Bishop of London warns of divorce 'epidemic'

Bishop of London The Bishop of London says the extent of youth unemployment in Britain is "appalling"

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Promiscuity, separation and divorce have reached epidemic proportions in Britain, the Bishop of London has said.

The Rt Rev Richard Chartres said people should use the Queen's Diamond Jubilee to restore strained relationships.

He said although people were better off in many ways than in 1952, material progress had come at the expense of equality and communal life.

The National Secular Society said having a choice to leave unsuccessful marriages was something to be welcomed.

Dr Chartres, a senior Church of England bishop, also called for action to tackle "depressingly high" youth unemployment.

Writing in a Bible Society pamphlet, he said relationships had become more strained, fragile and broken than people cared to recognise.

'Empty church'

"Literally millions of children grow up without knowing a stable, loving, secure family life - and that is not to count the hundreds of thousands more who don't even make it out of the womb each year," he said.

"Promiscuity, separation and divorce have reached epidemic proportions in our society."

"Perhaps, then, we shouldn't be surprised that depression and the prescription of anti-depressants has reached a similarly epidemic level."

Terry Sanderson, of the National Secular Society, which aims to challenge religious privilege, said that while Britain had problems, there was no "epidemic" of immorality.

Start Quote

The bishop is trying to convince us that we are immoral because we have progressed in ways that he doesn't like”

End Quote Terry Sanderson National Secular Society

"That people now have the choice to escape from painful and unsuccessful marriages is something to welcome," he said.

"It has not always been so, and women in particular have borne the brunt of sometimes brutal marriages from which they could not escape - mainly because the Church would not let them.

"Like so many other clergymen, the bishop is trying to convince us that we are immoral because we have progressed in ways that he doesn't like. And that is probably why his church is so empty."

Caroline Davey, from charity Gingerbread, which provides support for single parents, said "poverty and conflict" were the most powerful drivers of poor outcomes for children.

"Modern British family life is made up of a range of different family types, all of whom need and deserve support - not criticism - as they bring up their children in these difficult economic times," she added.

Queen praised

Dr Chartres presented the biblical understanding of a Jubilee as an opportunity to take a long view, and think about the kind of environment being bequeathed to following generations.

He said it should include a move to living within our means.

Dr Chartres also described youth unemployment in Britain as "appalling" and said we should look to role models and mentors for a solution, as well as government.

The government said it was one of the biggest challenges the country faced, but was determined to tackle it head on.

Recent figures showed the number of 16 to 24-year-olds seeking work was 707,000, down 24,000 on the previous quarter.

Dr Chartres also praised the "quiet dignity" of the Monarch, who he described as the most famous public figure on earth and the most respected.

"The way in which she and her family have reached out to include newly established British communities has provided a focus for continuing but expanding national self-respect," he added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Come on lads, give him a chance, I think we should all stop bashing the Bishop !

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    What nonsense - of course its nots perfect but by any comparison, Britain is still a great place to live.

    Perhaps our challenge with such an increasingly frenetic society, is stop every now and then, appreciate what we've got and offer a helping hand to those at risk of being left behind.

    Divorce isn't terrible - its all too often people like the Bishop's response.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    @261. John Byng
    Excuse me for being a little cynical but you may have noticed that the bishop presented no solutions to any of the problems he raised. This is why people are "bashing" him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Rev Richard Chartres speak of equality, when his own faith vehemently opposes equality for the LGBT community.
    These people are hypocrites, talking of morality whilst child abusing clergy are protected from justice, deals are made with corporate "donors" and the CofE clings to public property worth billions. Thankfully, the church is weakening and people are turning away from religious insanity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    A question of morality - is atheist morality not more sincere than that of their religious counterparts? Rather than being moral for fear of damnation, or promise of reward, atheists are moral because they feel it is the right thing to do.
    Do staunchly religious people thus feel that if they didn't believe in "God", that they'd commit murder, lie, cheat and steal? Doesn't sound very moral to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    261.John Byng

    As an atheist I get a little sick and tired of people bashing the views of religious leaders - especially Christian leaders. Their religious beliefs doesn't devalue their opinions - many of which are quite valid.
    Is it better to tell your kids not to lie as they'll go to hell or because others won't want to play with them? Best to tell them the truth, don't you think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.


    Living in sin makes it sound so cool.

    Trust me; the way I do it it's no wonder people like you think it's a sin.

    PS This is 2012. We almost literally live in the future. Embrace it.

  • Comment number 278.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Dear BBC

    Is that really a picture of the Bishop or did you just order ''zealous Clergyman'' from the photo library?

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    "people should use the Queen's Diamond Jubilee to restore strained relationships."

    Is it just me or does this simply not make any sense ?I just cant see any relevance or connection between the two eventss at all. Even if I was a royalist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    262. And is illegal wars costing us billions and tax havens costing us billions, the legal, decent and honourable thing? No its a SIN. This wealth should go into building homes, creating jobs and solving social issues like homelessness and poverty. British style Capitalism as per this vile government = Broken society and the policies of 3 greed based decades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    There seems to be no end of these old men in dresses banging on about why we should abide by their fairy-story morality

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    With all its money, the C of E could make enough hostels to house homeless youth (and other homeless) and thus employ lots of people......and generally make the country an easier place to live. They could speak out against all the government help for the very rich. They could rail at the changes planned for the NHS. They could condemn war. They could live in the real world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.


    @239 There is no such thing as a reasoned moral because all morals are absolutes.
    Philosophers still argue for and against absolute/relative morals, and will do so forever.
    Life's easier if you don't lie - people know where they are with you. Like wise, don't bother with people who lie - you never know where you are with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    The royal family knows plenty about promiscuity, separation and divorce.

    Millions of children may grow up not knowing his view of a "stable, loving, secure family life", but I know for sure billions are raised being told eternal damnation to a fiery hell is waiting for them should they not do everything they are told without question.
    And god is love?

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Getting married is doing the legal, decent, and honourable thing. The alternative is living in sin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    what we have now for most of us is not a living but an existants, and pretty rubbish one too considering the amount of wealth thats supposed to be here. We live to pay tax thats it end of and if you live to be 70 you might get to retire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    263.Gayus Petronius - "Why doesn't the BBC just drop the pretence of impartiality .......The BBC impartial? ....."

    How about you both to find about what impartial actually means......just because they give air time to both sides of a debate, one of which you don't like, does not make them makes them IMPARTIAL.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.


    Thank You.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    I was born naked and will leave/die naked.In other words i do not require the baggage of fools.


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