Rev Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields

Phil Spector: saint or sinner? Yes, yes, he may have imprisoned some of his wives and children. He may have forced his children to perform sex acts. He may have murdered a woman he picked up at a bar. But we’ve all done it. So don’t be getting on your high horse about it all.

It’s no worse than priests who deny their faith under threat of torture and death, and their sacraments are still valid. Makes you think, eh?

6 thoughts on “Rev Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields

  1. This was finally a clear chance for a minister of the C of E to link their thought to the (still recent) IICSA enquiry. I was waiting and waiting but it never came. Instead where he could have talked about priests tortured by their unnatural sexual desires he talked about artists and Spector.
    “How then do we receive their art [religion?] when we find aspects of the artist deeply troubling? Much is made of tortured artists but little of the pain of their victims.” In the IICSA much was made of the pain of the victims but it has not been noted in this high profile three minutes of religious platitudes since the report was released.
    And then the Rev Dr goes on to explain why the church leaders allowed themselves to be deceived by telling us the story from early Christianity that allows the overlooking of evil acts because they are done by people with the holy spirit within them.
    “In North Africa in the fourth century there was a controversy about what to do with priests who had renounced their faith under persecution making them a pariah in their churches. Were their sacraments and ministries still valid? Augustine the Bishop said yes. The holy spirit could still work however unworthy the agent of grace. [He must be right, he was made a saint] It remains a challenging but liberating judgement today. It tells us we are all a mixed bag of unworthy and worthy. It affirms that it is possible for beautiful things [religion?] to come from a dubious and disreputable person. It certainly doesn’t endorse criminality or cruelty but it does enable us to disentangle artefacts of wonder and truth from an artist we don’t really know to think about. Such careful disentangling is an art in itself. It is perhaps precisely what life’s most important judgements are all about.”
    Unfortunately the church leaders saw the people dispensing their religious truth as being above the law. And we can all see that there was clearly an art in the churches disentangling themselves from any lasting damage caused by the revelations.


  2. Paul’s eloquent comment nails this mendacious and cynical Thought. The passage he has highlighted is crucial, because it cuts to the heart of the churches’ child abuse scandal. Never mind the damage that has been done by abusive priests: they have been possessed by the Holy Spirit, and must be forgiven by mere mortals and allowed to go about their business.

    In his 1944 essay about Salvador Dali, George Orwell wrote: ‘If Shakespeare returned to the earth tomorrow, and if it were found that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the grounds that he might write another King Lear’. Artists should never be forgiven their crimes for the sake of their art; and priests should not be forgiven theirs for the sake of their delusions.


  3. Jimmy Savile in a shell suit = bad.
    Jimmy Savile in a dog collar = he’s only human, consider his charity work, etc.


  4. There was altogether too much ‘us’ and ‘we’ in this, inferring culpability in Wells’ listeners. If his ‘faith perspective’ was no more than the argument for the presence of the Holy Spirit, then he needn’t have bothered. Thanks to all above who conclusively nailed it.

    Hovering behind all this – in my thoughts at least – was the oft repeated claim that ‘we are all made in the IMF’s image, male and female in his likeness.’

    Perhaps Dr Wells is the man to begin the rehabilitation of Hitler, based on his water colours.


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