You may have seen the poor fellow being publicly savaged in the media this week. The best thing about this case is that no “kiddy fiddling” seems to have been going on. The Anglican Bishop of Gloucester (formerly Bishop of Lewes) had a special responsibility for training young clergy. He preferred a strict regime like that famous “Miss Whiplash” case a few years ago. It just makes me giggle.
Gloucester, in the west of England, is where I was baptized and confirmed an Anglican, before I lapsed from my faith in my twenties. I served my parish church in the diocese of Gloucester as an altar boy, as a Sunday school teacher and as a boy scout troop leader in a church based troop. So in a very real sense any bishop of Glo’ster is my bishop. I have worshipped in the magnificent thousand year old cathedral (where part of Harry Potter was filmed) and I have even been allowed to play the organ, on the same keyboard where Charles Wesley once played. However I have not personally met this particular occupant of the bishopric (honest!), or should that be “holder of the post”?
It has come to light that he liked going into church with one student at a time. At the altar he encouraged them to undress so as to feel the cold and to imagine Jesus’ suffering. The next step was thrashing with sticks. That should do it!
As this is a decent family blog, I don’t feel I should go into any more detail. It’s all on the internet anyway. I should however like to comment on what happened when it all came to light.
Unlike the church paedophilia cases I have covered on this blog before, this guy had massive support from England’s elite. Unlike, say, an Adventist pastor in Tobago who alienated his congregation with his wandering hands and became a pariah, this Anglican bishop was backed by this country’s great and good. The ruling class closed ranks. They stood by one of their own as they always do. In these circles, cover ups are normal. It’s one law for the rich and another for the poor in the UK and don’t let anyone tell you different. (British people don’t need telling this; I only mention et because so many Zingcreed readers are not British.)
A second point which is very important is that this guy must have seemed quite intimidating to his victims. You’re training to become a priest and your bishop of all people starts abusing his power. You look up to the man, you want to advance up the priesthood’s promotion chain and maybe become a bish yourself one day. The last thing you want to do is to antagonize the old bugger – your career could depend on humouring him and giving him what he wants. This is just as true in he worlds of education, the army, law, business and so on. Just because it’s a church doesn’t mean that sociological rules concerning hierarchy and its abuses don’t occur.
Women. Nowadays many Gloucester ministers are female (thank goodness) including in my old parish. I wonder what pressures they are subjected to during training, both vertically, from above, and laterally from their male colleagues?
I recall that a former female cabinet minister in this country who had links with a barmy group of Catholics, the Opus Dei, used to remind herself of Christ’s agonies on the cross by wearing a specially made ring of razor blades round her thigh that constantly cut her flesh and made her bleed. Perhaps Mel Gibson wears one too. I wonder if they both get naked and flagellate in front of the altar on cold winter mornings. I’m sure the world would be a better place for it (joke).
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