Clerics Suppress Report on Bankers' Greed to Save Church Embarrassment

Published on
by
the Independent/UK

Clerics Suppress Report on Bankers' Greed to Save Church Embarrassment

Cover-up at St Paul's

by
Brian Brady and Jane Merrick

Demonstrators in the Occupy London protests outside St Paul's Cathedral

A highly critical report into the moral standards of bankers has been suppressed by St Paul's Cathedral amid fears that it would inflame tensions over the Occupy London tent protest.

The report, based on a survey of 500 City workers who were asked whether they thought they were worth their lucrative salaries and bonuses, was due to be published last Thursday, the day that the Canon Chancellor of St Paul's, Giles Fraser, resigned in protest at the church's tough stance.

But publication of the report, by the St Paul's Institute, has been delayed in an apparent acknowledgement that it would leave the impression that the cathedral was on the side of the protesters.

The Independent on Sunday understands that the decision has upset a number of clergy, who hoped that the report would prove that the church was not detached from a financial crisis that had its heart yards from the cathedral itself. The decision will fuel the impression that the wider established church is attempting to stifle debate about the tent protest, as leading members of the Church of England, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have failed to comment publicly about Occupy London.

A spokesman for St Paul's Cathedral said: "It has been decided to delay publishing this report until further notice as it wouldn't get the proper debate it deserves in light of the present circumstances."

The spokesman refused to comment what the report's findings were, but it is understood it raised profound concerns about the banking sector's willingness to accept responsibility for the financial crisis.

Such a critical analysis, coming from the institute which is described as part of St Paul's Cathedral's "wider mission", would be seen as highly inflammatory at a time when the church is going to the High Court to attempt to remove 200 tents from its land.

The report was the most ambitious in a series of assessments on the banking industry commissioned by the institute, which was set up to provide "an informed Christian response to the most urgent ethical and spiritual issues of our times".

Dr Fraser, who resigned on Thursday over St Paul's hardline position against the protesters, is the director of the institute. He was unavailable for comment. It is understood that the decision to delay publication was taken by the Cathedral Chapter, but it did not play a part in Dr Fraser's resignation.

A spokesman for the Bishop of London said the diocese was not aware of the report, and there is no suggestion that anyone beyond St Paul's has been involved in delaying its publication. Yet the apparent cover-up is the latest damaging revelation in the saga which has dented the Church of England's PR image. At a time when few senior church people are willing to come off the fence about the St Paul's protest, there is a danger with the withholding of this report that the church will be seen to be actively suppressing the sort of debate that many of its critics favor.

The St Paul's Institute survey was due to be published on 27 October to mark the 25th anniversary of the "Big Bang", when the financial markets were deregulated in 1986.

The Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, the Rector of Marlborough, who produced a series of reports on the financial industry during a sabbatical at the institute in the summer, said he had been asked to write a piece accompanying the launch of the survey results. He said last night: "I can see why they chose not to publish the report last week. It was going to get swallowed up by the other things that were happening. I watched it all with absolute dismay. The thing that really bothers me is when people say the church should be engaging in these issues, because that is precisely what the institute was set up to do. It has done an enormous amount of work."

Mr Studdert-Kennedy, who refused to comment directly on the survey findings, said he had been "astonished" by the attitudes some City workers displayed towards the financial crisis. He said: "I did speak to many people about morality. I was amazed by how many banking crises there had been and how sanguine people were about them. A number of people said 'this is just what happens – it's the nature of banking, it's the nature of capitalism'.

"It's one thing having a historical perspective, but I was astonished that people didn't try to learn a bit more. There is a recognition that there is something wrong, but a reluctance to admit that they are part of the problem. They can be good at criticism but not so good at self-reform. What we have got there is so much that is human nature, related to how they behave in groups." He conceded that the publicity surrounding the camp had been "awful".

He added: "There may have been a very good reason to close the doors, but the way it was going to be seen by the outside world was terrible. It looks as if the church has come down on one side of the argument and the protesters on the other."

Yesterday, pressure mounted on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and leading Church of England bishops to speak out about the continuing battle over the Occupy London camp. Dr Williams wrote what is understood to be a "supportive" letter to Dr Fraser when the latter resigned, but has refused to comment publicly.

Besides the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, only two others, the suffragan bishops of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, and of Sherborne, Graham Kings, have commented on the continuing crisis.

Over the past three days, The IoS asked 80 Anglican bishops to comment on the protest. Besides these three, 16 gave a direct no comment or insisted it was a matter for the London diocese; 18 were away or unavailable for comment, and the remainder failed to respond.

Dr Wilson has accused St Paul's of a "hysterical over-reaction" to the protest.

Dr Kings told the IoS that the "the PR could have been handled much better" over the saga, adding: "I do question stratospheric bonuses but I am not against capitalism itself."

Additional reporting Chris Stevenson and Oliver Wiseman

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