Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Sunday, 27 December 2009

Ex-Archbishop brands shoplift sermon priest 'foolish'

Father Tim Jones
Father Jones said some people had little option but to turn to crime

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has branded a priest who advised needy people to shoplift from large retailers as "misguided and foolish".

Father Tim Jones, parish priest of St Lawrence and St Hilda in York, said stealing from big chains was often the best option for vulnerable people.

His comments were made in a sermon to his congregation last Sunday.

Writing in the News of the World, Lord Carey said: "Of all people, priests ought to know right from wrong."

Talking about the desperate situation facing some vulnerable people, Father Jones told his congregation: "My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift.

We aren't in a Dickensian era when people were driven to picking a pocket or two in order to survive
Lord Carey

"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."

Lord Carey said: "His concern for the least well-off is admirable, but his remedy is both misguided and foolish."

He added: "We aren't in a Dickensian era when people were driven to picking a pocket or two in order to survive.

"There is now a safety net provided by the state with many charities offering advice, food and shelter.

"Nobody is dying of hunger even though the inequalities of our society are still greater than they should be."

Lord Carey
Lord Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002

The priest's comments have also been criticised by the Archdeacon of York, the Venerable Richard Seed, and North Yorkshire Police who said justifying shoplifting was "highly irresponsible".

The British Retail Consortium also criticised the comments and said the effects of shoplifting ultimately meant retailers had to pay more.

Father Jones has defended his remarks, saying that stealing was a "dreadful thing" but that it caused less harm to big retailers.

He said: "When we, as a society, let our most vulnerable people down so terribly badly, I would rather that people take an 80p can of ravioli rather than turn to some of the most appalling things."

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