Friday, July 14, 2006


Vicar steps down for cheek kiss

This man deserved better This story is both tragically hilarious and tragically sad in equal measure.

The BBC has reported that a vicar in Staffordshire, England, has stepped down as a school governor after kissing a primary pupil on the cheek to congratulate her for doing well in maths.

The Rev Alan Barrett was stunned to find himself at the centre of a police inquiry for the gesture.

A church spokesman said a police inquiry found no offence had taken place, but the vicar was told to have no contact with the school.

In a statement Rev Barrett said he had helped some pupils with class work and congratulated one who had struggled:

"I was stunned to hear I was subject to a police and social services investigating, examining my character, conduct and ministry.

"I was relieved when they found there was no case to answer and I could continue with my life."

The Archdeacon of Lichfield, the Venerable Chris Liley, commented that "even giving a child a kiss of congratulations is inappropriate in this day and age" and a spokesman for Lichfield Diocese stated:

"The conclusion that Mr Barrett had acted inappropriately is not a finding of guilt or negligence, but recognition that in today's climate, previously acceptable innocent behaviour is now subject to misunderstanding and suspicion.

"As the complaint and subsequent police investigation demonstrates, the simple act of a kiss on the cheek - a common greeting throughout the world - has potentially damaging consequences.

"The bishop of Lichfield has written to the mother of the girl setting out the steps the diocese has taken and the conclusion of the investigation.

"He has explained that if the mother still feels that the conduct warrants a formal investigation she may lodge a formal complaint under the clergy discipline measure."

I just find this so pathetic and petty. It would appear that the child's mother felt the behaviour of the vicar was out of line and I despair at that kind of thinking.

Since when is a kiss on the cheek inappropriate? When was that decided? Have we become that paranoid? Are we heading to a stage where we won't be able to shake the hand of a young child without attracting suspicion and hostility?

I just feel so sorry for this man and so disgusted at how everyone has turned their back on him.

I wonder too if this has anything to do with gender at all. If a female vicar had kissed the girl on the cheek would anything have been said? I doubt it. Yet when a man shows a degree of affection towards a young child, people are quick to jump to the conclusion that he must be some kind of pervert.

This story reminded me of another story which broke this week concerning Russian President Vladimir Putin. The President came across a young boy in the Kremlin courtyard and much to people's surprise, he lifted up the shirt of the boy and planted a kiss on his stomach.

Here is what Putin said explaining his actions:

"He seemed to me very independent, very serious, but at the same time a boy is always vulnerable. He was very sweet. I'll be honest, I felt an urge to squeeze him like a kitten and that led to the gesture that I made, there was nothing behind it really."

Now this is a gesture that warrants raised eyebrows and even his explanation is a bit of a concern. Now compare Putin's actions with that of the vicar. See what I mean?

Does he know what he's doing?

In closing I think the people who initiated the investigations against this vicar should be ashamed of themselves. The Diocese has behaved very poorly too.

One of the most famous stories in the Bible tells of how Jesus allowed for young children to be brought to him when the Disciples had rebuked them. I wonder how people such as the Archdeacon can reconcile their actions over this matter with their faith in Christ?

Children are the most vulnerable members of a society and their safety is of paramount importance but what has happened in Staffordshire was overkill and amounted to nothing more a witch-hunt.

All those involved are pitiful.


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