In a sure sign of the impact of globalization, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to Europe. In London, the protests have centered on St. Paul’s Cathedral (right), an impressive, if slightly sterile, architectural wonder that Sir Christopher Wren designed in the 17th Century (you may remember the school rhyme about Sir Christopher quoted above). The protestors have not targeted St. Paul’s to protest the Church of England. St. Paul’s sits in London’s financial district, the City of London. So protestors have erected a tent city at the entrance to the church. It’s a pretty obvious location, if you want to send a signal to financiers.
The problem is that the tent city blocks access to the church, and at least some clergy want the protestors to leave. St. Paul’s commenced an eviction action against the protestors last month, but that has led to what the New York Times describes as “a leadership crisis” within the Church of England. Some Anglican clergy support the protestors; two leading priests at St. Paul’s resigned this week over the lawsuit. Following intervention by the Anglican Bishop of London, St. Paul’s has suspended the lawsuit to see if it and the protestors can reach some kind of agreement.
As a gesture of good will, perhaps, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, yesterday expressed sympathy for the protestors’ aims and suggested some legal reforms. The archbishop endorsed a Pontifical Council’s call last week for higher taxes on financial transactions and for the restructuring of banks that have received public bailout funds (discussed by my CLR Forum colleague Marc DeGirolami here). The Pontifical Council’s proposals, the archbishop said, should be a starting point for discussion of serious legislative reform. Whatever else they have done, the protestors at St. Paul’s do seem to have succeeded in getting more high-ranking clergy to inject religious views into public policy debates. – MLM