Updated again Sunday noon
The Independent on Sunday has a front page splash which leads to two articles:
Brian Brady, Jane Merrick Exclusive: Cover-up at St Paul’s
Clerics suppress report on bankers’ greed to save church embarrassment
Leading article: St Paul’s is a national problem
…Ever since the collapse of many of the world’s leading banks in 2008, the world has been suffused with unease about the ethical basis of a part of capitalism that seemed to reward failure as much as, if not more than, success. When those banks were put back upright with public credit, and seemed to continue to pay their executives excessively, that unease grew. Over the past three years, the feeling has strengthened around the world that, for the financial and corporate elite, the credit crunch, the government bailouts and the recession were a minor blip, and now it is business as usual, with rewards at the very top more extravagant than ever.
The response of political and spiritual leaders has been uncertain. Barack Obama said he was going to cap the bonuses of bankers, and then didn’t. David Cameron was going to limit the earnings of public-sector bosses to 20 times the lowest-paid in their organisation, and then didn’t. Last week, the Prime Minister sounded concerned about the rise in pay of FTSE-100 executives, but his only suggestion for restraining it was that more women should be appointed to corporate boards – which sounded as if he were suggesting that women should continue to be lower paid than men.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the Church of England have responded with all the courage and clarity for which they are renowned. As we report today, the St Paul’s Institute, associated with the cathedral, decided not to publish a report on the City that called for banks to show more responsibility, for fear that it might seem to side with the tent people. Rowan Williams, the leader of the Anglican communion, has been audible in his silence, although, as we also report today, he is believed to be sympathetic to the protesters. Before long, he too will have to admit that this is more than a local issue…
In the Observer
Mark Townsend Occupy London could be protected by Christian ring of prayer
Coalition of Christian groups plan to prevent forcible attempts to remove tents outside St Paul’s Cathedral
Peter Stanford How the church lost a fine chance to redeem itself
By taking the wrong side at St Paul’s, Anglican leaders abandoned the moral high ground.
…The difficulty is that in its affluence at least, the real world of some of those at the top of the ecclesiastical hierarchy has more in common with those whom the anti-capitalist protesters correctly argue are “rewarded” grossly out of proportion to their efforts. Nay, are rewarded even when criminally at fault and abject failures. While Matthew insisted that you cannot serve both God and Mammon, some still try to give it a good go.
So what are we to make of the events of the past fortnight? Undoubtedly, there has been an awakening. As Andrew Rawnsley reports, while many in the media have been hostile to the protesters, there is perhaps now a change of mood abroad. Ironically, not for a long time has the Bible been so forensically mined, nor the disciples so closely examined.
It reminds us that in the New Testament, at least, the quest for a fairer society, requiring deeds as well as words, was a recurring motif. To be fair, in the Church of England many a fine priest works, unheralded, in impoverished communities, of which, as the protesters may point out, there are sadly still too many.
However, what has been missing from the reaction of many of the senior figures at St Paul’s is an inclination to listen to what the protesters have to say, however inchoate.
How much more productive might it have been to invite several to pitch their tents inside the cathedral, to request that they speak from the pulpit and to stand side by side with the protesters in acknowledging that social capital and the bonds we have with each other are infinitely more valuable than those are that are traded daily.
In 1985, at another seismic moment, the Church of England published a ground-breaking report, “Faith in the City”, that then as now encapsulated a general unease.
It wrote: “Poverty is not only about shortage of money. It is about rights and relationships; about how people are treated and how they regard themselves; about powerlessness, exclusion and loss of dignity.”
Those words still have a resonance. That’s why the handling by St Paul’s of this situation has been far more than a public-relations disaster for the church. It has also given us a glimpse of a frost in a corner of its soul.
Andrew Rawnsley The protesters seem more adult than politicians and plutocrats
…A big mistake is to think that because the protesters tend to be youthful it follows that they should be treated like children. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, has made that error by suggesting to the campers that they ought to leave in return for a debate under the dome of St Paul’s – gosh, thanks my Lord Bishop. He further asks them to go on the grounds that: “I am involved in ongoing discussion with City leaders about improving shareholder influence on excessive remuneration.”
I am sure that the bishop is well-meaning, but that is not going to cut it. There has been “ongoing discussion” for years. The result, according to the latest report by Incomes Data Services: Britain’s top executives gave themselves a 49% increase in their salaries, benefits and bonuses in the past year. It does not even occur to the business and financial elite that it might be good old cynical public relations to moderate their greed while so many of their fellow citizens are suffering the consequences of corporate follies…
Jonathan Wynne-Jones The struggle for St Paul’s
The anti-capitalist protest outside the gates of St Paul’s has sparked a moral battle inside the cathedral.
More from the Observer
Heather Stewart They may be saying it in a kooky way, but the St Paul’s protesters are right
What the Occupy London crew has correctly identified is that the relationship between finance and the rest of the economy is seriously awry.
Victoria Coren I pooh-pooh the pooping pooch
Among the Christmas toys that she proposes is this:
Mini St Paul’s Cathedral
Fully domed and mechanised dolls’ house: at the touch of a button, your children can lock the doors and hose unwanted people off the steps, flooding the carpet. It comes with a Canon Giles Fraser doll that endlessly repeats: “A church should never force people away”; if his head is snapped off, wealthy bishops cackle in the rafters. (Warning: they may not cackle if water comes into contact with the batteries.)