The cleric at the centre of a bitter feud at an Oxford University college has sparked condemnation from students and the Church of England after comparing his own case to that of Holocaust victims.
The Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy is currently suspended as Dean of Christ Church after an allegation of sexual harassment was made against him.
The claims – denied by Prof Percy – came after a three-year battle with the college dons over his modernisation plans.
Now he has provoked the ire of the college’s 900-strong student body as well, with an online blog called ‘The Red Triangle’, illustrated by a photograph of the striped uniforms worn by concentration camp victims, along with a Jewish Star of David patch and a ‘P’ symbol denoting political prisoners.
Prof Percy also drew parallels between his own case and that of WW2 German pastor and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was hanged in a concentration camp in 1945.
The Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy (pictured) is currently suspended as Dean of Christ Church after an allegation of sexual harassment was made against him
Prof Percy wrote ‘My experience of the last three years has given me a tiny taste of what it may have been like to be forced to wear the red triangle that the Nazis made political prisoners wear on the streets, and later in the camps.’
The strongly-worded condemnation from both Christ Church Junior Common Room, representing undergraduates and the also the post-grads’ Graduate Common Room, described his rhetoric as ‘abhorrent’ and accused him of trivialising ‘the suffering of victims of Nazi persecution, including the Jewish community, the Polish community, people with disabilities, people of colour, and the LGBTQ+ community, groups to which the Dean refers in his essay.’
The statement made it clear that their condemnation referred only to the blog post and that they were not taking sides in the wider issues surrounding Prof Percy.
A statement from the Diocese of Oxford described the article as a ‘misappropriation of the Holocaust’ and condemned Prof Percy for comparing a sexual harassment complaint to genocide.
Last year, Prof Percy stepped down from his post while the sexual harassment claims that he stroked the hair of a woman in the cathedral vestry were investigated by the Church of England in a Church Disciplinary Measure (CDM) inquiry. Pictured, Oxford
Prof Percy, who has since removed the 2,800-word blog post, claimed in the article, despite numerous references to the Holocaust: ‘I am not comparing myself to a victim of Auschwitz here – please don’t get me wrong. I am, rather, the victim of sustained, vicious, localised non-violent hatred, with elements in the community turning on me and those who support me.’
The 59-year-old father of two whose wife Emma is a chaplain at Trinity College, Oxford, claimed: ‘Over the course of this three years, I have been subjected to public impugning of my reputation, and personal attacks resulting in severe trauma and life-changing injury.
‘I am expected to live and act as though I am a convicted sex-offender, and subjected to draconian restrictions that would have raised eyebrows had I been a paedophile on bail.
‘Few of my colleagues raised a voice in protest. Those that have were quickly taken aside, bullied, victimised and threatened.
‘A good friend summed up the apparent hopelessness of my position. She said, ‘they won’t let you be Dean, much as Bonhoeffer was not allowed be a Lutheran Pastor or the theologian he was called to be’.’
He also criticised the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, for remaining ‘neutral’ during the investigation and failing to give him enough support.
Last year, Prof Percy stepped down from his post while the sexual harassment claims that he stroked the hair of a woman in the cathedral vestry were investigated by the Church of England in a Church Disciplinary Measure (CDM) inquiry.
The Professor denied the claim, as well as a report that he approached her after preaching at a Sunday service and told her ‘I couldn’t take my eyes off you this morning’.
Prof Percy claimed in the article, despite numerous references to the Holocaust: ‘I am not comparing myself to a victim of Auschwitz here’
In June 2021, the President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin DBE, decided that it would not be proportionate to refer the matter to a CDM tribunal, noting that an internal Christ Church tribunal was a more proportionate means of addressing the allegation. The tribunal is currently underway.
Three years ago, Prof Percy was suspended amid claims of ‘behaviour of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature’ in a dispute relating to his £90,000 salary.
The 59-year-old, who friends say is guilty of nothing more than trying to modernise the 500-year-old institution and improve student safety, refused to resign and a retired High Court judge rejected 27 charges against him after an internal tribunal.
Despite being exonerated, Christ Church refused to reimburse his £400,000 legal fees.
Last year the Mail on Sunday revealed how a group of Oxford dons opposed to Prof Percy exchanged emails in which they described him as a ‘manipulative little turd’ and as having a ‘personality disorder’.
In one, a don wrote: ‘I’m always ready to think the worst of him. Does anyone know any good poisoners?’ It prompted a colleague to fantasise about ‘the Inspector Morse episode we could make when his wrinkly withered little body’ is found.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Oxford said of the Red Triangle article:
‘The article posted on Martyn Percy’s personal website is a misappropriation of the Holocaust and is unacceptable. Whatever his complaints about an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint made against him, the Dean should not compare it to genocide.
‘We fully acknowledge the complexity and pain of the present situation for the Dean and the complainant also. Despite his claims otherwise, significant support continues to be provided for all of those involved.
‘Meanwhile, the ongoing legal processes must be allowed to take their course, and Dean Percy remains suspended from cathedral and college duties. We are glad to see the link to the article has now been removed from his website.
Prof Percy was contacted for comment.
Source: Daily Mail UK