THE Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, this week asked the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, “to withdraw from public ministry until further notice”.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Bishop Chartres said he was “appalled” by the critical comments that Bishop Broadbent had made on Facebook, the social-networking website, about the forthcoming marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton (News, 19 November).
“I have now had the opportunity to discuss with Bishop Peter how his comments came to be made, and I have noted his unreserved apology,” Bishop Chartres said. “Nevertheless, I have asked him to withdraw from public ministry until further notice.”
A spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace said that it supported the decision, which was “a matter for the Bishop of London”. Last week, Lambeth Palace had said that Bishop Broadbent was “entitled to his own views” about the monarchy.
On Thursday of last week, the day after the royal engagement was announced, Bishop Broadbent wrote on Twitter, the social-networking site: “Need to work out what date in the spring or summer I should be looking for my republican day trip to France.”
The Twitter message was automatically posted on to his page on Facebook. In another comment on Facebook, the Bishop wrote that he had “managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll” (an apparent reference to the Prince and Princess of Wales).
In other postings, he said: “I give the marriage seven years,” and: “But their marriage is their business. I don’t know them, and have no part in celebrating it. I just wish we weren’t paying for it.”
Some of Bishop Broadbent’s comments were reported in newspapers such as the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. In a Facebook response to this on Saturday, the Bishop wrote: “Pathetic gutter press now trying to make this [comment] thread into a story. But watch their hypocrisy when they go for the Royals later on.” Later that day, he also noted, with reference to the “gutter press”: “You can bet your boots they won’t quote anything I’ve said about their responsibility for persecuting the Royals.”
On Monday, Bishop Broadbent issued a statement apologising “unreservedly”. He said that he had “conveyed to Prince Charles and to Prince William and Kate Middleton my sincere regrets for the distress caused by my remarks”. He wrote that he recognised “that the tone of my language and the content of what I said were deeply offensive. . .
“It was unwise of me to engage in a debate with others on a semi-public internet forum and to express myself in such language. I accept that this was a major error of judgement on my part. I wish Prince William and Kate Middleton a happy and lifelong marriage, and will hold them in my prayers.”
There was speculation in some press reports that Bishop Broadbent had been forced to issue the apology, possibly by Bishop Chartres, who is a close friend of Prince Charles. But, after posting a link to the statement on his Facebook page, Bishop Broadbent wrote in a comment: “Nobody made me do anything. I apologised of my own volition.”
A Facebook group in support of Bishop Broadbent had attracted 350 members by Wednesday.
Question of the week: Was Bishop Broadbent right to withdraw from public ministry as a result of his comments?