Foreign Office apologises for proposing Pope be given ‘Benedict’ condoms, conduct gay marriage & open abortion ward
The Foreign Office has apologised for a leaked document that suggested that Pope Benedict XVI be invited to bless a gay marriage, open up a hospital abortion ward and be presented with his own “Benedict” brand of condoms while on his controversial tour of the UK this September. (iPhone users: link to mock up of ‘Benedict’ condom)
The document was described as “foolish” by the Foreign Office and was a “brainstorm” exercise rather than official Government policy.
The Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon told the BBC: “I think it’s a lot worse that we invite someone into our country – a person like the Pope – and then he’s treated in this way.
“I think it’s appalling manners more than anything else.”
The Foreign Office has not sacked the junior civil servant responsible for the memo but has put him on other duties and will not have any more involvement on what will be a highly controversial tour of the UK by the Pontiff.
The Foreign Secretary has said that he is “appalled” by the incident but incredibly the document was one of three submitted by his own department to the to Downing Street.
The document had a cover note saying: “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.”
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Other ludicrous suggestions were a charity song with the Queen, an apology for the Spanish Armarda and perhaps less controversially a meeting with prominent Chatholics including former British prime minister Tony Blair, Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle and
It what is probably the only sensible suggestion in the document, the official also suggested that the Pope could show his disapproval of the abuse scandal that has rocked his Church by “sacking dodgy bishops” and launch a helpline for the victims of child abuse.
The prominent atheist campaigner and academic Richard Dawkins has said that he would support a “citizens arrest” of the Pope during his visit for “crime against humanity”, particularly for his alleged role in covering up abuse claims within the Catholic Church. The leaked document suggested the Foreign Office could facilitate a meeting with Professor Dawkins. Last month, the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell organised a protest also calling for the Pope to be prosecuted.
In a statement, the Foreign Office 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. He has been told orally and in writing that this was a serious error of judgement and has accepted this view.”
The Foreign Office has dispatched its ambassador to the Holy See to meet with officials at the Vatican to smooth over the incident.
Last week, the Vatican’s second most senior cleric has said that the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church are linked to homosexuality rather than celibacy among priests. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is the Vatican’s secretary of state, effectively the deputy to Pope Benedict XVI made the controversial statement during a press conference in Chile.