Monday, 29 December 2008

uk bishops on labour: morally corrupt

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Morally corrupt: Bishops' verdict on Labour.

Sunday Telegraph

Dec 28, 2008

LEADING BISHOPS in the Church of England have launched a withering attack on the Government, questioning the morality of its policies.

Five of the Church's most senior figures said the Government now presided over a country suffering from family breakdown, an unhealthy reliance on debt and a growing divide between rich and poor.

The Bishop of Manchester accused Labour of being "beguiled by money'' and "morally corrupt''.

The Bishop of Hulme said they were "morally suspect'' and the Bishop of Durham said they had reneged on their promises.

They were joined by the bishops of Winchester and Carlisle who claimed ministers had squandered their opportunity to transform society and run out of steam.

The bishops said Labour sacrificed principled politics and long-term solutions for policies designed to win votes. One described the Government as "tired'' and another said its policies were "scandalous''.

Meanwhile, in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron accused Gordon Brown of leading Britain to the "brink of bankruptcy''.

The Conservative leader said the "debt crisis'', which he claimed was the Government's responsibility alone, would serve as the Prime Minister's "political epitaph''.

Although they were speaking independently in a series of interviews with The Sunday Telegraph, the bishops' common criticisms reflect the deepening rift between the Government and the Church on social and moral issues. Relations have become increasingly fractious following condemnation of Mr Brown's spending plans by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the publication of a report that accused the Government of marginalising the Church.

In February, the General Synod, the Church's parliament, will hold a debate on the implications of the financial crisis that is expected to lead to heavy criticism of the Government. The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, said ministers had not done enough to help the poor.

"Labour made a lot of promises, but a lot of them have vanished into thin air,'' he said. "We have not seen a raising of aspirations in the last 13 years, but instead there is a sense of hopelessness.

"While the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer. When a big bank or car company goes bankrupt, it gets bailed out, but no one seems to be bailing out the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and seeing their savings diminished.''

The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, condemned Labour for encouraging people to get further into debt. "The Government has acted scandalously. This is not just an economic issue, but a moral one. It's about what we value,'' he said.

"The Government believes that money can answer all of the problems and has encouraged greed and a love of money that the Bible says is the root of all evil. It is morally corrupt because it encourages people to get into a lifestyle of believing they can always get what they want.''

Bishop McCulloch said New Labour was guilty of pursuing the policies championed by Margaret Thatcher, which the

Church condemned in its landmark 1985 report, Faith in the City. It blamed Thatcherite policies for the growth of spiritual and economic poverty in Britain's inner cities.

"Both administrations have been beguiled by money,'' said Bishop McCulloch.

"It is ironic that under a Labour government we have the poor feeling they have been betrayed and the gap is getting ever greater. Any government of integrity would have exercised restraint, but this has been sadly lacking.''

The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the Church's Bishop for Urban Life and Faith and also the Bishop of Hulme, said: "The Government isn't telling people who are already deep in debt to stop overextending themselves, but instead is urging us to spend more.

"That is morally suspect and morally feeble. It is unfair and irresponsible of the Government to put pressure on the public to spend in order to revive the economy.''

Bishop Lowe suggested that it was a cynical ploy to improve the economy in time for the next general election.

"They are trying to take the credit for this, but are playing with people's livelihoods in the process.'' The bishop commissioned a Church report, Moral, But No Compass, published earlier this year, which said Labour had failed society and marginalised the Church.

It revealed the level of unease felt among senior clerical figures over the direction being taken by the Government.

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, the Bishop of Carlisle, and the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, said Labour deserved credit for some past achievements but it was struggling to balance its conscience with the pressure to win the next election.

"I agree with the Conservatives that the breakdown of the family is a crucial element in the difficulties of our present society,'' said Bishop Dow.

