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Paper Monitor

10:23 UK time, Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The letters page of the Times has long been known as the establishment's notice board, but recent evidence suggests that it has transmogrified into more of parish newsletter.

For the past two days, correspondence has been dominated by reaction to remarks by comedian Rowan Atkinson - famed for his humorous portrayal of vicars - that many Church of England clergy are guilty of "smugness", "arrogance" and "conceitedness".

Today's responses to the debate are especially illuminating.

"It is possible that I know more Anglican clergy than Rowan Atkinson," huffs George Pulman QC, of Wadhurst, East Sussex. "I am the Chancellor of the Diocese of Chelmsford and I have worked in churches in East Sussex."

The vast majority of clerics, he insists, are kind, tolerant, impressive individuals to whom terms like "smugness", "arrogance" and "conceitedness" do not apply.

However, The Rev William Hogg of Radlett, Herts, concedes that "the Church of England as a national institution (not to mention other churches) can come across as excessively pompous, legalistic and hung up about things that do not matter to the wider community".

Judge not lest ye be judged. For Paper Monitor's money, however, the best contribution to the debate comes from The Rev Justin Dodd of London W5:

"Sir, Rowan Atkinson's condemnation of clergy is both sad and bemusing. Sad because he is no doubt right in pointing out that certain clerics are indeed 'extraordinarily presumptuous about the significance of their position in society'. Bemusing in that this complaint is frequently levelled at actors."

Ouch.

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