A couple days I noticed a story in the Daily Telegraph about the memos circulating in the UK’s Foreign Office about the Pope’s upcoming visit.
Here is a taste.
Ministers apologise for insult to Pope
The Government has apologised to the Pope over official documents that mocked his forthcoming visit to Britain by suggesting he should bless a gay marriage and even launch Papal-branded condoms.
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent
The astonishing proposals, leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, were contained in secret papers drawn up earlier this month by civil servants following a ‘brainstorm’.
The ideas, included in a memo headed ‘The ideal visit would see …’, ridiculed the Catholic Church’s teachings including its opposition to abortion, homosexual behaviour and contraception. Many appeared to be deliberately provocative rather than a serious attempt to plan an itinerary for the September visit.
The proposals, which were then circulated among key officials in Downing Street and Whitehall, also include the Pope opening an abortion ward; spending the night in a council flat in Bradford; doing forward rolls with children to promote healthy living; and even performing a duet with the Queen.
In reference to the hugely sensitive issue of child abuse engulfing the Catholic Church, the Government document suggests that the Pope should take a “harder line on child abuse – announce sacking of dodgy bishops” and “launch helpline for abused children”. [Consider what reaction there would have been from the UK's government had the Holy See told them what they should do? However, that point about "sacking dodgy bishops"... well... even blind squirrels happen on acorns.]
The document was sent out by a junior Foreign Office civil servant with a covering note admitting that some of the plans were “far-fetched”.
Recipients of the memo were furious at its content and an investigation was launched. One senior official was found responsible and has been transferred to other duties.
Yesterday the Foreign Office issued a public apology after being approached by The Sunday Telegraph, while Francis Campbell, the UK ambassador to the Vatican, met senior officials of the Holy See to express the Government’s regret.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, was “appalled” to hear of the proposals, according to a source close to him, and blamed “a colossal failure of judgement” by officials involved.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “This is clearly a foolish document that does not in any way reflect UK Government or Foreign Office policy or views. Many of the ideas in the document are clearly ill-judged, naive and disrespectful.
“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. [Ironic.] 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.
Read the rest there. Also, check Damian Thompson‘s comments, including:
My reaction is to say to the Bishops of England and Wales: NOW do you finally understand what sort of snide, cheap and ignorant prejudice has flourished under this Government and its civil servants – wall-to-wall secularists for whom the Roman Catholic Church is at best an antiquated irrelevance and at worst a sick joke?