a costume party. Men often dress as women for such affairs and no one questions their sexuality or their masculinity usually, nor thinks much of the so-called cross-dressing.

    The real question is why he thought it appropriate to later use this photo on his FaceBook account as his public face? That is the story to pursue. That is an act not quite so innocent as dressing as a nun for a costume party. I think him incredibly naive or stupid if he thought no one would be offended. Perhaps what the Presbytery should be doing is seeking some re-education on his part as a requirement for renewal of his licensure, because this sort of behavior is in the category of conduct unbecoming of clergy, as well as a bit daft.

    • I’d hate it to be thought that no Episcopal priest had ever dressed as a nun (or as the pope for that matter) at a fancy dress party.

      The temptation to post a picture of oneself in fancy dress is surely not a temptation to which much blame can befall clergy should they succomb.

      To be honest, I don’t think that posting a picture of yourself in a wimple is something that should cause someone’s licence to practise to be put at risk. Nor do I think that it is particularly conduct unbecoming. But there you are, I’ll be mistaken for being a libertarian once again for saying so.

      I’m not, as it happens a libertarian. Nor do I cross-dress, for fear of it making me look more butch than I care to look.

      All of which reminds me that in the Anglican gay wars of recent years we’ve been so distracted by gay bishops that we have not given nearly enough serious thought to issues of gender.

  3. Rosemary Hannah says

    Gender is interesting. I was reared not to give much thought to what might or might not be ‘gender appropriate’ – how to be girly, how to pick feminine tasks/ideals and all that. This was perhaps because my mother went to Uni in the 20s and in the thirties and war years had a proper career as a journalist – not the woman therefore to give much thought to what others might want of one whose sex was female. I am constantly astonished by such things as different favours for men and women at weddings, somebody refusing to wear a coat because after purchase she realised it was a bloke’s. I always have and always will wear men’s clothes when I like them for some reason (comfort, fit, style, not usually all together.) My favourite hat (now sadly shabby) is my gent’s black Fedora.

    But it seems that rigid gender segregation is still alive and well in some very middle class circles.

    I just think girls stuff can be fun sometimes if you do not take it seriously. (Moves Queen’s pawn in simple opening gambit)

  4. I think Reverend Caldwell is an absolute fool and a disgrace to the ministry. He is making fun of Catholics, who are his fellow Christians. The Facebook photo was obscene. That vile grin; that disgusting beard. How could he lack intelligence not to foresee that this is offensive? It was not as if the photo was on Facebook for a day or two but was up for months. The man should be struck off as a minister. He has brought himself and his ministry into shame and has made his congregation a laughing stock.

    • I think that there are a great many things more obscene in this world than a presbyterian in a wimple.

      I’d still be interested to hear whether any actual nuns were upset. And I’d be even more interested to hear from them if they came from religious orders where wimples were still worn.

      I speak as someone whose own religious headgear (which I only wear in the snow, as it happens) regularly causes joy to others.

  5. Given that you get Anglican nuns, could a pisky priest have dressed a la Rev Caldwell without causing offence? Afterall, the RC Church does regard Anglican orders as but a null and void form of dressing up…

    In the context of the recent Hugh Dallas email furor, Caldwell was unwise at best. But facebook is supposed to be private (but invariably isn’t, one reason why I’m glad to be off it!)

  6. Intrigued by a reference to this on your latest post, I googled ‘minister dressed as a nun’, then clicked on ‘images’ and it appeared right away. Personally I can see why he used it as his profile pic – impish face, perfectly framed by the wimple. Sad that such a joyful image can cause such upset and offence.

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