Comments: opinion

To compare the occupy protestors with the Chartists (Giles Fraser) is grossly unfair on the latter. As I recall from history lessons at school, the Chartists came up with a clear programme of reforms, all but one of which (annual general elections) were eventually adopted. The protestors at St Paul's engineered a platform for themselves and then failed to use it. More like Gordon Brown elbowing his way to leadership of the labour movement and then refusing to communicate with the people. The archbishop's response to the question put to him was, sadly. very apt.

Posted by GR at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 2:05pm BST

GR, you are retro fitting Chartism with the idea that their six points were the main thing. Most modern historians wouldn't agree. They were not the be all and end off of Chartism. That is a schoolboy view. Chartism was a very diverse movement. Which is why they were so condemned at the time for being confused and directionless.

Posted by Giles Fraser at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 5:12pm BST

So Fulcrum's idea of "engaging with the ongoing discussion" ranges from [Disclaimer: No Spin!] "Hates Gays" to "Self-Hates Gays"?! Spare me.

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 8:14pm BST

Great piece by Andrew Brown. Its conclusion is irrefutable. Truth will out. Reality will prevail. Yet another reason, of course, why Jones of Liverpool, way ahead of the Evangelical pack in this respect, as he was even more ahead of the episcopal pack in respect of the so-called Anglican Covenant, is head and shoulders above all other contenders for Canterbury's crown.

Posted by John at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 8:40pm BST

"We must promote and uphold celibacy as a positive, authentic choice for single people instead of contributing to the damaging widespread assumption that everyone needs a partner if they are to be truly fulfilled, as I have argued here, in the article already cited." - Sean Doherty -

Sean Doherty - a happily married heterosexual man - is happy to affirm the need of celibacy for single people - especially, one suspects from his arguments here, LGBT people. What he fails to recognise that he allows for heterosexual people to have a free choice - between celibacy and a monogamous hetero sexual relationship. He allows no such choice for a sexual relationship for Gays.

On the basis of justice alone, his argument is not terribly convincing.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 9:15pm BST

Giles: I am afraid you are the one who is somewhat out. I am currently writing a book about 1846 and so have had to revisit Chartism 35 years after last studying it. The six points were central and coherent even if the movement was diverse and had a different character in different towns. It was mainly a movement of the working artisan class, not the dispossessed. The Chartists generally accepted current political norms and the movement dwindled as the Peel administration's economic reforms and prosperity returned after 1848. Not quite sure what this is doing on a religious blog, but there you go - you started it! Your comparison doesn't work.

Posted by Stephen Bates at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 10:32pm BST

As a participant in the Occupy encampment on the steps of St Pauls, I found myself in the initial kettling tactic as it began to unfold on the first afternoon. I watched as the police line formed at the top of the steps. And I saw the police withdraw after Giles's intervention. It is to his huge credit, otherwise that demonstration would not have lasted a day.

In the following months I peacefully helped out in the first aid tent. I was moved by the spirit and the idealism among people who gathered, capturing a national spirit of the day, in challenging the corporate greed and casino banking that epitomised unregulated capitalism running amok.

The Occupy action at St Paul's achieved considerable success - the general public at least agreed with many of its charges against greed and privilege. The media largely was not condemnatory. And the peaceable way the protest ended left the demonstrators with the moral high ground. (contd)

Posted by Susannah at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 3:50pm BST

(contd from above)

In contrast, the City of London authorities portrayed the protestors (who had *not* racked up billions of pounds of bad debt or diminished the life of the nation) as some kind of social infection, complaining that homeless people were being drawn to the campsite for shelter etc. As if giving shelter to homeless people was a bad thing. It happened before in Bethlehem, after all.

And it seemed to me that the Church's responses were pretty craven: first claiming that the peaceful protest in some way 'endangered' people from walking up the steps and going through the doors to say prayers, which was trumped up nonsense. Then, like Johnnie-come-latelies, reacting to widespread critique of their rather elitist stand-offishness, by offering half-hearted permission for the protest to actually be there and speak up for the poor.

If the Christians involved in the Cathedral had exercised any imagination they would have invited half a dozen tents to be symbolically pitched *inside* the cathedral, in an act of solidarity and challenge, instead of projecting the cathedral as a kind of aesthetic English Heritage site, sponsored by banks and companies, and more identified with the status quo and the 'haves' than the millions of least well-off whose lives are being diminished by austerity, paying the price of reckless capitalism.


Posted by Susannah at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 3:52pm BST

(contd again from above)

I believe Occupy succeeded as much as it reasonably could, and went beyond expectations. I think St Pauls (including the Bishop of London) came out of it unconvincingly. The protest was primarily a 'problem' to be dealt with, and there seemed insufficient recognition that the 'problem' was not the protestors.

But their symbolic, culturally challenging action, has left an imprint in the national consciousness. It was an expression of protest and resistance, and we cannot yet be sure, historically, where that resistance will end - but I'm pretty sure it's an indictment of our church life that the protection of architectural fabric, and the niceties of refined religiosity, and the religious status quo, seemed to be a priority - along with appearance and face-saving - and that a moment and opportunity was lost, a real interaction when the church could have identified with the national mood, rather than its corporate backers, and made itself more open, more natural, more humanly engaged with the real issues at the heart of the Occupy demonstration.

