Priest on the defensive after ranting about ‘messy’ beggars

An outspoken Catholic priest has defended himself after being condemned for labelling poor people “lying, drug-abusing illegitimates”.

Priest on the defensive after ranting about ‘messy’ beggars

Fr Ray Blake, priest at St Magdalen’s Church in Brighton, East Sussex, in England, wrote a controversial blog post titled ‘The Trouble With The Poor’.

He described the poor as being “lying and messy” people sent by God to test his faith.

Writing in his blog, Fr Blake described one homeless man who regularly turned up at his church pleading for money as “an irritating little bastard”.

He accused the beggar of making a mess of his prayers as he passed his cap around his congregation looking for cash.

“The trouble with the poor is that they are messy,” he wrote. “There is a secluded area between the church and our hall, a passage, occasionally we find someone has got a few cardboard boxes together and has slept there, and if it has been raining leaves a sodden blanket, cardboard there to be cleaned up. Often it also smells of urine, and there is often excrement there, and sometimes a used needle or two.”

However, Fr Blake says he was actually preaching compassion for poor people: “Even in our pain and suffering we can grow complacent, ‘the poor’ challenge our complacency. They interrupt our comfort, our prayer, our routine bringing the mess of their lives into our lives.

“The Catholic doctrine is that complacency about salvation is dangerous. I have grown complacent in my lifestyle, I don’t want it changed, the message of the Gospels seem to be let the poor in to mess it up a little.”

Fr Blake described how the destitute “ring the door bell at every hour of the day and night” and “tell lies” to get cash. And he singles out one homeless man who interrupts his services by launching his own collection.

“During the silence of the Canon the man will pray aloud: ‘Jesus, I want you to bless Fr Ray and God, can you persuade the good people here to give to the poor — I am poor.’ Unchecked, he will take his cap off and have a collection. It makes a mess of our prayers — it stops some coming to Mass here.”

Referring to other homeless people, Fr Blake said: “They tell you their Gran is dying in Southampton and they need the train fare. You give it to them and if you don’t find them drunk in the street, they are back the next day and the other Gran is dying in Hastings this time.”

Fr Blake’s blog post was picked up by numerous British papers. But he says he has suffered “a malicious and deliberate misrepresentation”. He also suggests that the local journalist who first wrote about his post “might like to help on our soup run, it doesn’t have to be 365 day a year, once a week would be fine, providing he treats our clients with respect”.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church said Fr Blake’s blog was an independent post which was not representative of the Church’s views.

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