[Updates at the bottom of this post as of 4-25-2010 AD at 8:28pm Central time]
An internal U.K. government memo titled “Policy planning ahead of the Pope’s visit” have caused an uproar in Britain and which included the following suggestions:
- The launching of Papal-branded condoms.
- Blessing homosexual marriages.
- Opening an abortion ward.
There is more, but you get the picture.
The memo was distributed to key officials in Downing Street and Whitehall. Many recipients were not so pleased which eventually led to an investigation and finally to a public apology by the U.K. Foreign Office:
“The text was not cleared or shown to Ministers or senior officials before circulation. As soon as senior officials became aware of the document, it was withdrawn from circulation.”
“The individual responsible has been transferred to other duties. He has been told orally and in writing that this was a serious error of judgement and has accepted this view.”
“The Foreign Office very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused.”
The Catholic bishop of Nottingham, Bishop Malcom McMahon, was none to pleased:
“This is appalling. You don’t invite someone to your country and then disrespect them in this way”
“It’s outlandish and outrageous to assume that any of the ideas are in any way suitable for the Pope.”
With the increased attacks on Holy Mother Church in the United States and in western Europe, especially on Pope Benedict XVI, to see government officials to exhibit such disrespectful behavior towards the Vicar of Christ is disturbing.
Especially with the unsavory history within England towards the Catholic Church.
Jonathan Wynne-Jones succinctly expresses this in his London Daily Telegraph, which received the leaked memos, column late last evening:
Bishop McMahon said Catholics would be concerned that the document reflects the existence within Whitehall of officials prejudiced against people of faith, and predicted that it would cause embarrassment for the Government. The Prime Minister said in last week’s party leaders’ debate that he was looking forward to the papal visit, but ministers have clashed repeatedly with the Catholic Church over legislation.
There is understood to be increasing unease at the Vatican over the level of hostility that the Pope is likely to face in Britain, with protests and even threats of arrest from secularists. The disclosure of the secret proposals is bound to deepen concerns and cause dismay among the country’s four million Catholics.
Let us pray for the safety of His Holiness on his trip to blessed England.
Update I: Times of London sources – “entire (papal) visit could now be in jeopardy”.
A source told The Times that the issue was being dismissed by many as a joke that went wrong but of more serious substance was that it could be written and disseminated at all. The source questioned what the consequences would be if such a document were written by a British government official about the head of an Islamic country.
[Yes indeed, what would have been the reaction if this 'memo' was insulting the head of an Islamic country? Heads would roll-figuratively of course.]
Update II: Gerald Warner of the exemplary newspaper the (London) Daily Telegraph expressed his sentiments for me brilliantly. in his column titled, “Wear a cross to work and you are sacked; insult the Pope and you are ‘transferred to other duties'”:
Now the attempted damage limitation is becoming more damaging than the original damage. Catholics are being asked to show “a sense of humour”? How much sense of humour would be on display if Islam had been insulted? Or ethnic minorities? Or homosexuals? Are we seriously expected to believe that similarly offensive documents are routinely drawn up, circulated and tolerated on the eve of a state visit by the Saudi king? Catholics are fair game – the objects of the sole permissible prejudice.
The FCO document betrays just how seriously the establishment really regards clerical sex abuse: in King Charles Street it is no more than a dirty joke. In a climate where the most moderate, even accidental, offence to minorities is punished with dismissal, the civil servant who perpetrated this gross insult to the Pope must be sacked from all Government service, not simply “transferred to other duties”. The media will identify the offender, one may be confident. Since his continuing tenure is a defiant gesture of contempt for Christianity, his dismissal must now become an election issue.
[Mister Gerald Warner is referring to his colleague when he mocks Tim Collard calling out Catholics have a colossal sense of humour failure. Mister Tim Collard is a former Foreign Office employee and he believes us Catholics are insipid humorless cads. Well Mister Collard, if it was an Islamic Imam who were insulted I'm sure you would be demanding the resignation of this "junior Oxbridge-educated" officer's job.]
Update III: The Papal visit is not in jeopardy.
[I never wanted the visit to be canceled because ultimately the British government and the British people are genuinely excited in seeing Pope Benedict.
Furthermore it will be another step forward towards reconciling both the Protestant British with the Catholic Church relations with one another.
This will be a visit of historic proportions since King Henry VIII broke off from Rome in 1532 AD!]
Update IV: The British government official that will not be fired for sending an insulting email on the Papal visit is Steven Mulvain. A man with an Oxford education that if he would have written a similar email about an Islamic leader would be fired, instead he is hiding out at his parents home cowering from the media.