Archbishop Nichols, the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in England and Wales, said the welfare state was becoming "more punitive".
"I think what's happening is two things", he said.
"One is that the basic safety net, that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution has actually been torn apart. It no longer exists, and that is a real real dramatic crisis.
"And the second is that, in this context, the administration of social assistance - I am told - has become more and more punitive."
"So, if applicants don't get it right then they have to wait and they have to wait for 10 days, for two weeks - with nothing, with nothing. And that's why the role of food banks has become so crucial for so many people in Britain today.
"And for a country of our affluence that quite frankly is a disgrace."
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions replied by saying the previous benefits system was "trapping" the very people it was designed to help.
"Our welfare reforms will transform the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with universal credit making three million households better off and lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty", the spokesman said.
"It's wrong to talk of removing a safety net when we're spending £94bn a year on working age benefits and the welfare system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs."
Well, that's all right then. No worries, no problem, everyone is ok......Not.
The word 'trapping' used by this anonymous spokesman is such a tendentious term it makes it sound as if any change has got to be better. After all, there's nothing worse than being trapped on benefits! Yes there is. Being trapped without benefits. The word trapping is shorthand for a cluster of more negative comments that have to be dressed up to make them palatable, and they range from scrounger, to cheat, to neet. And in this welfare shakeup there are those trapped in houses with an extra bedroom, and compelled to choose between paying extra rent or rent arrears, and for some forced re-housing.There are people whose health assessment for fit to work has been ludicrously unrealistic as the DWP seeks to redefine the term invalidity and disability. Indeed you could be forgiven for wondering if the DWP is trying to invalidate invalidity by a redefinition that is driven more by benefit cuts than the very human predicaments of those who are long term sick.
As for the Archbishop. Why is it that church leaders are constantly rubbished when they speak out on social justice? Where is the Archbishop in error? There are, are there not, (A David Frost rhetorical trope) more foodbanks and more people depending on them? Why is that the socially responsible politician might ask? People are having to wait 10 to 14 days for any benefit payment if they fill in the forms unsatisfactorily? Is this denied? The basic safety net has been removed for some, has it not? And the phrase universal benefit is a strange name for a benefit being increasingly constrained by criteria of entitlement, and whose administration is hardly winning the efficiency plaudits of those who audit and review the performance of Government Departments. And Mr Spokesman from DWP, of course the welfare system supports millions - that is what we pay our taxes and National Insurance for. It isn't those who are in receipt of benefits that the Archbishop was speaking about; but those who are not, or whose benefits have been reduced.
The prophet Amos is another voice to hear to place against what I can only call the comfortable complacency of that response from the DWP - is there no truth whatsoever in what the Archbishop claims? Can no improvements be made in the administration and criteria implementation, and were no mistakes made? Is advice and feedback simply to be contradicted, and in tones that are paternalistic, words that are patronising, and a statement with not a shred of hope for those discenfranchised from the welfare system that the holes in the safety net will be mended.
And the Spokesman in genuine self righteousness asks, "Holes? What holes? A net is made of holes surely?" Aye, but this Government has made the holes bigger, and bigger, the logic of which must be that mopre people will fall through. Here's Amos the Prophet and patron saint of Ranters Against the Idols of Austerity, Deficit Reduction and Finance as its own Reward:
"Establish justice in the gate" (the place where wisdom, justice and compassion are to be dispensed)
"They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals, they who trample the heads of the poor into the dust" - I just want to point out that Amos does not speak of the deserving poor, ever - he does speak quite a lot about the undeserving rich though, with their luxury lifestyles, obscene salaries, voracious business tactics, compassionless extravagance and culpable non awareness of the hardship and exploitation that underpins their way of life.
So Mr Spokesman, don't preach your not so good news, though the word preaching is devalued by the use of cliched feel good words like support, transform, and universal, as if these applied equally and to all. It's because they don't apply equally to all that the Archbishop said what he did.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear, before he opens his mouth as Spokesman for a status quo that is increasingly heartless.