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United Kingdom - Union accuses bishops of failing to help bullied vicars


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United Kingdom - Union accuses bishops of failing to help bullied vicars

Description: What was in the news In the week leading up to the papal visit to USA

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United Kingdom
 
The Pope and his addressing the issue of clergy and sexual abuse by priests.
 
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Union accuses bishops of failing to help bullied vicars

 

Bishops are failing to support Church of England priests who areincreasingly being bullied by powerful parishioners, according to atrade union.

Clergy are experiencing psychological, emotional, verbal and evenphysical abuse, according to Unite, Britain's largest union, butbishops are "crossing the road to the other side" rather than offeringhelp.

The Church of England acknowledged bullying did happen but said it was "certainly not as widespread as suggested" by the union.

RachelMaskell, of Unite, said the "pressures of modern society" were leadingto an increase in cases of bullying of ministers by their own flock.

"Agroup of one or two powerful people in any congregation may not likethe style of worship, the times of meetings and even when the mainactivities are taking place in the church," Ms Maskell said. "But thesecampaigns seem to get out of control and rapidly turn into a littlecampaign against the minister.

"It could be in the forms of letters to start with and then complaints being made, often to the bishops themselves."

Inone case, a minister was off sick due to bullying, but had met thebishop just once in seven months. "Frankly, we believe that the bishopsshouldn't be crossing the road to the other side, as happens in thegreat parable of the Good Samaritan, but should actually be supportingtheir ministers," said Ms Maskell.

She accused bishops of "hidingbehind the legal technicalities of the situation" and said that theyhad a "moral duty to act when they see one of their ministers indistress".

Next month an Archbishops' Council committee is dueto produce a document called Dignity at Work, which will say harassmentand bullying are "rare" but intolerable and give advice to dioceses onhow to deal with such situations.

But John Packer, the Bishop ofRipon and Leeds, who chairs the committee, denied that bishops were notdoing enough to help ministers. "I believe bishops do respond when theysee ministers in distress," he said, adding that in some casesallegations of bullying came from both sides.

He added: "I would want to move towards a situation in which mediation is used much more often than now."

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A collection of the preceding week in the news in USA
USA Papal visit April, 2008

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