Five of the Church’s most senior figures said the Government now presided over a country suffering from family breakdown, an unhealthy reliance on debt and a growing divide between rich and poor.
The Bishop of Manchester accused Labour of being “beguiled by money” and “morally corrupt”.
The Bishop of Hulme said they were “morally suspect” and the Bishop of Durham said they had reneged on their promises.
They were joined by the bishops of Winchester and Carlisle who claimed ministers had squandered their opportunity to transform society and run out of steam.
The bishops said Labour sacrificed principled politics and long-term solutions for policies designed to win votes. One described the Government as “tired” and another said its policies were “scandalous”.
Meanwhile, in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron accused Gordon Brown of leading Britain to the “brink of bankruptcy”.
The Conservative leader said the “debt crisis”, which he claimed was the Government’s responsibility alone, would serve as the Prime Minister’s “political epitaph”.
Although they were speaking independently in a series of interviews with The Sunday Telegraph, the bishops’ common criticisms reflect the deepening rift between the Government and the Church on social and moral issues. Relations have become increasingly fractious following condemnation of Mr Brown’s spending plans by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the publication of a report that accused the Government of marginalising the Church.
In February, the General Synod, the Church’s parliament, will hold a debate on the implications of the financial crisis that is expected to lead to heavy criticism of the Government. The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, said ministers had not done enough to help the poor.
“Labour made a lot of promises, but a lot of them have vanished into thin air,” he said. “We have not seen a raising of aspirations in the last 13 years, but instead there is a sense of hopelessness.
“While the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer. When a big bank or car company goes bankrupt, it gets bailed out, but no one seems to be bailing out the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and seeing their savings diminished.”
The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, condemned Labour for encouraging people to get further into debt. “The Government has acted scandalously. This is not just an economic issue, but a moral one. It’s about what we value,” he said.
“The Government believes that money can answer all of the problems and has encouraged greed and a love of money that the Bible says is the root of all evil. It is morally corrupt because it encourages people to get into a lifestyle of believing they can always get what they want.”
Bishop McCulloch said New Labour was guilty of pursuing the policies championed by Margaret Thatcher, which the Church condemned in its landmark 1985 report, Faith in the City. It blamed Thatcherite policies for the growth of spiritual and economic poverty in Britain’s inner cities.
“Both administrations have been beguiled by money,” said Bishop McCulloch.
“It is ironic that under a Labour government we have the poor feeling they have been betrayed and the gap is getting ever greater. Any government of integrity would have exercised restraint, but this has been sadly lacking.”
The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the Church’s Bishop for Urban Life and Faith and also the Bishop of Hulme, said: “The Government isn’t telling people who are already deep in debt to stop overextending themselves, but instead is urging us to spend more.
“That is morally suspect and morally feeble. It is unfair and irresponsible of the Government to put pressure on the public to spend in order to revive the economy.”
Bishop Lowe suggested that it was a cynical ploy to improve the economy in time for the next general election.
“They are trying to take the credit for this, but are playing with people’s livelihoods in the process.” The bishop commissioned a Church report, Moral, But No Compass, published earlier this year, which said Labour had failed society and marginalised the Church.
It revealed the level of unease felt among senior clerical figures over the direction being taken by the Government.
The Rt Rev Graham Dow, the Bishop of Carlisle, and the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, said Labour deserved credit for some past achievements but it was struggling to balance its conscience with the pressure to win the next election.
“I agree with the Conservatives that the breakdown of the family is a crucial element in the difficulties of our present society,” said Bishop Dow.
“The Government hasn’t given sufficient support to that because it is scared of losing votes.” He argued that Labour’s failure to back marriage and its “insistence on supporting every choice of lifestyle” had had a negative effect on society. “I think Labour has got tired,” he said. Bishop Scott-Joynt said:
“The Government hasn’t done anything like enough to help those less well off, particularly in terms of tax redistribution. There also has been the disaster of the 10p tax.
“It is imperative that this Government help the poorer people and hold the hard-hit communities in its sights, but it seems to have its eye on re-election instead.”
A senior ministerial source said: “The Government has a proud record on promoting fairness and opportunity for all, combating poverty and in tackling Third World debt and promoting international development.
“We also believe it is morally right to provide real help and resources to people facing unemployment or worried about losing their homes.”
*Gordon Brown will use his New Year message to pledge to work with Barack Obama, the US President-Elect, to end the economic crisis and get to grips with climate change. The Prime Minister will say that the main challenge of 2009 will be to build a “better tomorrow, today”.