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AAllll GGoodd’’ss ccrreeaattuurreess Why Catholics must defend animal rights Deborah Jones Comment, Page 8

DDaanniieell CCoommbboonnii The saint who refused to be discouraged Pat Wilkinson Feature, Page 6

No. 6121

www.catholicherald.co.uk

3 October 2003 - Year of the Rosary - 80p (Republic of Ireland ‰1.20)

Archbishop confronts BBC’s anti-Church bias

BYSIMONCALDWELL

T HE C ATHOLIC Church has launched an unprecedented attack on the BBC over plans to broadcast two “offensive” programmes which coincide with the Pope’s silver jubilee and the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham accused the BBC of aggression and bias against the Catholic Church. He said that the “malice” and the “lack of judgement or managerial responsibility” demonstrated by the public service broadcaster in its treatment of the Church had led him to question the justification of the licence fee. He criticised the BBC in particular for its plans to broadcast a Panorama documentary called “Sex and the Holy City” on October 19, the day of Mother Teresa’s beatification, and for its plans to screen a Kenyon Confronts documentary on child abuse in the Catholic Church on October 16, the day when Pope John Paul II celebrates the 25th anniversary of his election. The archbishop also attacked the BBC for its forthcoming satirical cartoon Popetown and for the unfair treatment of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor by the BBC’s Radio Four Today programme during a campaign for his resignation last year, led by a team of BBC Newsnight reporters. “These are offensive initiatives,” said Archbishop Nichols, speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and with the blessing of Cardinal MurphyO’Connor. “I do not believe they have wide public support. Certainly the Catholic community is fed up seeing a public service broadcaster using the licence fee to pay unscrupulous reporters trying to recirculate old news and to broadcast programmes that are so biased and hostile. Enough is enough.” Archbishop Nichols refused to specify what action the Church was willing to take to ensure it was treated fairly by the BBC but he

‘Catholics are fed up with the BBC using the licence fee to broadcast hostile and biased programmes’

The Archbishop of Birmingham

Archbishop Vincent Nichols has sharply criticised the BBC fora series of ‘offensive initiatives’against the Catholic Church PA

said he agreed with the view of Patricia Hodgson, the chief executive of the Independent Television Commission, that it was now incumbent on the corporation to demonstrate that the continuation of the licence fee was justified. He told a press conference at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall, London, on Monday that there were “elements and individuals” within the news and current affairs departments of the BBC who were pursuing a “very aggressive line” against the Church. Archbishop Nichols reserved the bulk of his criticism for Kenyon Confronts , which claims to have investigated child abuse in the Arch

diocese of Birmingham. In a clear pre-emptive strike, he exposed what he described as an “unacceptable” style and approach of the reporters and researchers. He said that instead of using the proper channels, a reporter rang a priest at 2am and asked a long series of questions about past events. On another occasion a reporter grilled a 79-year-old priest for information a day after the man had underwent major surgery. Areporter also conned his way into a Catholic residential care home where he isolated and confronted another priest in his 70s who had suffered a stroke and easily became confused.

Another priest endured a “barrage of questions of a deeply personal and intrusive nature” at the hands of a BBC reporter. The associate producer of Kenyon Confronts himself turned up at another presbytery to request personal information about former parishioners without announcing who he was. Archbishop Nichols said none of the priests questioned had ever been accused of abuse. He said that three of about 350 priests in Birmingham had been convicted of abuse in the last 20 years, while two accused priests had fled abroad and another had died protesting his innocence. The archbishop said he had received assurances from the police

that there were no new cases in either his diocese or any other diocese in England and Wales. He said that Kenyon Confronts dealt with old cases, some from 50 years ago, which had been already exhaustively covered by the media. Archbishop Nichols has written in protest to Greg Dyke, DirectorGeneral of the BBC, and to Richard Sambrook, Director of News, but has received nothing other than a holding acknowledgement. He said: “I had not heard of Kenyon Confronts but I have since found out about some of its recent investigative programmes. They have been into fraudsters who fake their own deaths, dog fixing and