The Church of England is unconscionably middle class in many of its cathedral settings and seeped in privileges and a whole clerical world that comes across, as it did last year, as rooted in self-preservation of a comfortable way of life, with notable and honorable exceptions such as Giles.


Posted by Susannah at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 3:53pm BST


If St Pauls made an initial misjudgment, and Giles was right after all, to stop the steps being cleared... why wasn't Giles reinstated and invited to lead the arrangements with the protestors, after his very honorable resignation?

In my opinion, that would have shown sincerity on the part of the Cathedral, that they had badly got things wrong.

But really, they were always going to clear the steps. And today, it is business as usual. And refined religiosity still seems to me to be the language of a Heritage site-style operation, and niceties, and souvenirs.

In those winter months it was cold outside. For millions of people, their lives are still cold outside, as the chill winds of austerity blow, youth unemployment at terrible rates, cuts in services, social inequalities creating alienation...

Resistance - which was what Occupy epitomised - may yet run a historical course, in this country, in Greece, in the unjust poverty suffered by billions... in the face of privilege, power and an elite for whom the financial system primarily operates.

There is no sign that the gap between the richest and poorest is narrowing at all.

Those who have are determined to maintain the status quo. The question is, to what extent is the Church 'bought in' to that status quo? To what extent is the Church institutionally privileged in its thinking (and institutionalised)?

Far from the Temple fineries, a Galilean sought the sick, the poor, the dirty, the outcast, and the people who seemed to bear stigma... and in the end, bore stigma Himself, on a cross, on a city dump, outside the City Walls.

Occupy spoke more for the dispossessed than the privileged classes, and the Cathedral gave it a cold shoulder, as if the campsite smells of humanity were somehow a nuisance to the incense and gilded fabric inside.

It was not the Church's finest hour.

Posted by Susannah at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 3:57pm BST

Quite frankly I couldn't be bothered to do more than skim Sean Doherty's article. I am getting fed up with people like him telling me what to do about my sexual orientation and whether or not I should express it in sexual activity. For a start it's none of his business. Secondly I don't agree with his stance on what the Bible says as being prescriptive in this matter. Thirdly he has nothing new to say. Fourthly he is, anyway, preaching to those who agree with him. His arguments are tired, irrelevant, outdated and plain wrong. If some tortured soul wishes to comfort themselves with them that's ok with me (cf Vaughan Roberts) but acknowledging who you are and being the best possible person you can be with all the attributes God has blest us with is, in my view, rather more important than conforming to some limited and limiting view of what someone thinks is 'right'.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 4:32pm BST

I had not realised before reading Susannah's piece that challenging the Church was an objective of the protest. I had understood that the west end of St Paul's was occupied almost by chance - because the Stock Exchange and other potential sites had been closed off. The Church was made to look unprepared for the challenge, divided and indecisive. That is not much of an achievement as it is what most of the media is only too ready to portray, whatever the truth. But the opportunity to make the C of E look foolish did give the protestors a level of coverage which I doubt if they would have otherwise got (unless they had camped out at Buckingham Palace).

Reverting to the comparison with the Chartists, why is there no reference to parliamentary action? We have now had universal adult suffrage for nearly a century.

(As for St Paul's, perhaps the best way to save money would be to hand it back to the state to look after and use Westminster Abbey (more historic) and Southwark Cathedral (better acoustics and as easy to get to) instead. Perhaps English Heritage could then lease worship rights at St Paul's to Rome, thus providing the Ordinariate with a suitable principal church).

Posted by GR at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 9:37pm BST

Great postings from Susannah and Richard. On the latter topic, I don't think Vaughan Roberts' 'self-outing' lacks heroism (I'm absolutely sure some Evangelicals will turn away from him), though of course, like Richard, I do also think he's wrong on the consequences.

Posted by John at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 9:52pm BST

GR - challenging the Church was NOT an objective of the protest, but in the initial attempt to occupy Paternoster Square, the way was blocked, and then the police formed cordons around the protestors, de facto hemming them in, around the steps of the Cathedral.

I was there. We were kettled. You couldn't get out. So the police themselves determined the location of the protestors in those early hours.

The protestors themselves had little 'take' on the Church, referring to Giles as 'the bishop' and the Church was not the focus of the protest - the banks quite rightly were.

Nevetheless, it is a great shame that St Pauls went through a charade of 'having to close down' which was a risible ploy, when - instead of being identified with their corporate sponsors - they could have come across really well by identifying with the mood of the country, endorsing the presence of the protestors, coming out of the building with drinks or welcoming the ideals of the protestors and engaging with them far more.

The protestors never set out to 'challenge' the Church. Very few even saw the Church as having much relevance in the argument. The Church re-inforced that irrelevance by cold-shouldering them, and basically hoping they would go away as soon as possible.

In fact, in the months that followed, the steps of St Pauls became a hub of discourse, speakers, musicians, artists, and kicked off plenty of national debate on the delinquent world of finance that has harmed us all.

The Church could have been part of that intelligent discourse - and people like Giles were prepared to be - but for the most part the Church "challenged" itself by its hapless mishandling of events, and failure to truly engage with people who were for the most part thoughtful, principled, idealistic and peaceful.

There was NO mission to make a fool of the Church. The Church made a fool of itself.

Posted by Susannah at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 11:58pm BST
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