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Bishop defends priest criticised for blog post on the poor

Fr Blake wrote that 'the poor challenge our complacency' (PA)

The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton has defended a priest in his diocese following criticism from the local and national press, concerning a blog post the priest wrote about the poor.

Bishop Kieran Conry said that Fr Ray Blake “does an awful lot of good work” in supporting the poor in Arundel and Brighton, adding “it was a bit of mischief” on the part of the local newspaper that published the original story.

Fr Blake has come under attack from the local and national press for a blog post which he published last week which began: “The trouble with the poor is that they are messy.” It was picked up by the local newspaper, The Argus.

While Bishop Conry said that the post was “slightly misguided” and “could have been phrased better”, he added: “They’ve taken a few lines in it where what Fr Ray Blake was trying to say is that the poor are very challenging… In its proper context it makes sense”.

In his original blog post on Saturday, Fr Blake wrote: “The trouble with the poor is that they are messy. There is a secluded area between the church and our hall, a passage occasionally we find someone has got a few cardboard boxes together and has slept there and if it has been raining leaves a sodden blanket, cardboard there to be cleaned up, often it also smells of urine and there is often excrement there and sometimes a used needle or two.”

He later continued: “Even in our pain and suffering we can grow complacent, ‘the poor’ challenge our complacency. They interrupt our comfort, our prayer, our routine bringing the mess of their lives into our lives… The sin of the Pharisees, of the rich man in the story of Dives and Lazarus, is complacency. The rich man didn’t even notice the mess that Lazarus created at his front door, he didn’t respond to it, he needed someone to bring him out of his complacency.”

The Argus subsequently featured the blog post in a report beginning: “A complaining priest claims ‘lying’ poor people have been sent by God to ‘test my holiness’”.

Following the report, Fr Ray Blake wrote another post stating: “I was saying that the poor, the really poor, turn our lives upside down. I know the local paper pays peanuts and expects its journalists to create stories in order to get on to the news networks but this is just a … misrepresentation.”

In a post on Sunday, he wrote: “After recent happenings I have been thinking I ought to stop blogging.”

For an extended version of this article see this week’s print edition of The Catholic Herald, out on Friday