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Violence against clergy

The Parish Vicar has issued a warning about violence against the clergy follow an attack on the Bishop of St Albans. The Reverend Terry Ranson of St Mary says the situation has changed considerably in the past 30 years and no one is free from the threat of violence. Now, a report on clergy security has recommended tough new safety measures including increased security and alarms.

The Reverend Ranson highlights the problem in the August edition of the St Mary’s Parish magazine. He reports that the Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Christopher Herbert, is currently nursing two cracked ribs following a break-in at his home.

Attack on Bishop

The Bishop was apparently working in his study at Abbey Gate House in St Albans on a weekday afternoon when two youths forced their way in. He challenged and restrained the pair, but was injured during the struggle. The police arrived and arrested the youths, but no charges were brought.

Earlier this summer, the Reverend John Hayes, of the rural diocese of St Botolph’s by Bargate near Lincoln, was attacked by two masked men armed with a wooden stave and a metal crowbar. They later returned to fire several shots through the letter box.

Women priests stalked

According to Reverend Ranson, recent weeks have also brought news of women priests being stalked and terrorised. He writes that one clergywoman was so frightened that she always kept a mobile telephone by her at the alter.

A survey of 21 clergy in an east London deanery last year showed that 70% had been assaulted or threatened in the cause of their ministry and 80% had had their homes broken into.

The report into violence against the clergy, drawn up by the Advisory Board of Ministry, suggests that alcohol and drug abusers, the mentally ill, those living rough, people involved in domestic violence and aggressive requests for money, all pose significant threats.

Security measures

The paper recommends security measures for vicarages such as thick front doors, intruder alarms, exterior lighting and gravel paths – which give warning of people approaching. In addition it offers guidance to clergy responding to casual callers at the door. The report is currently being discussed by the Bishops’ Council, Rural Deans and the Diocesan Property Committee.

Have your say

Has society become too violent? Should clergy have to protect themselves against groups formerly seen as the most needy? What do you think. You can ‘Have Your Say’ on this and any issue.

 July 27, 1998

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