|Will Brighton's soup run to the homeless come under threat?|
'The Communities and Local Government department has backed moves by Westminster Council to ban rough sleeping and soup runs. The council is consulting on plans to ask CLG to approve a bye-law that would outlaw rough sleeping and soup runs in a wide area that includes Westminster Cathedral piazza and the department’s Eland House headquarters.
A CLG spokesperson said: ‘Local homeless charities and Westminster Council believe that food handouts actually encourage people to sleep rough in central London, with all the dangers that entails. There is no need for anyone to sleep rough in Westminster as there are a range of services that can help the vulnerable off the streets, and assist them make the first steps towards getting their lives back on track.’
Westminster announced it is consulting residents, businesses, local day centres and hostels and the voluntary sector on the plans earlier this week. It is targeting soup runs on Westminster Cathedral piazza, which it says encourage rough sleepers into the area. It argues the soup runs do not help homeless people off the streets, and other forms of support are in place. The proposal has met a mixed reaction from charities, with Thames Reach and St Mungo’s supporting the move, but other groups such as Housing Justice voicing their opposition.'
I have, as yet, had no reply from the Justice and Peace Commission of the Westminster Diocese to an email I sent them offering my support, in terms of 'whatever I can do', to aid their campaign against this malicious attack on Christ's Body, in His believers and in His poor. I assume in good faith that they are doing all that they can to raise this issue with the Archbishop of Westminster and all that they can to combat this move. It would be, I think many will agree, darkly comic and indeed, tragic, for the Archbishop to make grand statements before the learned at the LSE (audio version here) about the Church's view on the protection of human dignity, the promotion of the 'common good' and the opportunity that religion offers to be a vehicle for social justice that transforms society for the good, in upholding the rights of the weak, if, right on His Grace's own doorstep, the Poor were being persecuted openly and while the Salvation Army, the Methodist Church and Housing Justice have condemend the bye-law plan, seemingly, no open, vocal opposition has yet emerged from the Cathedral.
|The Most Rev Archbishop Vincent Nichols at the LSE|
In the wake of what took place then, I am filled, not with hope that 'behind the scenes' the Church is being defended, but with trepidation that the Archbishop's words at the LSE are just words and nothing else.
I hope and pray that I am wrong, for I sincerely want to be, but I find it absolutely horrifying that with the 'consultation' now going to central Government to receive the architects of the Big Society's blessing, no statement from the Archbishop, or indeed any Cathedral spokesperson, in defense of the homeless who surround the Cathedral has yet been made public. So, one wonders, what exactly is going on 'behind the scenes'? If the Archbishop allows this bye-law from the lowest regions of Hell to go unchallenged, it will be said, most assuredly, that the emperor has no clothes and it is, alas for him, certainly not because he has given them to a beggar. Your Grace, there is no point in claiming that the financial sector has “failed to wake up to the moral responsibility” if Westminster Cathedral cannot stand up in defence of the Crucified on its own doorstep.
I was a little surprised that the Archbishop, in his lengthy address to the LSE, did not mention Christ's own words in relation to the feeding, sheltering, clothing and all round protecting of His Poor, in whose person He is mystically present. Of course, no Archbishop would need reminding of those words, but here they are, those salutary words by which, on the Last Day, we could be saved or damned...
'And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in:
Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.'
|Fines for giving out sandwiches|
What is more, it is not just this 'Taliban Catholic' who is concerned by Westminster Cathedral's silence. One commenter on the Inside Housing website, who I presume is not a Catholic, commented, "Perhaps the Church should consider a comment about the political forces denying the destitute from accessing the precints of potential sanctury. How does the actions of Westminster City Council sit with the Church's philosophy, and why is the Church standing idly by and allowing such actions to happen."
Now that is what I call a PR disaster. How many Justice and Peace workers does it take to change a health and safety executive-verified, eco-friendly, Fairtrade lightbulb? I await news of the Archbishop's reaction to unfolding events with baited breath and prayers. Meanwhile, let it be said, Prime Minister Cameron, right here and right now, that this 'Big Society' concept you've been banging on about has today been shown up to be an even bigger bag of bollocks than was at first anticipated!