Bill's Briefing

 

Recent leaks from Downing Street to the Murdoch Press have seemed to many observers to be part of a concerted campaign to undermine the Government.

This month's Bill's Briefing comprises a similar leak.

New Directions, in traditional journalistic fashion, is unable to reveal the source of its information.

We can, however, reveal that the leak is exclusive to this paper, and has not been previously offered to
The Church of England Newspaper or
The Church Times.

For further leaks - if leaks there be

WATCH THIS SPACE!

* * *

MEMORANDUM

From: Spin Supremo

To: ABC

Subject: Archbishops and Paedophiles.

A few reflections on recent calls for the resignation of the Archbishop of Westminster.

My first reaction, I have to say was one of relief. If we are to win our arguments about the numbers of bishops in the New Labour Lords (and you know how devoted the boys are to their seats!) we have got to keep up the impression that the CofE is the People's Church, the Church of the Nation. As you know, all our current work on statistics is aimed at covering up the simple fact that there are now more churchgoing Roman Catholics in England than Anglicans.

So I reasoned that (since the Roman ghetto mentality cannot be relied upon to work in our favour indefinitely) some sort of scandal which made them seem cliquish and out of touch could do us no harm.

But I have to warn you that there are serious problems ahead for us too.

I don't suppose that we will ever get to the Canadian position, where court cases and out of court settlements have virtually brought the Anglican Church to its knees. (Did you read the Pastoral Letter from poor old Michael Peers? Pray God we never have to sink so low!) But the whole area is clearly a minefield and current policies are not necessarily, in my view, either the easiest or the wisest.

We need to ask ourselves how long we can go on supporting the repeal of Clause 28 and still be taken seriously about our national strategy of Child Protection.

We all know that child protection policies in local churches are only as good as those who operate them - which means hardly any use at all in most places. But that is not the point. The point is that they are a first line of protection against accusations of negligence, and the possible bankruptcy which could ensue.

With so many dioceses so close to the buffers financially we cannot afford anything even vaguely Canadian in this area.

What I want you to understand is that most of this is bluff. We know that if a Vicar decides to fondle the choirboys or ravish the brownies there is not much anyone can do about it. But we need to look as though we are doing something. And what we are seen to be doing has got to be made reasonably credible. Claims in the Lords that opposition to the repeal of Clause 28 is itself an issue of Child Protection have something to commend them (a sort of tabloid cogency, I would say).

Can we, in such circumstances, afford to have Bishops putting down wrecking amendments, absenting themselves from the House, or voting in favour? It simply encourages the Murdoch press to bracket them all with Peter Tatchell

(I can't tell you how frustrating it is in my job to have to deal with a bunch of self opinionated mavericks like your bishops. Even my Lead Bishops solidly refuse to be on message. Some of them even turn off their pagers!)

What the People's Church needs (sorry to speak ill of the dead!) is less Runcieite liberal individualism and more corporate discipline. You can only afford liberal individualism when you are not going bankrupt!

The Chesters line, of course, is only half the problem. There is Worcester as well.

Frankly, Kidderminster is bad press for the whole show. You need to get your chaps solidly behind the Lambeth Resolution. Anything less, and (two more novels about gay Archdeacons and rent boys later) we will be a sitting target for serious litigation.

Remember, there is no statute of limitation on these things - and there must be more bishops than Durham who have enough in their past to be productively misconstrued. Ours is a world, I do not need to remind you, where grey areas can become pink triangles without really trying.

Then there is 'Barry Bristols' and his foray into the twilight zone of clerical transexuality. I cannot imagine how we got ourselves into the position of allowing every Tom, Dick and Barry make up their own mind about things like this. But I can be sure that it does us no good with Middle England. As the Government proceeds with its loosening up of legislation relating to transexuals I expect a general backlash. I can't see either Telegraph or Sun readers taking to the idea of transsexual Vicars with gusto.

I thought that the Archbishop's Council was going to get a grip on things and give coherent policy direction. All I can see, quite honestly, is drift as before. The whole 'management' project is in tatters virtually before it has got started, if you ask me. We see issues fairly clearly and then, either we can do nothing about them, or we are deflected on to another course by an unforeseen crisis hitting us tangentially.

Well - I have warned you!

Cormac will ride this one out comfortably. But we are much more vulnerable. That is why we have to have the right image - in this case a hard image.

Of course, we can do nothing about the actual events - the abuse or alleged abuse, which in any case can have taken place twenty years ago. But we can create a climate of confidence in which we do not seem such an easy target for litigation and press harassment.

This is not, I never tire of saying, a matter of mere morality. Kudos and hard cash are at stake.

That ought to concentrate minds somewhat.

William Badger (who is thought to be the author of this leaked Memorandum) is Public Enlightenment Officer of the Archbishops' Council. He is a Canon of Chattanooga.

 

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