As predictable as the bells pealing out the arrival of Christmas, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has once again managed to mark the festive season by a display of painful moral confusion.
First, he used his sermon at Canterbury Cathedral to rebuke the most prosperous for having yet to shoulder their load in the economic downturn.
And then in an article for yesterday’s Mail on Sunday he wrote that the poor should be absolved of any responsibility for their own circumstances.
True, he acknowledged that there were doubtless ‘some who make the most out of the benefits culture’ — although even here he couldn’t resist a swipe at ‘some who have made the most out of other kinds of perks available to bankers or MPs’.
But he warned: ‘The Victorian distinction between the deserving poor and the rest is very seductive.’
And he added: ‘Even if there are those who are where they are because of their own bad or foolish choices in the past, that doesn’t mean they are any less in need in the present. And it can’t be said often enough that most people in poverty — and we should be thinking of children in particular — haven’t chosen it.’
This was an extraordinary thing to say. It means that even if poor people are dishonest or irresponsible, the rest of society must regard them as just as deserving of society’s largesse as the honest poor.
But the notion that those who have behaved immorally or irresponsibly should be treated in exactly the same way as those whose behaviour has been irreproachable is itself profoundly amoral.
Of course, no one chooses to be poor. But some people do choose lifestyles that cause them to become poor — such as choosing not to work, or deciding to bring up children on their own.
And what was so disturbing about Dr Williams’s observation was that he seemed to be negating the importance of such choices.
Indeed, by demonising the better-off while investing the poor with a halo, he came close to suggesting that wealth — however honestly or arduously earned — is intrinsically evil, while poverty is a holy state...
Monday, December 27, 2010
The Archbishop of Canterbury a Marxist?
Well, that's one possible conclusion to draw from his seasonal address, as per this by Melanie Phillips: