Thought Vomit #34: ft. Oh Dear God, Really?

I’ll be honest. Until recently I never quite appreciated how non-secularized Britain is. They say prayers in Parliament before business commences; I went to a publicly funded Catholic School who used that money to teach me that eating whilst stood up was some sort of sin; and we have an official religion. So it surprises me that there isn’t wider disgust, while British people can become righteously indignant that Creationism is still an issue in education over in the US. We should be yearning for a separation of church and state.

Christians In Parliament, is according to it’s Chairman, Alan Selous MP, an “official all-Party body, working throughout Westminster with a clear vision: to encourage relationships in, with and through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He continues, “You will be pleased to know that there is more Christian activity in the Palace of Westminster than generally assumed.”

Well, I must say, I’m cook-a-hoop. I’m verging on the tumescent. Pleased really isn’t the word for how I feel. Is it possible to vomit through your eyes?

In April, the National Secular Society (NSS) published some research into the cost of religious services within the NHS. Using the Freedom of Information Act, they found that Chaplaincy services are costing them … £32 million.

That same amount could pay for 1,300 nurses.

Let’s be clear, the money for these chaplaincies is coming from public funds, not from the Church. That means a Religious Recruiting Officer is in place, ready to propagandise to the weak, scared and vulnerable at the NHS’ expense.

As the President of the NSS says, “A hospital should not be a happy hunting ground for religious proselytisers, whether they are chaplains or other hospital staff.” This last comment is in relation to their finding that patients are routinely pestered by religiously motivated nurses.

If a Catholic Priest is called to administer the last-rites, they charge the hospital a call out fee.

My local health authority spends a quarter of a million pounds on salaries for four Chaplains. That works out at nearly four times the average salary of a nurse.

(Follow this link to find out how much your LHA is paying priests: )

The President of the NSS concludes, “It is time for the Church or religious organisations to accept their responsibility for providing these services in order to avoid hospitals having to cut front line medical care. It should look closely at the chaplaincy team and see what savings could be made there without any impact on patient care at all.”

So where’s the harm in this symbiosis of church and state? Surely religion provides comfort and support to people and is a power for good? Let’s wander over to Ireland where the full scale of the systemic abuse of the Catholic Church is being laid bare.

“Perhaps the crowning injustice for Ireland is that the Church and politicians working to further its cause rather than serve the Irish people have managed through disingenuous means to saddle the Irish exchequer with paying well over a billion Euros towards the victims’ compensation – while the body responsible, the Church, is contributing less than a tenth of the payments, and serious doubts have been raised as to whether in reality the Church has contributed even as little as that.”
Keith Porteous Wood, NSS

It’s worth taking a moment to read that again. The compensation money for the victims of abuse at the hands of priests is being paid for by the Irish Exchequer.

The Archbishop of Westminster said that it has taken “courage” for the clergy involved in this abuse to confront their actions. Does it also take courage to let the victims themselves foot the compensation bill for their abuse?

It might be worth wondering, should widespread violence and abuse be uncovered within the ranks of the Church of England, who will be asked to pay the compensation?

19 thoughts on “Thought Vomit #34: ft. Oh Dear God, Really?

  • May 23, 2009 at 12:05 am

    hi simon. Hope you dont mind some input here. The nhs does this because hospital is a lonely and scary place for a lot of people, many of whom are dying, i’m more than happy to subsidise some chaplains to provide some comfort to patients who want it, even though i think the faith is all bullshit. Its not as if they creep from room to room preaching to the reluctant apathetic. Nhs also, at a cost provides halal meals to muslims. They recognise patients religion is important to them and they try to accommodate it- dont see a problem with tax payers being given such service when they are at a low ebb. I dont get the comparison between this and what happened in ireland- you seem to be implying that religion in our hospitals and abuse go hand in hand. Different country, different era. I dont believe in god but the vast majority of religious folk are well meaning and selfless. What has ireland 30-80 years ago got to do with our hospitals and their provision of pastoral care?

  • May 23, 2009 at 12:33 am

    The comparison was not about abuse, it was about the misguided use of funds.

    I too have no problem with Chaplains providing comfort to people who want it, but I do object to this being funded by the NHS. When I was last in hospital I would have been greatly comforted by a hug from Cameron Diaz, but the NHS wouldn;t fork out for her flights. Plus, if she did come over to give me a hug and use the opportunity to sell me a DVD, I wouldn;t then have expected her to turn around and charge an appearance fee.

