'I'd Do It All over Again, Even Though It Hit My Family Hard'

Article excerpt

The priest who backed the Occupy protest stands by his decision to quit St Paul's

His decision precipitated a crisis in the Church of England and helped legitimise a protest movement. On 27 October, the charismatic Giles Fraser tweeted he was stepping down as canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral.

In his first full interview about the events, Dr Fraser said he stands by his decision, though he regrets the storm that engulfed the Church. The resignation, a matter of loyalty to faith over commitment, left him hunted by the press and facing an uncertain future for his family. But it rekindled his passion for social justice. The Occupy protests resonated with "middle England", he said, adding that the Prime Minister's call for a moral code needed to look at institutions as well as individuals.

Dr Fraser's stand came when the cathedral's chapter voted in favour of a legal action to forcibly move protesters from St Paul's. It polarised a Church charged with acting contrary its teachings - and led to the Dean of St Paul's, the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, resigning after the Archbishop of Canterbury reluctantly entered the debate.

"It happened quickly but it wasn't in any sense I was uncertain about the decision," Dr Fraser said. "You have a conflict of loyalty. On one hand a loyalty to colleagues, cathedral and chapter. But you have a loyalty to the reason the cathedral was built in the first place. And that has ultimately to be a primary loyalty. It is not that other people don't have that loyalty, they just thought that it ought to be expressed differently. I could not work out how I could stay there and say the things I wanted to say in good conscience, had I been party to a decision to go ahead with an eviction."

First to feel the effects were his family, a wife and three children who will have to move out of their grace and favour home by April. "It means possibly moving my daughter out of school. My eldest is in her GCSE year," he said. "The way I explained the decision to my children was to get a YouTube clip of police very forcibly moving people at Occupy Melbourne. …