British Government Shows Prejudice Towards Papal Visit

[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 As soon as senior officials became aware of the document, it was withdrawn from circulation.”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 failureMister 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.

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40 Responses to British Government Shows Prejudice Towards Papal Visit

  • Doreen Lambert says:

    I’m a British Subject and also a Roman Catholic and am appalled at this memo and how it portrays my country to the world.

    I’ve spent this morning contacting the relevent ministers and heads of the civil servants by letter and email.

    If you’d like to express your concern the Scottish Office is the department in charge of the visit- you can contact them by email at
    http://www.scotlandoffice.gov.uk/scotlandoffice/58.html

    The minister concerned is Jim Murphy. The Foreign Secretary is David Miliband. He can be contacted at
    edeelection@live.co.uk.

  • Rob says:

    I live in the UK and am constantly apalled by the things this and other popes have said on many subjects they have no knowledge, experience or place to make comment.

    I have read the whole list its simply proposes confronting the Pope with reality of the modern world, his beliefs and policies which are at odds with the majority rational thinking people in this country.

    This just shows the moral hypocrisy of the Chatholic church.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Chatholic church.”

    Rob, if you are intent on going through life as an anti-Catholic bigot, at least do so as an anti-Catholic bigot who can spell.

  • Matt Warnock says:

    I’m British and I couldn’t be happyer that this was sent to the pope. He has the responsibility and opportunity to stand up to pedaphellia in the catholic church,instead he blames it on homosexualaty. He could help end the aids crisis in africa by condoning the uses of condoms, instead he says they dont work. This is the workings of a old, twisted and evil mind. If there is a hell I’m sure thats were he is going!

  • @Rob says:

    Why don`t you also offer condoms or aborted babies to the Dalai Lama? You bigot may not know it, but the Pope and the Dalai Lama are on the same page when it comes to defend human dignity. I am almost sure you are one of these who throw themselves at the Lama`s feet to feel cool and trendy.
    But it only shows how small your imagination is, tried up by your so-called “rationality”.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Matt,

    First the email was only an internal government email, not a global email.

    Second you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    You need to do your own research or at least read Catholic blogs to understand the misperceptions out there.

    And be careful who you judge that goes to Hell.

    Be merciful as your God is merciful.

    Because He will judge you as you judge others.

  • Tyler says:

    It is interesting to watch western governments, which owe their existence to Christianity, now openly ridicule and reject it. I am getting tired of it for one and make no mistake about it I will defend the church

  • Mary in CO says:

    Doreen, many thanks for your links to relevant government contacts. (and I hope that you’ll be able to see the Holy Father in person during his visit!)

    Per the Telegraph, the ‘ideal visit’ list was attached to a memo that stated, “Please protect; these should not be shared externally. The ‘ideal visit’ paper in particular was the product of a brainstorm which took into account even the most far-fetched of ideas.”

    That these sorts of insulting ideas would be the product of a government ‘brainstorm’ speaks volumes about the immaturity of the Foreign Office employees involved. Leaking it to the press seems an anti-Catholic action. But hey, we ARE the easy target these days, hmmm? If “South Park” is an indication, it’s safer to bash Christianity in general than Islam.

    Contrary to the belief of the Times reporter, I suspect that the Holy Father will take this inanity in stride.

    Praying for the safety and good health of our Holy Father as he visits England.

  • That something like this would be put together is in a sense not surprising. I could see some 20-something ex-campaign assistant, now political appointees pulling off this kind of stunt in our own government. And the grown ups at the Foreign Ministry sound rightly appalled.

    That we’ve got a couple Brits showing up here to defend the memo, however, just goes to show the old empire still hasn’t lost the sort of blokes that the Irish side of my family came to know and love over the centuries…

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    With this example of British bigotry and noting the comments of some of the Brits who have shown up to defend it, I say Thank God for 1776!

  • Anthony says:

    Why would an atheist come to this website?

    When Pope Benedict XVI meets Queen Elizabeth II, I can only hope he has one question for her: “WTF?”

