The Bishop of Stafford has compared people who ignore the effects of climate change to the Austrian child sex monster Josef Fritzl.
The Very Rev Gordon Mursell, claimed people who refuse to face the truth about global warming were as “guilty as” Fritzl of destroying the future of youngsters.
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a Birmingham-based national charity that specialises in safeguarding children from sexual abuse, said it could understand why the bishop was making the comparison but people could find it “outrageous and offensive”.
And the bishop’s spokesman said there was a need for senior clergy to speak out or be regarded as being too afraid to tackle controversial issues.
In a hard-hitting letter to parishioners, Bishop Mursell maintained those who refused to accept the climate change argument shared a “common philosophy of life” to Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter in a cellar for 24 years during which he sexually abused her and fathered her seven children.
He also waded into politics by claiming Labour’s kicking in the local elections was not necessarily a bad thing as it would shake politicians out of their complacency.
Last night his director of communications Gavin Drake attempted to diffuse controversy over the outspoken bishop’s comments which also appear on the Lichfield Diocese website.
“Some people may be offended by that if they only read it at first glance,” he said. “I think what he is saying is not the action is the same, but the incentive or motive behind the action is the same. It is ‘me first and stuff everyone else’.
“It is that philosophy he is comparing, not necessarily the action.”
Mr Drake admitted the bishop’s views could cause offence.
“There is a danger always when church leaders pick up on issues like this that they are misunderstood, misquoted or even pilloried.
“There are two responses – one is to say we will still do it, the other is to become so weak and feeble you end up being too afraid to say anything.”
Mr Drake also defended the bishop’s foray into politics: “We are often asked whether the Church and politics mix and we say why not? We represent so much of British society and so does politics, so why shouldn’t the two mix up?”
The bishop made his comments in a pastoral letter for June’s parish magazines to be distributed throughout the Diocese of Lichfield, which includes Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and north Shropshire.
He writes: “It’s easy to demonize Josef Fritzl. And it’s certainly hard to imagine a more monstrous or revolting crime. The publication of photographs showing him sunbathing in Thailand while his helpless daughter and several young children were locked in his basement is bound to make us ask, ‘How could anyone do such a thing?’
“And yet Josef Fritzl represents merely the most extreme form of a very common philosophy of life: I will do what makes me happy, and if that causes others to suffer, hard luck.
“In fact you could argue that, by our refusal to face the truth about climate change, we are as guilty as he is – we are in effect locking our children and grandchildren into a world with no future and throwing away the key. We are right to be disgusted at these crimes. But mere disgust is too convenient. There are lessons for all of us to learn.”
On the issue of last month’s local elections, he says: “The decline of one large political party need not in itself be bad news, whatever your personal preference: bad results can often galvanise politicians into doing better.”
Donald Findlater, director of research and development for the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said they could understand the bishop’s argument about climate change.
“On the face of it this is an outrageous and offensive statement by the Bishop of Stafford. But we know that sex offenders don’t care about or don’t notice the harm they cause to their victims. I understand why the bishop would then liken other individuals’ disregard for the harmful impact of their lifestyles on the environment, which will, sooner rather than later, harm the lives and futures of our children and of future generations.”