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Vicar: Shoplifting "Least Worst Option"

Recession-battered retailers in Britain were desperate for a trickle of profit from this year's seasonal buying spree. So, reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, they may have been understandably irked by the comments of a reverend in the northern English city of York.

"My advice, as a Christian priest - to those at the bottom of the social ladder - is to shoplift," Father Tim Jones said in his Christmas sermon. "I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices."

Rev. Jones meant his remarks to provoke.

"It is a dangerous thing to say, but it's borne out of a deep frustration at the plight of the people living at the very bottom," Jones told CBS News.

Life at the bottom of a society more interested in consuming than in charity can drive the destitute to desperate acts, like violent crime. In that case - says Jones - shoplifting is a better alternative.

"What I observe is that we create a situation in which shoplifting - terrible though it is - is sometimes the least worst option for a little time," explains Jones of his controversial stance.

On London streets, his remarks struck a chord with Christmas shoppers.

"He's doing it to make a point, to shock people into realizing the system isn't actually working. People are falling through the gaps," said Carrie Murrow.

"I wouldn't advocate they should shoplift, but I think one should have every understanding of people who are in difficulty at Christmas," added Simon Rodway.

And Agnes said that while she knows it's "wrong," she sympathizes with the people purpertrating the crime. "I hope they get away with it - truthfully."

Anglican church elders were less forgiving.

In a statement they made clear that - whatever the circumstances - the bottom line has not changed; "thou shalt not steal."

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