Bishop of Bath and Wells says rioting ‘can give spiritual release’
Rioting can provide participants with a form of “spiritual escape” from the reality of constrained and hopeless lives, according to the Bishop of Bath and Wells.
The Rt Rev Peter Price said he condemned the violence and looting over four days on the streets of England last August but the bishop said he believed there was a “large population” of young people desperate to escape from the constrained lives to which they appeared to be “condemned”.
“I have no intention of being sentimental about the people, mainly young people, who took to the streets last August and destroyed property, ruined other people’s lives and walked off with looted trophies,” he told the General Synod of the Church of England.
“Riots embody appalling evil and criminality and those who get drawn in often display great wickedness.”
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But he added that the Roman Catholic priest, the late Father Austin Smith, had said after the Toxteth riots in 1980s that rioting can “literally be an ecstatic spiritual experience”.
“Something is released in the participants which takes them out of themselves as a kind of spiritual escape,” the Rt Rev Price continued.
The Rt Rev Price said the Church of England should sound a “clear warning note” about the social consequences of austerity measures which hit the most vulnerable hardest and leave the very rich “unscathed.”
His comments were made as he introduced a report on the response of clergy and parishes of the Church of England to the riots last summer.
The causes of the disturbances were “complex and disputed”, the report said, and no one explanation for what happened was likely to be adequate.
The Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, said consumerism and the belief that people must have the latest valuable item or gadget has played a part in motivating people to ‘‘opportunistic criminal acts”.