  • Matt Barker says:

    Personally I find this whole episode amusing and find it difficult to take even slightly seriously. The catholic church is a sprawling institution keen on looking after its own interests and with lots of bazaar ideas that are counter to human instinct or out of touch with the world we live in. That’s before the issues of a former member of the Hitler Youth engaging in efforts to marginalise the seriousness of child abuse within the organisation he works for.

    All in all, this is not a serious event and while the pope is a leader of faith he is not a political statesman (due to the size of the vatican) and he is not above mockery for his ideas.

  • Matt Barker says:

    To Antony (April 25th 9:56pm)

    The pope can ask the Queen what he likes but she can respond however she feels best. She afterall is also a leader of faith as well as the head of state to almost a third of the worlds population.

    In effect she has greater authority than the pope and so can say whatever she feels is best.

  • The Pope has made no secret of his hatred and contempt for secular society and secular values. But secularists have values — some of which are at utter variance with the Pope’s very medieval views. So, when they are expressed, whether they refer to pedophelia, stem-cell research or the church’s attitudes to celibacy within the church itself or celibate attitudes to women generally, sexuality, aids, family, fertility-management etc., why should catholics be surprised? The civil servants are entitled to have their views — even if they are not entitled to communicate them in the fashion alleged.

    Moreover, the thing that Catholics are becoming most renowed for is their eternal preoccupation with being offended and persecuted. If you say ‘boo’ to a Catholic, he is persecuted; and yet Catholics can hold the most outrageous and dogmatic notions concerning state governance, which interferes with the rights of others — and yet they are perfectly indifferent to them.

    In Papal states,which is how most Catholic countries are run, citizens have been unable for decades to avail of divorce, the use of contraceptives or the right to arrange abortion facilities even in cases of the most violent rapes.

    What some civil servant thinks, thefore, is by comparison a minor matter even if it rightly needs to be dealt with by way of internal discipline.

    As to the Pope’s outrage, he should really make up his mind whether he is a religoius leader or simply a politician with a state and a religion of his own. That might make things easier for those who have to relate to his excursions.

    And as to his visit to the UK?

    If he doesn’t come, so what? That wouldn’t be the end of the world , would it!

    Seamus Breathnach

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “She afterall is also a leader of faith as well as the head of state to almost a third of the worlds population.

    In effect she has greater authority than the pope and so can say whatever she feels is best.”

    This is simply delusional. The Queen is a mere figurehead and has virtually no power. The Anglican Church is in the process of becoming extinct. The Commonwealth of Nations is almost entirely a fig leaf implemented during the dissolution of the British Empire and has little substantive meaning.

  • Doreen Lambert says:

    I just wonder how quick the same people would be to make fun of Islam?

    I am proud of the fact that I am British and live in a country tolerant of all religion views. I wouldn’t mock other’s religious views and find it objectionable.

    Regarding the civil servant, I find their mockery asinine and more suited for a sixth-former than coming from someone who’s salary is paid by my taxes totally out of order and who is suppoed to be doing a job.

  • Matt Barker says:

    To Doreen Lambert,

    I would expect the same people would be just as quick to parody elements of other faiths, be it Islam or Buddism. The only difference is that they would probably have the better judgement and not write it down in those cases. A casual look acros the internet will show that nothing, no matter how tasteless or inappropriate can be spared from humourous mockery whether it be people, icons or religion. Perhaps it should be a relief that the memo didn’t go further and invite the pope to open an orphanage? He does seem to be having trouble from that sort of thing recently.

  • Matt Barker says:

    Donald R McClarey,

    You’re absolutely right in some regards about the Queen being a figurehead and her power being limited however what few powers she has, such as disolving parliament and enacting laws are substantial and it is within her rights (albeit not in her character it seems) to disolve her government or refuse to bring bills into law. So how does the Pope compare then? Does he have the final say on national laws or whether a government will be desolved for election? What true power does he hold?

    To your next point and again you are correct in that the Commonwealth is not a global force to be reckoned with however neither is the global catholic population for the simple reason that national governance is normally (always?) above the grumblings of a multilingual ultra-conservative sat in Rome.

    Anyway, back to my main point: The pope and christianity in general, whichever flavour is followed is not so special that it can’t be mocked. Especially when there is so much to mock.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “What true power does he hold?”