"The Government hasn't given sufficient support to that because it is scared of losing votes.'' He argued that Labour's failure to back marriage and its "insistence on supporting every choice of lifestyle'' had had a negative effect on society. "I think Labour has got tired,'' he said. Bishop Scott-Joynt said: "The Government hasn't done anything like enough to help those less well off, particularly in terms of tax redistribution. There also has been the disaster of the 10p tax.

"It is imperative that this Government help the poorer people and hold the hard-hit communities in its sights, but it seems to have its eye on

re-election instead.''

A senior ministerial source said: "The Government has a proud record on promoting fairness and opportunity for all, combating poverty and in tackling Third World debt and promoting international development.

"We also believe it is morally right to provide real help and resources to people facing unemployment or worried about losing their homes.'

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BBC

Bishops attack 'immoral' Labour

Five Anglican bishops have attacked the government by calling into question the morality of its policies.

The bishops of Durham, Winchester, Hulme, Manchester and Carlisle told the Sunday Telegraph the UK was beset by family breakdown, debt and poverty.

Bishop of Manchester the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch said Labour was "beguiled by money" and "morally corrupt".

But Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell, who represents the Church in the Commons, said the comments were "nonsense".

'Inevitable come-uppance'

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Bishop of Durham the Rt Rev Tom Wright accused ministers of making promises that had later "vanished into thin air".

"We have not seen a raising of aspirations in the last 13 years, but instead there is a sense of hopelessness. While the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer," he said.

In a separate interview with the paper, Bishop McCulloch echoed those criticisms, just days after he used his Christmas Day sermon to warn that society was facing an inevitable come-uppance for its "buy now, pay later" culture.

The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the Church's Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, said he feared Britain would simply return to a "financial system based on indebtedness" after the current crisis.

"The government isn't telling people who are already deep in debt to stop overextending themselves, but instead is urging us to spend more," he said.

"That is morally suspect and morally feeble. It is unfair and irresponsible of the government to put pressure on the public to spend in order to revive the economy."

Bishop Lowe, who is bishop of Hulme within the diocese of Manchester, later told the BBC he wanted to see an end to "the notion of greed, of getting something you want immediately using the credit card".

Meanwhile, the Bishops of Carlisle and Winchester claimed ministers had squandered their opportunity to transform society.

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, the Bishop of Carlisle, said: "I agree with the Conservatives that the breakdown of the family is a crucial element in the difficulties of our present society.

"The government hasn't given sufficient support to that because it is scared of losing votes."

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said while it was not the first time the Church and state have clashed in recent times, the bishops' language was "particularly robust".

Only last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury launched a public attack on the government.

Dr Rowan Williams said Gordon Brown's plans to spend more in order to tackle the recession were like an "addict returning to the drug", and suggested the economy had been going in the wrong direction for decades.

'Bishops' palaces'

Sir Stuart Bell MP, who is the Second Church Estates Commissioner and the Church's representative in the Commons branded the criticism as "nonsense".

He said: "Not only is the government seeking to help those on lower incomes, it is leading the fight in the Third World to relieve poverty - a task Gordon Brown pursued in all his years as chancellor and since as prime minister.

"It is also nothing short of nonsense to say that the government's policies are designed to win a future election. They are designed to assist all sections of the community through the difficulties that face them.

"Possibly the bishops would prefer the proposed policies of the Conservatives, to reduce taxes by reducing public expenditure - thus ensuring the closure of schools and hospitals and a reduction in services - in which case they would allow themselves the luxury of further criticism."

Sir Stuart added that it "ill-behoved" those who lived in "bishops' palaces" to condemn government policies aiming at alleviating poverty.

But Labour MP John McFall told the BBC he believed there was "a kernel of truth" in the bishops' remarks.

"It's important for people to look at this in a moral dimension - right and wrong - and to ensure that we bring back some of the responsibility that was evident many, many years ago when people had to save up for things," he said.

"We've all got to make ourselves more responsible and if that's what the bishops are pushing out, that message, then I'm on their side."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/7801667.stm

Published: 2008/12/28 14:15:37 GMT

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