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 95.

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

    But the CoE is one of the largest land owners in the UK. It has huge wealth acquired over hundreds of years and it has done nothing to help solve the problem- even though it clearly acknowledges the issue.
    Same old church dogma; keep the masses miserable so they seek solace from the church.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I grew up in a 'stable, loving, secure' family - oh, and my parents are divorced. Of course it's better for children to have two parents who love each other, but for some (not all) people the alternative to divorce isn't a happy marriage - and it's better to have parents who live apart than who argue constantly or are miserable. If anything, divorce is a symptom, not a disease.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Families are just a reflection of what goes on in the wider society. Nobody wants to take long term responsibility; nobody is looking for sustainability. Employers want to sack their workers on a whim, companies have a strategy for the next quarter etc. However, what we humans crave above all is long term stability and moderate prosperity (hobbits as we are).

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Henry VIII liked a good divorce. That's why we have the CofE in the first place. However, the comparative data with other countries suggests that it's quite hard to be a child in Britain due to the collapse of the family, sexualisation at an early age, inequality, aggressive consumerism and a lack of consistent moral guidance. It's wrong to romanticise the past but we do face serious social issues

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    86. Minerve

    ''Just take a little more time to be open-minded and listen.''
    If only religious fundamentalists followed this advice !!!


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