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Bishops, do your duty and stop talking a load of barracks


THE first duty of the English bishops is to support our country by their prayers and pastoral guidance.  

Their patriotism is required for at least two reasons: First, because they are members of the Establishment, shown by the fact that many of them sit in the House of Lords; and secondly because they have sworn the Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty. Unfortunately, these matters do not mean very much to most of them.  

For example, most reject our rational possession of nuclear weapons in a world where our enemies are armed to the teeth with them.

Again, the bishops have vowed to uphold all that is lawful and honest. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, has signally failed to do this by his having publicly taken the knee in support of the thugs, looters and arsonists of the Black Lives Matter movement

His immediate predecessor Rowan Williams, the former bearded bard of Lambeth, put on an anti-Covid mask and joined a procession through the streets of London organised by Extinction Rebellion – those unruly hordes who deface public buildings and disrupt the traffic under the excuse that they are saving the planet.    

Since the revolution of 1688 – which some call glorious – the monarch reigns courtesy of Parliament. Since our form of government claims to be democratic, the voice of the people is expressed by constitutional democratic processes.  

That voice was expressed clearly in the result of the referendum on our membership of the EU. Most of the bishops supported Remain. Of course, private individuals in a democracy have the right to dissent. But the bishops are not private individuals. As members of the Establishment, they are obliged to act in accordance with its protocols. If they choose not to, then let them give up their seats in the House of Lords.  

This they will not do – for they love their fine vestments and top table seats at our national feasts. As for their Oath of Allegiance to the Queen, they hardly take this seriously.  

They adopt the line of the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, who – like Walter Bagehot – regards the Queen as belonging not to the efficient part of the constitution, but only to that part referred to as dignified, which means that it is of no earthly use. For them, the Crown is a bauble and Trooping the Colour no more than a leg-show of guardsmen. 

The second duty of the bishops is to offer pastoral care and moral guidance. But ethical guidance requires insight, a quality the bishops conspicuously lack. They prefer to parrot the whims of Whigs and Dissenters, who in our day are represented by the sectarian Left. 

As I write, the bishops have given yet another example of their reluctance to do their duty. Thirteen of them – I look for no particular significance in that number – have added their names to an open letter demanding that the Government stop housing asylum seekers in military barracks. It appears that asylum seekers have been placed in Ministry of Defence sites, most notably Napier Barracks in Folkestone, since last summer. 

At this point it is necessary to clarify our terminology. The interlopers under consideration are not, as the bishops describe them, asylum seekers. They are illegal immigrants who have entered our shores uninvited and entirely without credentials for so doing.  

The phrase asylum seekers is a euphemism, like sex workers for whores and pimps; it is like glossing the role of mass abortionists as campaigners for women’s health. 

In their open letter, the bishops urge an ‘immediate end’ to the practice of using barracks to house asylum seekers: ‘After such a traumatic journey, having had to often spend time behind wire fences in refugee camps, it is simply insensitive to house people in such environments.’ 

Well, Right Reverend Gentlemen and Ladies, no one in authority in our country required, or even invited, these aliens to come and live among us. 

So what do the bishops propose should be done instead? Their answer is characterised by prolixity and humbug. 

‘Our shared faith as signatories to this letter, leads us to view all human beings as equal and deserving of respect, dignity and welcome. When asylum seekers are housed within communities, it allows for better integration and access to support services. Asylum seekers are often no longer seen as “other” but as neighbours and friends.’ 

The bishops demand that the Government ‘sets out a timeline to move all asylum seekers currently in barracks into accommodation in the community’. From which diaspora the illegal immigrants will simply disappear into the community.  

By their demand, the bishops are blatantly disrespecting the rule of law which they, by their position as members of the Establishment,  are committed to uphold. 

What then should be done with the bishops? The time is past when there were rooms in the Tower of London wherein they might be accommodated; and burning them on Smithfield might seem – to those of delicate temperament – rather excessive.  

Instead, we should find something useful for them to do. It is a great pity that there are no new battleships for them to bless.   

But they wouldn’t do that either, would they? 

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Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen is a Church of England clergyman, writer and broadcaster

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