How Many Euros Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb?

Father Anthony Sutch of St. Benet's Church in Suffolk, England, paid enormous fees to have lightbulbs changed in his church. Why? The European Union's "Working at Heights Directive." Father Sutch tells Scott Simon about it.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

How many European Union members does it take to screw in a lightbulb? The answer to that question isn't as easy or as funny as you might thing. The EU stipulates in its working at heights directive that if a person could be injured falling from a height then certain rules must be observed. Those rules just cost St. Benet's Catholic Church in Suffolk, England, 1,300 pounds to screw in four lightbulbs. Father Anthony Sutch used to get them changed for a lot less than that. He joins us from the church.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Father ANTHONY SUTCH (Parish Priest, St. Benet's Catholic Church): A pleasure.

SIMON: And where are the lights? How high up were they?

Father SUTCH: They're about 40 feet. There's six of them, and seven at the back wall, but six of them are fairly high.

SIMON: Now how'd you used to change them?

Father SUTCH: Well, I'm not much good at heights myself. I don't go up ladders. But my old company, before these EU directives came in, used to get a ladder and shin up it.

SIMON: What'd you have to do this time?

Father SUTCH: Well, this time they had to--because of these regulations--build scaffolding towers. So they had to have more than one person to begin with. They had to have two. In fact, I think at one point they had three people. And they built these towers up to reach lightbulb, unbuilt them, moved them, built them up again. So they had to do it four times. So instead of an average bill, I suppose, of about 100--or it should have been about 150 pounds--it came in it at 1,300.

SIMON: Thir--which is a couple thousand dollars or more in the United States.

Father SUTCH: It is indeed. It's a lot of money for my little parish, as well. But what I find very difficult is the fact that we seem to be legislated about almost everything we do. The people that used to go up a ladder were professional, and in 110 years nobody has fallen off a ladder in my church. So suddenly I've got this extra expense.

SIMON: Now, Father Anthony, I don't mean to give you how to advice on how to conduct your affairs or certainly...

Father SUTCH: Go ahead. I'm always looking...

SIMON: ...your...

Father SUTCH: ...for it.

SIMON: Well, just I recall a beautiful Christmas Eve Mass I attended in Italy a number of years ago where it was all candlelight.

Father SUTCH: Well, I would agree with you there, but you have to be careful on that one. You better look up the EU regulations on fire. You know, if there's too many candles and then all the heat alarms go off and the whole place sprinkles with water, so we all have to get out and wouldn't be able to have a service. But I do agree with you.

SIMON: Yeah.

Father SUTCH: One's always looking at one's back for the fear of some regulation saying that what we're doing is illegal and ending up in prison.

SIMON: We wish you a well-illuminated Mass on Sunday.

Father SUTCH: Let me tell you what. When I was a young priest, we used to have a joke saying `How many monks does it take to change a lightbulb?' And in those days it was two: one to go up the ladder and do the work, the other to prepare the gin and tonic to celebrate. We need a bottle of whiskey before we go up, I think.

SIMON: Well, Father Anthony, you should have quite a turnout on Sunday.

Father SUTCH: I have a horrible feeling I will, and all for the wrong reasons. But still, if you can get them into church, why not?

SIMON: Thank you so much, Father Anthony.

Father SUTCH: A pleasure, indeed.

SIMON: Fr. Anthony Sutch, parish priest at St. Benet's Church in Suffolk, England.

And it's 22 minutes before the hour.

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