Father Jones said some people had little option but to turn to crime
A priest from North Yorkshire has advised his congregation to shoplift if they find themselves in hard times.
The Reverend Tim Jones, the parish priest of St Lawrence and St Hilda in York, said people should steal from big chains rather than small businesses.
He said society's attitude to those in need "leaves some people little option but crime".
However the Archdeacon of York said: "The Church of England does not advise anyone to shoplift".
North Yorkshire Police described the sermon as "highly irresponsible".
A force spokesman said despite people getting in difficult situations "shoplifting or committing other crimes should never be the solution".
"To do this would make the downward spiral even more rapid, both on an individual basis and on society as a whole," he said.
Speaking to his congregation on Sunday, Father Jones said: "My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift.
"I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.
"I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses, but from national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.
"When people are released from prison, or find themselves suddenly without work or family support, then to leave them for weeks and weeks with inadequate or clumsy social support is monumental, catastrophic folly.
"We create a situation which leaves some people little option but crime."
Speaking later on BBC Radio York, Father Jones said his intention had not been to rally people to shoplifting, but to encourage people to give more to charity to avoid those in need from becoming so desperate.
"If one has exhausted every legal opportunity to get money and you're still in a desperate situation it is a better moral thing to do to take absolutely no more than you need for no longer than you need," he said.
However the Archdeacon of York, the Venerable Richard Seed, said: "Father Tim Jones is raising important issues about the difficulties people face when benefits are not forthcoming, but shoplifting is not the way to overcome these difficulties."
Father Jones made the news in May 2008 when he made a protest about Playboy branded stationery being aimed at children. He went into a local stationers and threw the Playboy merchandise on the floor.