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Constant criticism, nit-picking, refuses to value, control freak, aggressive, denies everything? Read this

Bullying and the church

"Bullying remains endemic within the Church of England"
Andrew de Berry, Caring for the Carers newsletter, December 1999

The church is no stranger to bullying. Over the last couple of years, the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line has received several enquiries from ministers and others working for or with religious organisations. Cases appear frequently in the media and on this site.

Not every minister has God in their heart. Whilst many enter the church to fulfil a calling, there are those whose calling is to indulge the opportunities for power and control over vulnerable clients and vulnerable fellow employees.

Over the last year, the Roman Catholic Church has paid out over 1 $billion in sodomy lawsuits. The most likely course of action for a pedophile priest is to be protected and promoted. Abusers protect each other.

In the UK, the MSF union has for several years been actively addressing the problem of bullying within the church, especially the Church of England. The UK parliament passed the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 but the Church remained defiant. It is only recently that the Church of England synod (the ruling body) voted to allow women priests, but the decision was vehemently contested and opposition remains.

When it comes to bullying, those working for the church find that they are not classed as "employees" but as "office holders" and therefore cannot take action under employment law. Fighting constructive or unfair dismissal becomes an impossible challenge when tribunals decide that your employer is not the church but God.

In January 2000, Dr Lavinia Byrne, a doctor of theology and regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, accused the Vatican of ongoing intimidation and resigned her position in a religious order after what she described as an Inquisition by those in the Catholic hierarchy opposed to women priests. The Catholic Church is no stranger to sex discrimination, albeit in the guise of a Doctrine of Faith, having wilfully excluded women from its hierarchy for 2000 years.

Dr Byrne sparked controversy with the publication in 1994 in the USA of her book Women at the Altar in which she argued in favour of women priests. In an action not out of place for medieval times, a bishop in Minnesota, backed by Rome, demanded the book's withdrawal. See Dr Byrne's web site Cybernun.

If you're a minister or partner or relative of someone who is being bullied by the Church you might like to visit BALM, a web site providing support for anyone dealing with bullying in a religious setting.

The majority of enquiries to the Advice Line involve a serial bully, a compulsive liar with a Jekyll and Hyde nature who is drawn to positions of power. Emotionally cold and emotionally flat, the serial bully is joyless, humourless, displays a compulsive need to control and uses mimicry and charm to deceive. Often with a narcissistic attention-seeking need to be seen as a wonderful, kind, caring, compassionate person, the serial bully chooses to be oblivious to the inappropriateness of his or her behaviour.

Bully OnLine is a gold mine of insight and information on bullying which identifies and exposes the serial bully. Everyone knows at least one person in their life with this profile. Click here to see who this reminds you of.

Browse this web site to recognise the bullies in your life ... start with Am I being bullied? then move on to What is bullying? To find out what you can do about bullying, click Action to tackle bullying.


BALM (Bullied & Abused Lives in Ministry) offers support to church ministers and their close family.

Bullying of choir boys: Times report and Trail of bullying within choir schools with media coverage

See to purchase Cultures of Secrecy and Abuse: A Paradox for Churches by Cara Beed, 1998, ISBN 0-646-35905-3. Published by Cara Beed, PO Box 2109, Hawthorn LPO, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, 3122

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