Middle-class drinkers who consume alcohol in their homes are just as irresponsible as drunk youths on the streets, a senior bishop has claimed.
The Rt Rev John Gladwin, the Bishop of Chelmsford, criticised the double-standards he claims exist in the attitudes of more affluent sections of society towards Britain's "binge-drinking" culture.
He argued that they could not condemn teenagers' behaviour if they are getting drunk themselves, and claimed that they are ultimately responsible for the rise in alcoholism.
His comments follow the release of official figures that show one in four adults are putting their health at risk by drinking too much and that 360,000 11 to 15 year-olds get drunk every week.
Bishop Gladwin, a former social responsibility secretary for the Church, called for a new approach to the problem, which he said was caused by "growing prosperity".
"While do we have a significant problem among young people, not least the binge drinking that breaks out onto our streets, that is not the issue," he said.
"Growing prosperity is behind the rise in alcoholism. We now go out and buy our wine for the weekend."
The bishop said that it was unfair to draw attention to young and poorer people getting drunk in public when they are also having too much alcohol, but in the privacy of their own homes.
"Often poorer people in society haven't got the protection – the safety of jobs and homes – so when young people do go out clubbing it's all very public, whereas for older people you can collapse at home at the weekend and have levels of alcohol consumption that are just as bad."
He added: "People in the middle-classes have got into habits of high levels of alcohol consumption without thinking through the implications for the whole community.
"They can't turn around and complain about another generation who, with cheap alcohol and easy access to it, are doing the same but more publicly."
One in three men and one in six women are classified as hazardous drinkers, according to the NHS Information Centre, while six per cent of men and two per cent of women drink so much that they are likely to suffer physical or mental harm such as liver disease or depression.
The charity Alcohol Concern warned last month that "While the attention paid to binge-drinking and town centre disorder is important, there is a crucial need to tackle the hidden harm caused by alcohol to older people, women and children."
A Government report last year, commissioned by Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary, criticised middle-class parents who introduce their children to wine-drinking using the excuse that the approach works on the Continent.
Bishop Gladwin admitted that clergy were also affected by the problems with alcohol.
"Clergy have gone beyond the limit and got themselves into higher levels of alcohol dependency," he said.
Discussing the Rt Rev Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, who was alleged to have been drunk after a Christmas drinks reception at the Irish embassy, he said: "I like Tom [Butler] because he's a straightforward human-being like the rest of us. There can be no doubt about his shared humanity.
"I think that's why people warm to him. I guess people know that this (alcohol) is an issue for a lot of people. This is what lots of people's lives can be like.
"Whatever went on, right or wrong, a bishop caught up in it and seeking to deal with it is a sign of a shared humanity."
After the party, in December 2006, witnesses reported seeing a man who looked like Bishop Butler climb into the back of an unlocked Mercedes and start throwing toys out the car.
When asked what he was doing, the man replied: "I'm the Bishop of Southwark, it's what I do."
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Published: 9:00PM BST 13 Jun 2009
Source - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/new...are-as-bad-as-riotous-youths-says-bishop.html