An Oxford Dean involved in a bitter dispute at Christ Church College has been criticised for comparing his plight to the Holocaust.
The Very Rev. Prof. Martyn Percy is currently suspended after an allegation of sexual harassment was made against him, which he denies. The claim reportedly comes in the midst of his three-year battle with college academics over his modernisation plans.
In a 2,800-word blog post titled “The Red Triangle” and illustrated with a photograph of the concentration camp striped pyjamas uniform, a Star of David and a “P” symbol, used to denote political prisoners, Prof. Percy compared his case also to that of the anti-Nazi activist and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He 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.”
He went on to write: “Over the course of these 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 to be a Lutheran Pastor or the theologian he was called to be’.”
He also insisted, however: “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.”
Prof. Percy was condemned by the undergraduate Christ Church Junior Common Room and the Graduate Common Room, which described his post as “abhorrent” and claimed that he was 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 insisted that it was referring only to the blog post and was not taking a position on the wider issues surrounding Prof. Percy.
Prof. Percy has removed the blog post.
Last year, he 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.
Three years ago, he was suspended following claims of “behaviour of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature” in a dispute relating to his salary. He refused to resign and a retired High Court judge rejected 27 charges against him after an internal tribunal, but Christ Church refused to reimburse his legal fees.
Last year, e-mails from Prof. Percy’s colleagues disparaging him were uncovered by the media.
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.”