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The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has hit out at senior clergy including his successor, Justin Welby, for criticising welfare cuts.
Lord Carey of Clifton, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, said that the 27 Church of England bishops who signed a letter to the Daily Mirror last week blaming welfare cuts for food poverty were “too simplistic”.
“They are right in describing a serious problem but only partially correct in their analysis,” he wrote in The Times today. “It is much too simplistic to blame these problems [of food poverty] on cutbacks to welfare and ‘failures in the benefit system.’”
Lord Carey said that the welfare system had to be reformed, likening those who disagreed to King Canute who according to legend tried to halt the incoming tide.
“There is something Canute-like about resistance to welfare cuts … the Churches should beware of the dangers of blithely defending a gargantuan welfare budget that every serious politician would cut as a matter of economic common sense,” he added.
Lord Carey said that the Church of England should set up a commission, as it did in the 1980s, to look into the role the Church can play in “an age of debt and austerity”.
The Anglican bishops’ letter defended comments by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, who warned this month that the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution had been “torn apart” by welfare cuts. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told The Tablet that he was “entirely with” Cardinal Nichols on the issue.
Prime Minister David Cameron responded to Nichols, saying that the Government’s welfare reform was part of a “moral mission” to give people “new hope”.