Some wag in the British government made a half-joking tentative itinerary for the Pope’s visit to England…and it got spread around and made some stuffed shirts very angry.
The Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham, was astonished and angered by the proposals.
He said: “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.”
The fellow who made the list has been chastised and transferred. Representatives of the government have crawled to the Vatican to apologize and beg forgiveness. It must have been a tremendous lampoon; I imagined it would propose all kinds of degrading behaviors, like “flounce around in a dress” (oh, hey, I think he’s going to do that one) or “wear a funny hat” (dang, another gimme) or “drink until swozzled” or maybe even “lose virginity to a mature and consenting woman”. You know, the kind of thing a joker like me might suggest.
But no. Here’s the list of proposals.
- Launch of ‘Benedict’ condoms
- Review of Vatican attitude on condom use
- Bless a civil partnership
- Reversal of policy on women bishops/ordain woman
- Open an abortion ward
- Speech on equality
- Statemen on views over adoption (change of stance)
- Training course for all bishops on child abuse allegations
- Harder line on child abuse—announce sacking of dodgy bishops
- Vatican sponsorship for network of AIDS clinics
- Meet young unemployed people
- Apologize for… …
- Canonise/pseudo canonise a group
- Announce whistle blowing system for child abuse cases
- Go to job centre
- Debate on abortion
- All catholic schools should be free entry to all
- Speech on democracy
- Vatican and C of E funded committee on dialogue
- Launch helpline for abused children
Hang on…those aren’t half bad. It’s not even a very funny list. They all propose confronting the Pope with the actual reality of his policies, or with the real problems that people in the country are facing. The list is clearly informed by opposition to the follies of Catholicism, but how should one greet the head of a bizarre but influential cult that continues to promote bad ideas and protect criminals? With simpering deference? Apparently, that’s what the appalled members of the government and various other institutions think. How dare some rascal in the ranks actually propose to make the Pope face facts or defend his policies?
Personally, I’d love to see the Pope in a debate on abortion, where he would actually have to address difficult questions and defend his own ideas. Best idea yet would be a debate on various controversial topics, like birth control, abortion, the role of women in the church, and homosexuality…with the Pope on one side, and Stephen Fry on the other. It could be perfectly respectful, and it would be hilarious.
Alternatively, if we just want to see the Pope flensed and the wounds rubbed with salt and sulfur, they could bring in Christopher Hitchens as the opponent. Either way, you know that the Pope would be demolished by bringing in any confrontation that didn’t simply bow obsequiously to his antique office.