Each week, Canvas asks a public figure to choose three of the seven deadly sins to confess to. This week, Bishop Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland, enters the box.


How is someone who has dedicated their life to God and to helping other people, as you have, prideful?

I think there's a subtlety to the deadly sins - pride is not just a pompous fool. Over the past couple of years I have had some quite serious eyesight issues. I've had seven operations and fortunately my eyesight is improving but I have had times when I haven't been able to drive, so I have had to depend on other people to drive me. There have been times when I have found it difficult to read and people have had to read a text to me, or blow up an email. Even on a plane, sometimes I have had to ask the airline staff to show me to my seat because I couldn't read the seat numbers. For me that has been quite a helpful exercise in humility.


Remembering that it is actually good for people to rely on other people?

Yes, but also to be aware that I'm not indestructible. Pride is the sense that I can take anything life throws at me - I'll cope. At its worst it's the sense that I don't even need God in my life now, not that I have ever felt that way. I was pushed into a situation where I couldn't get by and had to ask for help, which males hate to do. I think it comes with growing older too. As we get older, we realise more and more clearly that we desperately need the support and the friendship and the love of others. That is one antidote for the seeds of pride that can fester away in our hearts.

This is a different use of the word pride but what are you most proud of achieving in your nearly 25 years as the Bishop of Auckland?
Keeping a sense of humour and keeping my sanity. I'm the oldest in a big family, I am one of seven and I often think that growing up in a big family is valuable training, for trying to keep everyone on the same page, for keeping the peace.

I find it hard to believe that you are a slothful person.
I'm quite interested in sloth. Spiritual writers call sloth the noontime devil, the idea being that it's a temptation that hits you at mid-life, a bit like a mid-life crisis. The old hermits who lived in the desert used to speak of this sloth as hitting you, from out of left field as it were. Suddenly you are confronted with questions like, :Is this all there is to my life? Am I just on this treadmill forever?" The danger is that you just give up on your commitments and other people. It can make you feel a bit apathetic, you lose your fire and your enthusiasm.

Is this type of sloth something that you consciously guard against?
No, but when it hits me I am not caught unawares. I think most people, and I have certainly had my moments, sometimes feel trapped and you lose the joy that initially inspired you. It might be in your marriage, in your work but for me, in ministry. Generally if you just keep on keeping on, you get through it and rediscover the enthusiasm and joy, the passion.

Why did you choose greed?
It had always been my intention to travel lightly through life, not to acquire a lot of possessions, to be free to move at a moment's notice as it were. I always thought that was a good goal. Now I am in my late-60s and I look around at the stuff that I have acquired and I think, "Oh my goodness, what happened to the dream?" The stuff is actually quite good stuff, it might be books or files or photographs or gifts people have given to me -paintings, icons, things like that - but it's the sort of stuff that means you can't move lightly through life.

That doesn't sound like greed, the accumulation of stuff for the sake of having stuff.

Yes, but the surprise for me is that it has happened despite my best intentions. I didn't set out to acquire the stuff but it's all sticking to me.


Looking at the inverse of the deadly sins, the virtues, are there any that are particularly important to you?

One virtue I do try to cultivate is generosity, the opposite of greed, because my father was an extremely generous person and I think I have got quite a mingy gene. I think, "Oh can we afford this, can we afford that?" But my father was very large-hearted and often when the mingy or stingy thought runs through my mind, I think of my father - be generous, be generous, be generous - and I'm sure that's the right path. Generosity breeds generosity.