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Monday, 14 May 2007

DTI interference in the Church

The UK Government's Department for Trade and Industry apparently set up a "Clergy Working Group" in 2004 to look at the working conditions of the clergy. In March this year, they came up with a Model Statement of Good Practice (Word document)

This says that we should have job descriptions, there should be a "clear procedure" for resolving disputes, there should be personal support and "ongoing development" and individuals should be kept informed of and consulted about changes affecting them.

My answer to that would be to supply the Department for Trade and Industry with a copy of the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law. A note could add that further information could be found at www.vatican.va

I don't deny that clergy are sometimes treated unjustly and sometimes have poor working conditions. These things should be addressed within the Church, not by a secular Government. To insist that clergy are not "employees" is not merely a technical legal distinction: as priests, we are men configured to Christ the High Priest with the sacramental character of the priesthood. We have voluntarily undertaken to follow Christ and to live in his service. The living of that priesthood cannot be legislated in terms of employment law.

As it stands, much of the "Model Statement of Good Practice" is harmless enough although stated in the ghastly management speak that seems to be compulsory in such documents. However the DTI has no business in principle interfering in the way that clergy are "managed." Once we have allowed them in with a relatively harmless statement, we will have opened the way for further interference. The trend of secularisation in Britain should make us very wary indeed of allowing any encroachment by the Government on the rights of the Church.

St Thomas Becket. Pray for us.
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