    The power to bind and to loose as given to Saint Peter by Christ Matt, the same power also possessed by all other popes throughout history. He also has the power to appeal to the consciences of men and women and converting them to Christ. His power apparently disturbs quite a few Brits in and out of office.

    As to the Queen, who personally I view as a good woman, her power is of a purely ceremonial function. If she stepped one foot outside of that role, something she is too wise to do, she would quickly learn who rules the UK, and it most certainly is not her.

  • Matt Barker says:

    Donald,

    Firstly, thanks for a dignified response. You’ll have to forgive the pedantry but from your description it sounds like at best the popes have the same influence as any other sect or religeous leader. Anyone can appeal to a conscience and plenty of non catholics have run around the globe trying to convert people to their own brand of christianity. From your description there is nothing special about the man aside from his position in a large established organisation and so is just as open to ridicule as said leaders.

    I don’t want to deviate too far from the given topic of mockery of the pope so I won’t say any more on the queen however if you are keen to persue that thread of debate then feel free to carry on and I may respond.

    Tito, feel free to contribute more than a few lines and maybe open the debate a little wider. Of your 3 posts you’ve only contributed anthing to this discussion once and so could be accused of trolling. Coherance would be a benefit as ‘…throwing straw man…’ makes little sense unless you use the word ‘man’ as a speach stabiliser. As for the ad hominems, be specific; there is a lot of text here and reading the lot again looking for them is unnecessary.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Anyone can appeal to a conscience and plenty of non catholics have run around the globe trying to convert people to their own brand of christianity. From your description there is nothing special about the man aside from his position in a large established organisation and so is just as open to ridicule as said leaders.”

    Popes have been subject to ridicule and much worse Matt since the days of Peter. When our popes are attacked we Catholics tend to take umbrage about it. We are funny that way. The hatred and bile that popes tend to engender detract from your contention that there is nothing special about the pope’s position. No one gets upset about, or cares, for example, about what the governing body of the Unitarian-Universalists does or does not do. As the late Lenny Bruce, heroin addict and comic of genius, said, and he despised the Church, “The Catholic Church is the church people mean when they say “the Church”.” When it comes to Christianity, there is the Catholic Church and then there is everyone else.

  • Matt Barker says:

    Donald,

    Thanks again for engaging in a rational discussion, it seems that our stances have converged, or at least are converging. The mockery directed towards the pope is due to his position in the same way that many other figures are critisised.

    My conclusion is that the pope is not special and so is open to mockery causing catholics to get the hump on his behalf because they’re ‘funny that way’.

    It’s now morning in America, I hope the American readership of this like my conclusion…

  • Matt Barker says:

    Tito,

    I bother to engage in this because I’m amused by it. Donald McClarey has helped in this by providing rational counters to my points and while I have not accepted his statements I have been engaged in the light debate that has been provided. I’m sure that we could engage in a far more heavy series of points and counter points but this is the internet and nothing written here actually matters. I think that Donald recognised this and I can only respect that if true.

    The reason why I entered into this on an American website was because I was hopeful of finding an irrational foaming-at-the-mouth bible enthusiast who would hopefully show an exploitable weakness in discussion such as intolerance or factual errors. As it can clearly be seen no such character has appeared, probably due to the time of day.

    Anyway, over to you Tito, I prove your point do I? Which point might that be? That I throw straw, man, or that I engage in petty ad hominem attacks? Perhaps I’ve shown that I am shallow although how I may have shown that much of my character in such few words is intriguing. Alternatively I may have not proven your point at all since you’ve not made a point yet.

    Which is it?

  • Big Tex says:

    irrational foaming-at-the-mouth bible enthusiast

    Not to be stereotypical, but you’d be rather hard-pressed to find that in Catholic circles, at least with all the modifiers you used. You’ll be more likely to find that sort of caricature in the Fred Phelps’ of the world.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    irrational foaming-at-the-mouth bible enthusiast

    It’s like me saying you watch too much BBC to come up with a that type of stereotype.

    Like Big Tex said, you’d be hard-pressed to see any of that in most Catholic circles.

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