Priest’s four-letter facebook rants land him in hot water

Rev Canon Dr Paul Shackerley. Picture: Andrew Roe
Rev Canon Dr Paul Shackerley. Picture: Andrew Roe

AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into the vicar of Doncaster’s online behaviour after a formal complaint was made about four-letter rants and complaining of having to work on a Sunday.

Canon Dr Paul Shackerley, who as priest-in-charge at Doncaster Minster is one of Yorkshire’s most high-profile vicars, posted the comments earlier this year, apparently sparking concern among parishioners.

Dr Shackerley has declined to comment about what had happened, but added: “I have a meeting scheduled with the Bishop in the morning and may be able to say more after that”.

The Facebook extracts have been sent, along with an anonymous letter, to senior clergy, including the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, and Dr Shackerley’s immediate boss, the Bishop of Doncaster.

Also copied in to the correspondence are the Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire, David Moody, who represents the Queen, elected mayor of Doncaster Peter Davies and the Sheffield Diocesan Secretary. The posts begin at around 7pm on a Saturday and say: “I think I will put my feet up. I’ve done f**k all today other than jazz lesson and visit a friend. I hear the fizz of tonic in my gin beckoning.

“Alas, I have religion tomorrow. At least I’m not preaching this week. Preaching next week at St Mary Abbotts Kensington though. Best make that a good one eh?”

The comments are “liked” by eight of Dr Shackerley’s Facebook friends, including Doncaster Minster’s director of music, Darren Williams, and prompt more foul language in response from a separate contributor.

In his next post, Dr Shackerley writes: “Stop swearing. There will be others watching in.”

After further conversation he arranges to meet with friends for “a drinkie” in Peterborough on Saturday, March 17, and says he will be driving back to Doncaster that night in time for church the next morning.

The letter which accompanies the extracts says: “Your priest colleague uses language that most would find abhorrent for a man in his position and pretty distasteful for anyone as a matter of fact.

“I understand that senior members of the Diocese know of this document, but no action appears to have been taken.

“His present behaviour makes him totally unfit to serve the Minster or the people of Doncaster, and totally unfit to serve the church at all in the opinion of many Doncaster residents.”

In an April newsletter to parishioners, Dr Shackerley spoke of the pitfalls of internet sites like Facebook in the wake of the case of a 21-year-old student who used Twitter to racially abuse stricken footballer Fabrice Muamba.

He said: “I have known employees receive disciplinary and dismissal notices for inappropriate postings.”

Last night, the Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows, who issues updates on his own work on Twitter, said he would be meeting with Dr Shackerley “within the next 24 hours” to discuss what had been posted.

He added: “We are aware of the complaint and we will be investigating it. I think we all know that things like Facebook, Twitter and other social media are immediate ways of communicating ‘in the moment’.

“But we do as clergy need to be very conscious of making the distinction between something that might have what I would call a work focus and something that might have a more personal or private focus.

“Obviously for clergy these two lives are often not completely separate, but I will be seeing Paul as soon as I possibly can so that we can talk about what has happened in this case.

“There are a number of quite complex and difficult issues for the church that have been raised by this. They will need to be addressed and we do take seriously the complainants’ comments.”