Monday, November 18, 2002

Words of the Day: nepotism, simony, barratry

Monday, 18 November 2002

With his wife, brother and son all holding ecclesiastical offices, allegations of nepotism have been raised against the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen. Responding to these allegations on AM this morning, Dr Jensen told Philippa McDonald that accusations of nepotism would not be made by those who

know what nepotism means, which means providing ecclesiastical preferrment for money and so forth and so on.

This prompted me to haul out the Macquarie once again where I found the following definitions:

nepotism: patronage bestowed in consideration of family relationship and not of merit.

simony: 1. making profit out of sacred things. 2. the sin of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferments, benefices, etc.

I couldn't find a definition of barratry, but I gathered from reading Dante's Inferno a while back that it was to civil office what simony is to ecclesiastical office. Of course the notion of barratry is rather old-hat in our present day and age and it's generally accepted, for example, that when private corporations make donations to political parties it's a normal part of the democratic process. Obviously, there's nothing untoward in Australian corporations which trade in the UK donating money to the British Conservative Party, or in English corporations providing the same support to the Conservative Pasrty here. As Ron Walker, former treasurer of the Liberal Party pointed out in his interview on AM this morning, it's perfectly normal for the Conservative Parties in the two countries to help each other out by raising donations of this kind and it's been going on since the Churchill/Menzies years. Which makes me wonder why I raised the subject of barratry at all, now that I think about it.

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