‘We are all to blame for financial crisis’ – archbishop
Bankers, auditors, money-market speculators and regulators all came in for criticism at the Church of England’s General Synod during a discussion on the implications of the financial crisis and the recession.
The City had lined its pockets, regulators had not done their job properly and auditors had signed off financial deals that should not have seen the light of day, the synod heard at its meeting in London.
The result is a deep recession, the first since the early 1990s, with Britain suffering a shrinking economy, rapidly rising unemployment and falling output.
But the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, suggested everybody was to blame.
“We have all worshipped at the temple of money,” he said. “We have been guilty of idolatry: the worship of God falsely conceived – which is deadlier than either heresy or sin, for it is the prolific source of each. It is this idolatrous love of money, pursuing profit without regard for ethic, risk or consequence, which has led us from orientation to dis-orientation.”
He said the solution lay not only in economics and politics, but also a “deeper vision”.
“It is not about what governments can do for us but what we can all do,” he said.
Various suggestions were put forward by synod members, including working with counsellors, supporting credit unions, donating 10 percent of salary and opting for a gentler life.
They sympathised with the near 2 million unemployed and recognised that some of their own communities were still suffering from the economic downturn of the 1980s, with generations of families still unable to find work.
But the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, while empathising with the 150,000 people in his diocese who are likely to lose their jobs, said some may feel relief from being made redundant.
“It is difficult to know whether to sympathise more with those who have lost their jobs or those who are left carrying even greater loads with higher targets and fewer colleagues,” he said. “Sometimes indeed people seem to be relieved to get off the treadmill and to be given an opportunity to reconsider what they really want out of life.
“One of the great implications of this turbulence for us is to re-boot our sense of what a truly flourishing human life consists of. The Crack-berry culture is dangerously addictive and coming off is notoriously difficult.”
The comments were less strident than those made since the onslaught of the financial crisis.
Sentamu in September had accused short-sellers, those who speculate on falling share prices, of being “bank robbers and asset strippers“. While the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in December said the credit crunch was a reality check, a reminder that “fairy gold is just that“.
He also criticised the government’s fiscal stimulus package, likening it to “an addict returning to a drug”.
But there were still criticism from synod members.
“It is very ironic that we have got to the point now where we have massively bailed out big banks, and bailed out car manufacturers in the States doing to them what we have not done for many nations in the Third World,” the Bishop of Durham, Thomas Wright, said.
“We are in severe danger of the very rich doing to the very rich what they have failed to do for the very poor, and that is shameful.”
But not everybody was angry with the financiers.
Susan Cooper, from the London diocese, said she was “a little disconcerted” by some of the comments.
“These are people too alongside the rest of us and they do not need vilifying at this stage. Some of them are members of our congregations,” she said.