"Jesus said 'Love your neighbor'; he didn't say 'Love Marks and Spencers,'" he said, referring to the British retailer.
Mr. Papworth distinguished between robbing small merchants and individuals—which he thinks is wrong—and stealing from large retail corporations, whose "boardroom barons" plot "how to take the maximum amount of money out of people's pockets for the minimum in return." Such companies, he says, drive smaller stores out of business and harm communities.
Although Mr. Papworth denied he was encouraging shoplifting, he did say that, "if people wander in and wander out without paying for the stuff, I think it is a perfectly comprehensible action."
Other Church of England officials distanced themselves from the priest's remarks. "The commandment 'Thou shalt not steal' is an absolute one," said Pete Broadbent, who serves the church as deacon of Northolt in London.
Home Secretary Michael Howard characterized priest Papworth's comments as "disgraceful." He asked, "How can we inculcate in our children the difference between right and wrong, how can we hope to teach them moral principles when those in positions of authority in the church make remarks of this kind?" (Source: The Associated Press.) GN