A Roman Catholic bishop has delivered an extraordinary attack on David Cameron by accusing him of being “devoid of moral competence” and comparing him to Nero, the brutal Roman emperor who persecuted Christians.
Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, said he considered the Prime Minister “out of his depth” and Christians cannot trust him given the “contradiction” between his statements on religious matters and his actions.
He also used a two-page letter to Mr Cameron, to accuse him of “belittling” the Church of England by attacking its reluctance to ordain women bishops.
The outspoken criticisms mark a new low in relations between Downing Street and the Catholic Church in the wake of the Government’s decision to legalise gay marriage in England and Wales.
The Church is also upset the Prime Minister has refused to support moves by Christians to go to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to demand their right to wear the cross.
In a separate move, Philip Tartaglia, the archbishop of Glasgow, said it was a “great disappointment” that Mr Cameron’s plans to change the laws on royal succession would not end the anomaly that bans the monarch from being Catholic.
Bishop Devine used his letter to accuse Mr Cameron of claiming to be an advocate for Christian values while undermining freedom of conscience and family life.
“You vacillate, ambivalent about the role you wish to perform – the disciple of David or Nero,” he wrote, referring to the ECHR row over the cross.
“With such a contradiction between your statements and actions, on what basis can you expect anyone – Christians in particular – to trust or respect you?”
Nero is known as the first-century emperor who “fiddled while Rome burned” and is reputed to have had Christians burned in his garden at night to provide a source of light.
Accusing the Prime Minister of acting with “indecent haste” to legalise gay marriage, the bishop added: “I suspect it is only a matter of time before you go one step further and outlaw the teaching of Christian doctrine on sexual morality on the grounds of discrimination.”
He also attacked Mr Cameron’s call for the Church of England to “get with the programme” by allowing women bishops, arguing he was setting a bad example by “belittling the nation’s established church”.
“So what next for David Cameron’s spiritual mission?” the bishop asked sarcastically.
“So far as the Roman Catholic Church … is concerned, you are out of your depth. We will take no finger-prodding lectures from anyone or any group devoid of moral competence.” He argued religious freedom was not respected in the UK under Mr Cameron’s premiership.
Vatican City: Talking to priests, he recounts how he took a cross from a deceased mentor.