The Big Question: Should the Church be entering the controversy over the $700bn bailout?

Why are we asking this now?

Because the two most senior Anglican clergymen in the country have launched a scathing, double-pronged attack on the world's stock market traders, accusing them of being "bank robbers" and "asset-strippers" among other things. Their comments came after a week of global financial turbulence in which four major financial institutions went bust or were taken over and as the US Congress bickered about a multi-billion pound "bailout" to steady the markets.

How have they gone public?

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams launched the opening salvo with an article for this week's Spectator magazine defending Karl Marx's attacks on "unbridled capitalism". And on Wednesday evening, during a speech to religiously-minded business folk at the Worshipful Company of International Bankers' annual dinner, Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, waded into the row by criticising those involved in the practice of short-selling and lambasting rich governments for failing to live up to their aid promises.

What in essence are the Archbishops complaining about?

Money, and how we spend far too much time chasing it. Rowan Williams went for a trademark cerebral article whilst his colleague in York opted for a fiery speech to City leaders but their motives were essentially the same: to chastise us for idolising the god of money. In his article the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that the world's current devotion to the free market is a form of "religious fundamentalism" and suggested that Karl Marx was right in his analysis of the power of "unbridled capitalism". He called for greater regulation of the markets and attacked trading in debt – a process where "almost unimaginable wealth has been generated by equally unimaginable levels of fiction, paper transactions with no concrete outcome beyond profit for traders."

What about Dr Sentamu?

He took to the podium and lambasted a market system "which seems to have taken its rules of trade from Alice in Wonderland." He reserved particular disdain for those involved in the short-selling of HBOS' shares last week which led to Britain's largest mortgage lender being bought by Lloyds TSB after its stock plummeted. "To a bystander like me," he said. "those who made £190m deliberately underselling the shares of HBOS, in spite of a very strong capital base, and drove it into the arms of Lloyds TSB, are clearly bank robbers and asset strippers." The Archbishop of York, who was in New York yesterday at a UN summit on the progress made by world leaders to end poverty, also noted the way the US government was happy to come up with $700bn to buy back bad debt but rarely lived up to its international aid promises.

What about the Church's own investments in the City?

Considering the Church of England has enormous amounts of wealth invested in the stock market the Archbishops' comments certainly risk accusations of "pot calling the kettle black". According to its own website, the Church oversaw assets worth more than £5.67bn at the end of 2007, much of it invested in the stock market, real estate and private equity investments.

The body in charge of managing the investments has also done rather well. The Church Commissioners made a return of 9.4 per cent in 2007, smashing its benchmark of a 7 percent return for comparable funds.

How has the City reacted?

The Archbishops' criticism of short-selling drew an angry response from The Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers, the representative body of the stockbroking industry. In a statement sent yesterday the group's chief executive, David Bennett, said: "It is market abuse which is wrong, and this can occur both when holding either long or short positions. Transparency is the key here." But the two most senior clergy in the country, who oversee a Church of more than 77 million believers worldwide, may have felt compelled to give spiritual advice at a time of global financial crisis. As Dr Sentamu reminded people in his speech: "Money is the root of all evil."

Was Dr Sentamu right to compare the bail-out to poverty aid?

The Archbishop of York was quick to point out the disparity between how quickly western governments act to give a helping hand to the markets during a crisis compared to how reluctant the same governments are when it comes to providing aid.

Referring to the US government's plans to buy back $700bn worth of bad debt from the banks he said: "One of the ironies about this financial crisis is that it makes action on poverty look utterly achievable. It would cost $5bn (£2.7bn) to save six million children's lives. World leaders could find 140 times that amount for the banking system in a week. How can they tell us that action for the poorest is too expensive?"

It's certainly true to say that western governments come up with the cash mighty quickly when the markets are in trouble but the $700bn George Bush wants Congress to release is not the same as aid. It's an investment that the US state hopes to make money out of. The $700bn will be used to buy all the distressed assets currently held by banks in order to kick-start the markets again but the US government hopes it will then be able to sell these assets back with a profit once the market is in a better shape.

So how far has the world progressed on its aid promises?

The Millennium Development Goals, set by world leaders in 2000 to drastically reduce global poverty by 2015, are largely being met in Asia but little progress has been made in Africa. Earlier this week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that Africa alone needed $72bn a year in aid – a "daunting" sum but one, he pointed out, that was a tenth of the US bail-out and much less than the estimated $267bn spent last year by the world's industrialised countries on agricultural subsidies. According to the World Bank, aid from traditional donors fell by over eight per cent in 2006-2007. The crisis has been compounded by the huge rise over the past year in food and oil prices.

What difference would $700bn make if applied to poverty?

It wouldn't eradicate global poverty overnight but it would be an unprecedented amount of aid at a time when financial help is needed more than ever; $700bn would be a simply astonishing amount of aid – the equivalent to seven years of international aid in one go. Last year $103.7bn was given in overseas development aid from the top 22 donor countries, a figure dwarfed by the US bailout. The G8, meanwhile, is struggling to stick to its promise to increase aid by $50bn by 2010. But such a huge injection of aid at once could be damaging. Unless carefully regulated, much of it would disappear into the pockets of corrupt leaders and businesses that have long profited from the global aid industry. Then again if every cent went to those who actually needed it, $700bn would be the closest thing to a poverty-busting silver bullet.

Should the rescue plan $700bn go to the poor instead?


* Millions die needlessly every year from poverty and the Western world is failing to meet its own aid targets.

* Recent increases in the price of oil and food have left the world's poor more vulnerable that ever.

* The stock markets should be taught that they cannot simply rely on handouts when they get it wrong.


* That $700bn is desperately needed to steady the chaotically turbulent financial markets.

* Releasing so much in one go would flood the world with aid: much would be taken by corrupt governments.

* The US bailout isn't even comparable to aid. It's an investment from which the state will ultimately profit.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments