Workplace bullying of the clergy, by both bishops and parishioners, is “rife”, says Unite the Union.
The union has set up a hotline for bullied clergy, and is dealing with up to 150 cases a year, reports the BBC.
According to Unite, the bullies are often superiors within the church, who may be under financial pressure.
Reverend Gerry Barlow, who chairs the faith workers branch of Unite, said some bishops treat people shamefully.
According to Terry Young, a former church minister who now runs the helpline, clergy “are picked on for everything they do wrong, so in the end the person runs around terrified”.
He added: “You see these people unsupported, driven into depression and a nervous breakdown.”
Clergy are vulnerable, says Unite, because they are classed as self-employed office-holders, and therefore exempt from the protection offered by employment law.
They are unable to claim unfair dismissal, or seek protection under health and safety laws.
Unite is lobbying for a change in the law to better protect members of the clergy.