Norwich Bishop enters debate on MPs' expenses
2009: The Bishop of Norwich
has entered the debate into MPs’ expenses, during an election week, saying it has shocked an unshockable society and prompted a bout of self-righteousness, but we need to take care in our reaction.
“The Mother of Parliaments has got a lot of grief from her members in recent weeks,” said The Right Rev Graham James, preaching at Norwich Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday (May 31). “Our response to the crisis over MPs’ expenses has been intriguing.
“We live in a society which seems to pride itself on being unshockable. Yet we are shocked. We live in a society which seems to abhor the use of the word ‘sin'. Yet we know sin when we see it. We also live in a society horribly prone to self-righteousness. That's been on display too.”
In the week when Norwich North Labour MP, Ian Gibson, was barred from standing for the party at the next General Election as a result of the Westminster expenses scandal, and when the country goes to the polls in local and European elections, Bishop James said: “Whenever I'm tempted to ride a moral high horse I hear the words of Jesus in my ears, ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone.' We should not forget his warning. He never rebuked publicly the women taken in adultery. We seem to have grown to love the public rebuke of the fallen a little too much.
“I am convinced that rushing around to produce a new set of parliamentary rules and procedures isn't the whole answer by any means. This is a moral crisis not a legal or constitutional one.
“When Alexander Solzhenitsyn
was deported to the West in 1974 after his Soviet imprisonment he didn't experience freedom but a different enslavement. ‘You have forgotten God' he told us. We didn't want to hear. The loss of faith in God goes alongside a loss of faith in our public institutions and perhaps a loss of faith in ourselves. Our need isn't simply for new laws or different rules and procedures but a new heart and a new spirit. That's what today, the feast of Pentecost, is about. God gives us his Spirit to live within us.” To read the rest of Bishop Graham’s message click here