A Church of England bishop for the diocese of Manchester, England, is facing criticism for saying he's more concerned about former health secretary Matt Hancock breaking social distancing rules than having an adulterous affair.
When Bishop David Walker was asked whether the moral character of political leaders should be debated, he replied that he felt sorry for Hancock and was more concerned about him and other politicians breaking the government's social distancing rules than his sexual infidelity.
"I think what is of concern is, of course, when somebody who is telling the rest of us how we have to behave during the pandemic then is videoed very blatantly behaving in an extremely different way,” Walker said in an interview with Nigel Farage and Dehenna Davison, a Conservative Member of Parliament, on GB News' "Political Correction" on Sunday.
Disappointed to see Bishop @BishManchester encouraging sinful behaviour on GBNews.— Calvin Robinson (@calvinrobinson) June 28, 2021
Apparently, breaking the 6th Commandment isn’t controversial.
+David says he’s more concerned with breaking government guidelines.
Still obsessing over Cummings at Barnard Castle, too. For shame pic.twitter.com/s0Z1uuvrIU
Hancock was caught on CCTV surveillance video recorded in May embracing and kissing his aide, Gina Coladangelo, in defiance of COVID-19 social distancing regulations. The incident is being compared in the British press to another incident involving a government official flouting regulations. Last year, at the height of the lockdowns, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s then-senior aide Dominic Cummings visited his parents' farm in Barnard Castle in Durham County, driving 260 miles from his home when people were ordered to stay at their primary residence.
“What [Hancock] has got right and what Mr. Cummings got wrong with the Barnard Castle incident last year is that if the rest of us are going to keep the rules, then the people who make the rules have to be seen to be keeping them as well. So I think I'm more worried about the fact that he failed to keep the social distancing than I am about the fact that here is a middle-aged bloke having a bit of a fling," Walker added.
"It is a betrayal; it is a betrayal of marriage vows by both parties because both the people involved were married, both have got children. It is a betrayal. In the church, we put a lot of effort into helping couples who are going through difficulties in their marriage; we pray for marriage.
He continued: “The Mother's Union, one of our longest-standing organizations, was set up in the 19th century specifically to promote marriage and family life. So we really care about people who make those marriage vows, and many of them in our churches are keeping them, and we try to help them to do that.”
Media commentators and others interpreted the bishop's remarks differently, some were astonished and others gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Journalist Calvin Robinson opined that Walker’s words didn't convey the appropriate degree of seriousness from a religious leader and said he was "disappointed" to see the bishop "encouraging sinful behavior."
“Hancock and Colangelo are both married with children. Their adultery has broken apart two families,” he tweeted. “For a bishop in the Church of England to say it’s ‘just a bit of a fling’ seems somewhat frivolous.”
Author Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, the largest Jewish publication in the U.K., was incredulous, tweeting Sunday: “The man is a BISHOP! If even a bishop thinks marriage vows meaningless…”
Replying to Pollard on Twitter, The U.K. Times' journalist Georgie Frost said she didn’t think the bishop was saying vows had no meaning.
“Think of everything we've had to sacrifice due to the restrictions: being with dying loved ones, funerals, weddings, religious services...Those millions of people are probably who he cares about more than one man's acts,” she said of Walker’s words.