    Plus, there’s a key distinction for me between providing comfort and prosletyzing. If an atheist organisation set itself up to provide this kind of emotional support, would the NHS be expected to fork out for its salaries? (continued inn next comment)

  • May 23, 2009 at 12:39 am

    The Church of England has an annual income of over 4 billion a year, and I would much rather see the NHS money spent on Chaplains being spent on expanding the nurse-force so they are not so stretched as to be unable to provide the emotional care that they cannot currently provide. To divorce the faith aspect side of things is to miss the point – it’s money that is better spent on expert care.

    My last point about the Irish government paying the compensation for the Church’s crimes was an effort to demonstrate that unless religion is separated from state matters, it is the state who ends up footing the bill. If it came across that I was suggesting Chaplains in hospitals and abuse go hand in hand, that’s a failure of my writing, and I apologise.

  • May 23, 2009 at 12:53 am

    I can’t edit comments, sorry. There’s a typo, the Church of England has an income of £1,000 million according to it’s website. That’s 1 billion of course.

  • May 23, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Simon, I don’t know if you know, unless things have changed in the last year, that nowadays chaplains cannot just go into hospitals. A patient has to say that they would like to see them, and the hospital asks the Chaplains. It is interesting that when certain invited Chaplains visit a patient they are often in the ward for longer than planned as other patients call him over for advice, comfort or hope. I know that this is not from the economic point of view, but just a point!
    BTW I could see why the NHS would not pay for Cameron Diaz — you would probably have a heart attack, and then sue them!!!!
    Enjoy the sun —

  • May 23, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Halal meals – this is a medical decision. Diet is an important part of healthcare, so the provision to a patient of a kosher or halal meal is not in deference to their religion, it’s because otherwise that patient would not eat. It’s the same reason they don’t serve Roast Kitten on the wards.

    As I said, I have no problem with Chaplains being in hospitals, but they should be funded by the surrounding diocese.

    The NHS should use that money to hire three or four more nurses who can provide emotional and medical support to anyone, regardless of their creed, rather than one chaplain who can do neither.

  • May 23, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    well, the nhs provides counselling for patients and their families- free of charge. Thats for atheists too. And nurses cant do this- you need to be a degree qualified in psychiatric care. At risk of sounding like the minister for health, the nhs recognises the importance of providing emotional support to patients – some of these prefer a pastor to a shrink. Everyone knows a good mental state is important in recovering from illness so its money well spent in terms of getting people well. In any case is there a shortage of nurses? I thought the importing of foreign nurses was a big success. Do we have a load of people on waiting lists to become nurses but cant due to lack of funds? I dont think we do, hence all the foreign recruitment. Interestingly, the biggest challenge facing the nhs is health tourism. There are a lot of people coming to the uk from europe, presenting with symptoms and actually having chronic health problems that require immediate surgery- using up money and staff. If patient has no money, a bill is sent to their foreign address. It also costs the nhs thousands to pay for interpreters. This is not a right wing myth- my wife is a midwife, its a real problem that stretches their resources too thin and results in local people losing out. Most damaging, it creates feelings of bitterness in normal, resonabale people who see not only their taxes being spent on HT’s but are actually getting worse service for their money. What can you do, if people are ill or heavily pregnant you have to treat them- but this is a huge problem for the nhs and its relationship with local communities. Its just like being in the common room si- good to read you and debate. There’s the bell….

  • May 23, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Yes, all those are problems too. But you’re in danger of slipping into a relativist stance. Each problem should be addressed, and not to the detriment of another. The further danger of relativism is that no problems get addressed because other problems are used to argue against them being addressed.

    The NHS rightly provides counselling, using trained professionals. Is a Chaplain adequetely qualified? Where the money that is saved from scrapping the Chaplaincy is up to the LHA, but the point is, it IS money that can be redirected elsewhere, considering the Churches’ have dioceses that surround the hospitals.

    Would you rather a trained professional was administering to a patient’s emotional needs, or a faith based preacher whose first duty is to spread thw word of God? Even if the money saved from discontinuing this pays for only half the number of trained professionals, it’s money better spent. If a patient asks for their priest, that priest is on hand in the diocese.

  • May 23, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    To clarify, I am not arguing for the removal of Chaplaincies from hosiptals (in spite of how my previous comment reads) I am arguing for their funding to be removed from NHS budgets. These are two very different points.

  • May 23, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    right, to sum up… Your point was that the provision of pastors in hospitals represented state religion at work in our hospitals and that this is a misuse of tax payers money that could be better spent on more nurses. I say this has got nothing to do with religion- its just pragmatism by the nhs. Every penny they spend should be towards helping people get better and leave cured, quickly. Thats what they are doing. The fact the vast majority of this is non religious mental support proves this point. If the patient feels better from talking to a priest who cares? If it works and they feel better and they clear the bed for the next person quicker, happy to pay for it. There is no issue with our resources being spent on this- its not waste and there is no nurse shortage. So there is no problem to fix. However there is a large amount of this resource being used up by foreign visitors- if you’re concerned about misuse of public resourses, there’s an issue to get worked up about. Thats not relativism- i think one is an actual problem and one is not. Thats just focussing on the things that need to be addressed and ignoring stuff that doesn’t. Anyone in charge of a budget or business has to think that way, they’d be stupid not to. Are you sure you’re not just deeply distrustful of religious institutions and want them no where near public services, even if people want them and even if their benefits cover their costs? If so, why not just say that, its fair enough. Its an issue of principle for you- but its got nowt to do with cost, tax payers money or whats best for patients. Or at least i dont see anything in your argument that backs that up.

  • May 23, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    you bastard! You changed your point after i’d added my rambling response. Why didn’t you just say ‘i dont trust priests, dont like paying for them’ this could have saved us some time!

  • May 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I think the problems are clearly related. I can’t believe you don’t think the immediate freeing up of 32 million pounds to address the problem of health tourism would be an excellent thing.

    Second, I STRONGLY believe that a twice daily oral massage from two professional masseuses would speed up my recovery. Should the NHS pay for this? After all, … Read moreit’s my belief and I’m entitled to it.

    Finally, to extend the argument out – should the government be paying for Prison Chaplains, which cost them over 10 million a year? And prisons don’t even have a choice, they are REQUIRED by law to provide one.

  • May 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    if it stops the felons burning the place down then let them have their rev! You wanted gigs anyway- you could be a cheap alternative in hospitals or prisons. Either they laugh at you or they kill themselves, or they use up some aggression on you. You wanna help – put your money where your mouth is!

  • May 23, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Si — I am a bit behind here as I have been gardening — just to say one thing – (and I agree with Matt’s comments )- as far as the RC church is concerned, especially locally, there are no priests who are just chaplains – they are diocesan priests running at least one parish if not two, like ours, and on call for at least 3 hospitals. They don’t … Read morejust sit on their backsides in the hospital waiting for a call. I am checking on the funding …….. Good debate here, your Grandmother would have 40 fits!!!
    Maybe you SHOULD get some gigs at the hospitals …….:)

  • May 23, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    What if the compulsory prison chaplain is never called upon thoughout the entire year?

    Pat – so a Chaplain who is paid an annual salary on average of 57 grand by the NHS isn’t devoting his working time entirely to that job?

    (The funding can be found in the link from the blog)

  • May 23, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Can’t argue with the amoubt of funding but think that it is less in small places, or divided between several priests. This is an email from a priest in Weston:
    man, many people want the services of a Chaplain in hospital and Hospices and the NHS recognises this fact. People are made up of body, mind and spitit. (Everyone is spiritual but not everyone is religious).

    Why are Chapainis called to patients by day and by night ? I myself am on call 24 hours a day. I have been called numerous times during the night. In fact, not that long ago, I was called to W General Hospital twice on one night.

    Big hospitals, like the BRI, have full-time chaplains. Smaller one have part-time (mostly unpaid) chaplains. W Gen. has recently appointed a Muslim chaplain, besause the NHS sees a need by staff and patients. Needless to say all chaplains work closely for the good of the ‘client’.

    Could be cheaper than Physologists etc.

    Anyway just a few more stirs of your pie!

  • May 23, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    A chaplain can be called to adminsister to someone’s spiritual needs by all means – at the church’s expense.

    This comment thread is in danger of becoming repetitive, so I’ve vomitted a new thought.

  • May 24, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Just going to jump in here and put another point. Matthew you have stated above that there are no shortages of nurses, unlike my brother I haven’t read up on these facts. So I am not questioning the statistics of such a claim, but look at the way nursing staff are “cut-back” in hidden ways

  • May 25, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Other “Christian” faiths, including C of E, RC, Methodist? or other faiths including Muslim or Sikh or Hindu? I gather that where appropriate hospital appoint Chaplains accorfing to needs — usually all part time, some part paid, some voluntary. For example, Weston has just appointed a Muslim chaplain ….

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