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The real sins Justin Welby should confess

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AT last Justin Welby has said something significant: ‘I may be this terrible person, this failure as an Archbishop.’  He went on to speak of his ‘self-hate, self-contempt, a really vicious dislike of oneself.’

Well, confession is good for the soul, but Welby should not hate himself. Christians are commanded by Jesus Christ, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.

He doesn’t actually tell us in what ways he is a failure as Archbishop of Canterbury, so let me help him. When we were teenagers in the Confirmation class, we were instructed by the priest to make a list of our failures so that we could recall them in the Confessional box. We were further told that this list should be nothing general or waffly but instead deal with specifics. So here, Mr Welby, is a list of some of yours . . . 

A couple of months ago you pointed your finger at Boris Johnson and said, ‘You have to acknowledge where things have gone wrong.’ 

That’s marvellous, coming from the archbishop who presides over a church in calamitous decline! Your congregations are relentlessly dwindling. We have three times as many bishops as in 1911 when five times as many layfolk attended church regularly. The historic parochial structure which has sustained our people for centuries with a church in every community is being broken up. There is a shortage of priests. Churches are being closed down and, according to the offices under your authority, Mr Welby, perhaps as many as 300 more will face the same fate over the next few years.

Your latest suicidal gesture is to seek to outdo the government in its determination to achieve net zero carbon emissions. The government’s target is by 2050 but the Church’s is by 2030. Net zero is the insane policy which will impoverish us all, and it will be particularly catastrophic for the poor about whom you are always telling us you are so concerned. In pursuit of this folly, your church has ruled that parish churches must replace traditional boilers with so-called ‘green alternatives’ which cost five times as much.

You speak of your failure,Mr Welby. But the word‘failure’does not even begin to describe one of the most egregious of your enormities. At the time of the Referendum you wrote a letter to the nation in which you declared: ‘There is nothing unchristian or un-Anglican about belonging to the EU.’

What about The Thirty-nine Articles appended to The Book of Common Prayer, that defining text of orthodoxy for members of the Church of England for 400 years? I would have thought you might have taken a break from the flying circus you operate and read at least as far as Article XXXVII:

‘The Queen’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England and other her Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all cases doth appertain and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.’

Besides, Archbishop, along with all beneficed clergy in the C of E, you have sworn the Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors. You also assented to the Privy Council Oath which forbids loyalty or allegiance to any foreign power.

Then there is your vociferous support for the vandalising anarchists in Extinction Rebellion and for Black Lives Matter – an organisation whose chief occupations seem to be looting and arson and whose leaders have said, ‘We are going to destroy this society.’    

Instead of marching from one fatuity to the next in an godless procession of gesture politics, gimmicks and attention-seeking, Mr Welby, you should rather confess and apologise for those things which are most definitely your fault, such as setting aside – from the coffers of a church which is abandoning the parishes and cannot pay for the full-time ministry – £200million to resource your absurd ‘safeguarding’policy by which anyone who claims to be a victim of sexual abuse automatically receives lavish compensation without having been asked whether he or she is telling the truth

And, lest I forget, you have banished to obscurity the Church’s foundational documents, the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.

There were, Mr Welby, many archbishops who served during times of war, plague and persecution. They did their duty and never flinched. Unlike you, they didn’t take for their guidance cod-psychology books written by their daughters and whinge about their mental health issues with the enthusiasm of Meghan Markle and the profitable proficiency of Bryony Gordon.

When we were youngsters, our parish priest told us not to try to pull the wool over the eyes of our Confessor by owning up to a few innocuous misdemeanours while keeping silence about our true faults. So, if you must lie down in the dust and rub your nose in it – for the benefit of the telly – Mr Welby, do so instead for your derelictions of duty and failures of character.

At the Confession, our priest told us: ‘Be brief, be honest and begone.’

Let me repeat his instruction to you, Mr Welby: especially that Begone!

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

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