Storm in a teacup

Monday's headlines in Britain's two most popular right-wing newspapers are so off the wall they are laughable.

"Offensive Foreign Office memo threatens Pope's historic visit'", claims the Mail; "Pope could cancel UK visit over 'offensive' foreign office memo", screams the Telegraph. The fact that the headlines are virtually the same should make us suspicious; being 12 days away from a General Election even more so.

Advertisement

A Foreign Office memo suggesting that Pope Benedict visit an abortion clinic and ordain a female priest when he visits in September has sparked a good deal of outrage -- as well it should. But the idea that the visit has been in some way imperilled by the revelations is just crazy. There is nothing here that could possibly endanger the trip. The memo represented no senior view -- it was submitted by a junior civil servant -- and has been utterly condemned by the Foreign Minister, who has issued a grovelling apology. (Yet a Telegraph blogger still feels free to claim that this was a "Foreign Office attack".)

In the same way, an official Vatican statement accepting the apology and refusing to endanger relations fails to stop the Mail -- facts seldom do -- claiming that "Papal aides have privately rejected a grovelling apology issued on behalf of [foreign secretary] David Miliband". Which "aides"? Bored curial monsignori? Why not name them?

The Telegraph meanwhile identifies the civil servant behind the memo, who turns out be aged 23. To avoid the inconvenience of this fact to the story it is desperate to run, the newspaper tries to claim -- citing, of course, no evidence -- that the civil servant "has escaped punishment because he was given authorisation to send the memo by a more senior civil servant". Puhleez.

The papal visit is not in doubt. As Jack Valero of Catholic Voices puts it, "Catholics will think about it today and then forget about it."

Both the Vatican and the Government want the trip to happen. All three contenders for prime minister welcomed the idea during the leaders' debate last Thursday (Ruth Gledhill carries the clip and the transcript of their answers). For all that the Mail and the Telegraph try to twist the facts of this disasteful little episode into a major embarrassment for the Labor Government, it simply isn't, and will soon be forgotten.

Austen Ivereigh

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Eugene Pagano
8 years ago
It seems like some piece of student irreverence by someone who has yet to learn about life and work in the ''real world.'' 
Craig McKee
8 years ago
I believe the correct alliterative term is ''TEMPEST in a teacup.''

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A blockbuster exhibition profiles one of the 20th century's great bridge figures.
Rob Weinert-KendtApril 26, 2018
History records many great men and women who would have been set aside without the aid of someone able to see past their faults.
Terrance KleinApril 26, 2018
Patrick J. Conroy, S.J., seen here in June 2017, had been the chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011.  (CNS photo/Rhina Guidos)
Patrick Conroy, S.J., submitted his resignation earlier this month. The Hill reports that a prayer seen as critical of the Republican tax bill may have been a factor.
Speaking in Chicago to a gathering of U.S. priests, Archbishop Wilton Gregory addressed racism, sexism and a host of other societal challenges that "continue to hold us captive."