Archbishop Cranmer Thomas Cranmer Christ Church Oxford

Oxford Dons plan litigation against Archbishop Cranmer

In all the recent reporting in the Times and Private Eye about the continuing saga at Christ Church, Oxford, there has been a slight omission. Perhaps it’s so slight that nobody in the mainstream media is overly concerned about it, or perhaps nobody noticed it. Or perhaps they’re not overly concerned, or even remotely concerned, because it doesn’t concern them. And if it did, they’d be insured against it.

The Dons of Christ Church have been reading about themselves on this blog now for more than three years, and apparently they don’t like what they’ve read. So much so they’ve asked their fellow Trustees and members of the Governing Body of the College to provide funding for preliminary advice about whether to take legal action against Archbishop Cranmer for defamation.

Unfortunately, despite having been a pile of ash for 466 years, the statute of limitations does not apply.

The Governing Body have naturally given their assent, apparently without a budget or funding cap, but they have told the Charity Commission that they would abide by whatever budget or funding cap the Commission thought appropriate, which is very gracious of them, not to say charitable, since these are charitable funds purportedly for the purposes of education. It is interesting that the Governing Body of Christ Church deems it wholly inappropriate to use charitable funds to reimburse the Dean’s substantial legal expenses, despite him having won every vexatious case they have brought against him, but are ready and willing to fund their mates in the speculative procurement of legal advice, and dispense the Charity’s money for their individual benefits.

Since Christ Church has an endowment in excess of £half-a-billion, and Archbishop Cranmer doesn’t have quite that much, it is likely that any such action would bankrupt the blog, merely in the legal administration required prior to any trial hearing. This is the sort of litigious bullying and harassment which is often inflicted by wealthy people or Goliath institutions who have no intention of ever going to trial, but can afford to make all the threats necessary to intimidate and bludgeon their target in order to attain a desired destruction.

But this, of course, is how bullies operate, and exactly how they have driven the Very Rev’d Prof. Martyn Percy to material impoverishment and clinical depression. They first of all target and isolate their victim, grinding them down with reams of legal and quasi-legal paperwork and protracted process; and then they target the victim’s supporters, warning them off with threats of career detriment and spreading smeary rumours about their friend’s ‘morality’; and then they go for the sources of truth dissemination – those who are trying to expose an injustice or inject a degree of transparency and accountability into the muddy and murky morass into which everyone is sinking.

The bully is king on the chess board: each square of movement is meticulously strategic and sustained. But he is wholly dependent on his protective knights to duck and dive, his rooks to deliver a back-rank checkmate, or a bishop to sweep around diagonally, if sometimes obliviously. And when they all conspire to pile onto a pawn, the consequences are perhaps inevitable. The hope (and prayer) is that the Queen, as Visitor, may use her ubiquitous power to control a number of squares simultaneously, but she is due to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee in a few weeks time and is understandably preoccupied.

So, to those who muse a litigious pile-on and are consulting m’learned friends on the persecution of a blogging pawn, please consider that everything that has been written over the past three years has been verifiable truth, witnessed conduct or honest opinion expressed in the public interest. And if Dr X, Professor Y or the Rev’d Z feel they have been misrepresented or defamed, they are at liberty to make contact and request a clarification or the withdrawal of an allegation, which will of course be considered.

One might expect the secularist-atheist Dr X and humanist-agnostic Professor Y to use Christ Church’s considerable charitable funds to fish for a legal case. It would then cost them nothing to learn that their chances of success in the High Court might be 50:50, or, at best, 60:40. But what if they’re put at a 75% chance of success? Do they then return to the Governing Body and ask for more? After all, what is £50,000 when you’re worth £500,000,000?

But the Rev’d Z has a scriptural injunction against such a course of action:

If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! (1Cor 6:1-6).

So, Brother Z, as you intone your antiphons for the canticles at Vespers, please consider writing privately, in complete confidence, and explaining what wrong you believe you have been done, because Christians should love one another, and barristers are very expensive.

And in the consideration of any depreciation or defamation to which Dr X, Professor Y or the Rev’d Z believe they have been subject, please also consider that it is as nothing compared to the catalogue of lies, smears, denigration, innuendo, humiliation and total character assassination endured by the Very Rev’d Prof. Martyn Percy over the past three years, having had his bank account emptied, his mental health trashed, his career terminated, and his good name dragged through the mud by a vindictive cabal of the Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford.

Aided and abetted by the Diocese.

Jesus said: ‘And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.’

The House is manifestly and irrevocably divided against itself, so much so that, according to the Eye, Trustees are now intent on suing one another for defamation, and permission has been sought by the Governing Body to fund the action.

To be clear, this is an anti-Dean member of the Governing Body suing a pro-Dean member of the Governing Body, not at his own expense, but apparently with educational charitable funds (presumably subject to a budget or cap set by the Charity Commission). The governance of Christ Church is manifestly deficient, if not delinquent. The Governing Body is damaging the reputation and standing of the College, if not of the Collegiate University. If you were an alumnus or alumna of the House, generously donating funds from your hard-earned salary in profound appreciation for everything a glorious Oxford education has done for you, would you want your cash spaffed away on intra-trustee litigation?

Would you want it squandered on the procurement of legal opinion for potential litigation against a lowly blog?

It is to be noted that the Dons aren’t interested in suing the Times or Private Eye. It speaks volumes, doesn’t it, that they go for the little guy.

David was a little guy.