If a priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar, you’d better hope that priest isn’t the Pope before you tell the rest of the joke. Turns out, Pope Benedict XVI doesn’t have much of a sense of humor these days.
In preparation for a visit from the Pope in September, a group of junior civil servants in an Internal Foreign Office got together to come up with possible events and activities. The author, who was trying to think outside the box and create ideas no one else would think of, apparently went a little overboard.
Britain’s foreign office has apologised for a memorandum by a civil servant suggesting Pope Benedict should open a hospital abortion ward when he visits Britain this year.
The document, which was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, also included proposals that the Pope should bless a gay marriage and launch papal-branded condoms when he comes to Britain in September.
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The paper said the ideas, ridiculing the teachings of the Catholic Church against abortion and contraception, resulted from a “brainstorm” session.
The paper said the proposals, drawn up by a junior civil servant in a memo headlined “The ideal visit would see …”, were circulated among officials in prime minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street office and at the foreign office.
The document, which had a cover note admitting that some of the plans were “far-fetched”, also alluded to sex scandals involving paedophile priests in a number of countries by suggesting Pope Benedict should launch a helpline for abused children.
Other ideas included getting the pontiff to perform forward rolls with children to promote healthy living and even performing a duet with Queen Elizabeth, the Telegraph said.
But was the writer really trying to be funny?
Foreign Office sources said that the memo’s author was a university graduate in his mid- to late twenties. “He is completely contrite. I don’t think the intention was to amuse. It was supposed to be blue sky stuff, thinking out of the box. He had absolutely no intention to offend,” an official said. “They were genuinely trying to think the unthinkable so that they could identify everything that was thinkable.”
Joke or not, the real question is whether the Vatican has the ability to roll with the punches. Their representative in the U.K. managed to just blow the whole thing off.
It is not often that one hears the phrases “Opus Dei” and “breath of fresh air” in the same sentence. But I would like to salute Mr Jack Valero, Opus Dei’s representative in Britain, for maintaining a sense of proportion. Asked for a comment last night, Mr Valero simply said that it was obviously a joke, and he was sure the Pope would see it in the same light.
However, the Vatican appears less forgiving, wanting heads to roll and threatening to cancel its trip to the country all together.
One highly-placed source in the Vatican said: “This could have very severe repercussions and is embarrassing for the British government – one has to question whether the action taken is enough.
“It is disgusting. Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See has been in to see the Secretary of State and explain what happened and this will all be relayed to the Pope.
“It’s even possible the trip could be cancelled as this matter is hugely offensive.”
Cardinal Renato Martino, the former head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: “The British government has invited the Pope as its guest and he should be treated with respect.
“To make a mockery of his beliefs and the beliefs of millions of Catholics not just in Britain but across the world is very offensive indeed.”
Of course, some have pointed out, the demand from the Vatican apologies and instant punishment is ironic in comparison to the Pope’s reaction to recent issues within its own church. As the Guardian puts it, “The ludicrous nature of some of the memo’s suggestions did not prevent some within the Catholic church demanding apologies for a disrespectful slur rather more urgently than senior Vatican officials have offered apologies over children abused in church care.”
Mini Roundup: USA Today condenses the latest abortion restrictions into one short, handy article, and it turns out the “gender/race based abortion” laws being passed have a hidden agenda — a path to the Supreme Court.
April 23, 2010
A Bulletproof Abortion Ban? – National Catholic Register
Abortion doubletalk by Obama? – Los Angeles Times
US man who killed abortion protester gets life – eTaiwan News
The maternal death rate myth – World Magazine
Pitts: Abortion, tax money bad mix – Lancaster Newspapers
Catholics: Adopt to prevent abortion – York Daily Record
Henry vetoes 2 anti-abortion measures – NewsOK.com
Okla. governor vetoes 2 abortion bills – The Associated Press
“Peek into” Wash. Times’ health clinic hit piece – Media Matters for America
Proposed Kansas GOP platform strong on abortion, hard on health care – Kansas City Star
Paul, Grayson spar on abortion, earmarks – Cincinnati.com
Okla. governor vetoes 2 abortion bills – The Associated Press
Oregon Right to Life turns sharply against Chris Dudley – OregonLive.com
STD-Free but Pregnant – Atlantic Online
April 24, 2010
Roeder files petition claiming that his rights have been violated – Kansas City Star
God would vote against abortion – In-Forum
Anti-abortion bill holds up action in Miss. Legislature – Jackson Clarion Ledger
Henry vetoes 2 abortion bills – Tulsa World
Pregnant 10 Year old Sparks Abortion Debate – E Canada Now
Nebraska gov’t puts new limits on abortion – The Militant
2nd funding ban on abortions passes Miss. House – SunHerald.com
Anti-abortion bill to block foetal test results – Sydney Morning Herald
How about a defense attorney on the Supreme Court? – Washington Post
Britain sorry for papal condoms proposal – ABC Online
Lakas-Kampi solon lauds Noynoy’s RH stance – Manila Bulletin
Promises the Pill Could Never Keep – New York Times
April 25, 2010
House passes abortion measure – Jackson Clarion Ledger
‘Abortions’ Pope gaffe – Sunday People
Nebraska legislation aimed at undoing Roe vs. Wade – Los Angeles Times
Apology over Pope ‘condom’ memo – BBC News
Wood, Kagan Are on High Court Short List, Again – Women’s eNews
Budget cuts to health clinics catastrophic for families – The Times of Trenton – NJ.com
The Pope and the Foreign Office: a colossal sense of humour failure – Telegraph.co.uk
British government memo jokes about Pope’s visit: He could open abortion … – New York Daily News
Boy faces adult trial in death of Pa. woman, fetus – The Associated Press
Tiahrt Pushes for Pro-life Protections in ObamaCare Law – BigNews.biz
Feminists Protest Anti-choice Coalition – The Media Co-op
HPV vaccine should be a priority – Houston Chronicle
The Pill’s Impact, Past and Present – Gather.com
Local effort helps women to take control – Tulsa World
Pope ‘could cancel UK visit’ over ‘offensive’ Foreign Office memo – Telegraph.co.uk
April 26, 2010
States seek new ways to restrict abortions – USA Today
Abortion bill takes aim at Roe v. Wade – Macon Telegraph
Sex numbers – Chicago Tribune
Seeing through Obama – Altoona Mirror
Blogs Comment On Mexican Abortion Laws, Health Reform Costs, Other Topics – Medical News Today
‘Foolish’ UK memo on Pope spurs apology – National Post
Bring on the babies – University at Buffalo The Spectrum
What You Thought You Knew About the Pill – Daily Beast
FDA nod for birth control pill – Pharmacy Europe
“The science is settled” – California Catholic Daily
Where AIDS’ grip is fierce – Albany Times Union
South Africa Redoubles Efforts Against AIDS – New York Times
India: The orphans of HIV – GlobalPost