‘We must not miss this chance to help the BBC rid itself of a bigotry that belongs to the 16th century’ Editorial Comment: Page 9

doping, therapy fraudsters, drug dealers and dealers in bogus marriages. That this programme is considered, by the BBC managers, as a suitable way to engage with the Catholic Church is absolutely offensive. It is offensive to every Catholic in this country, and I believe to many other people too.” He added: “Investigative journalism of this sort may have its place. But with regard to these issues and the Catholic community, enough is enough. “I am not trying to avoid the message by attacking the messenger. But I am not prepared to respond to a messenger who throws bricks through my windows instead of

coming and ringing at the front door.” The makers of Kenyon Confronts requested an interview with Archbishop Nichols but no agreement was reached after they refused his condition to broadcast it live at around the time of the programme for “technical reasons”. The archbishop said he was unwilling to pre-record an interview with a team which had shown itself to be unprincipled, adding that his offer of a live interview continued to stand. The BBC apologised in April to Catholic journalist Clifford Longley for editing out crucial parts of a prerecorded interview for a Today programme which attacked Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor over alleged mishandling of sex offenders. Though the BBC later admitted the programme was biased, it has not yet apologised to the Cardinal. The BBC continues to insist it has no anti-Catholic agenda. A spokesman said: “ Kenyon Confronts is examining how the Catholic Church is treating victims of past child abuse as they campaign for redress. We recognise that the archbishop has concerns about the programme. We believe it is an issue of serious public interest which will be fairly examined and reported. “We take great care to reflect all faiths in the UK and plan to celebrate the silver jubilee of Pope John Paul II across radio, television and online. We will also mark the beatification of Mother Teresa for our audiences at home and abroad.” John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK said it was important that the Church reported any evidence of bias to Lord Burns, the man appointed by the Government as the independent adviser on the BBC in the lead up to the renewal of the corporation’s royal charter in 2006. Mr Beyer said:“It seems to me that the Archbishop of Birmingham should make some kind of submission to Lord Burns. Clearly, evidence of bias is something he should be informed of so he can advise the Secretary of State.”

John Gummer:Page 9

On the 25 th anniversary of his pontificate John Paul the Great Maker of the post-conciliar Church

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Jesuit journal criticises vote to keep Christianity out of Euro-constitution

BYCHRISTINAFARRELL

AJ ESUIT magazine has criticised the European Union for failing to acknowledge the significance of Christianity in Europe’s cultural heritage. In spite of intense lobbying by the Church, the new European Constitution will not refer to Europe’s Judaeo-Christian roots. Civilta Cattolica said the omission was a “clear ideological deformation” and “a first step toward the building of a foundation that contradicts the very social cohesion that the constitution is supposed to promote”. Last Wednesday the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, voted by 283 votes to 211 to reject any references to Europe’s Christian culture and heritage in the draft constitution. The motion had been presented by the European

Popular Party (EPP). Another amendment proposed by the European Union of Nations which called for the “express recognition of the legacy of Christianity” was also rejected. Those voting against the proposals included British Conservatives and the European Socialist Party. Civilta Cattolica said the vote was a “silence that speaks in a significant way, and will always speak that way”. The magazine rejected any inference that mention of Europe’s cultural heritage would violate the secular character of the EU. The journal also said that the consititution should repudiate warfare as a means of resolving international disputes. All articles in Civilta Cattolica are approved in advance by the Vatican Secretariat of State. Its condemna

tion of the EU is a forceful indication of papal thinking. John Paul II had met with former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing — chair of the commission preparing the draft document — to press home the Church’s position. In July this year the Pontiff warned Europe that it was sliding into “silent apostasy” but said the Church viewed the continent with a “look of love”. The Church can offer Europe “the most precious good that no one else can give: namely faith in Jesus Christ, source of hope that does not disappoint,” he said. Aspokeswoman for the EPPsaid the party knew the votes were heavily against “but we could not exempt ourselves from the responsibility to present forcefully the position in which we firmly believe”. Hans-Gert Pottering, president of the EPP, said the pream

ble of the constitution would refer to Europe’s religious patrimony. Article 51 of the draft recognises the status of churches and communities. Civilta Cattolica said the preamble made only a “generic allusion to religious heritage, without any clear recognition of the historical fact”. Tomorrow, Europe’s leaders will gather in Rome for a conference to amend and approve the final draft of the document. Any modifications to the draft text will only now be made at the behest of governments. Meanwhile, the Pope has been cited as a hot favourite to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, in spite of earlier criticism of the Church’s opposition to the use of condoms in the fight against Aids.

Editorial Comment:Page 9

Cardinal’s polite appeal forcivility in Church

BYCHRISTINAFARRELL

C ARDINAL Francis George of Chicago has said better manners are needed in society, in the Church and in our prayers to God. Writing in his column in the Chicago archdiocesan

newspaper, Catholic New World , the Cardinal said the last decade had seen the demise of civility. “Public irritability, undisguised rage, raw ambition, lack of basic honesty and plain rudeness are no longer masked by at least a pretense of politeness when a controversial subject is introduced," he wrote. “Adifference of opinion is contorted into an attack upon a person. Adecline in common standards of decent speech and behav

iour is evidence of a lack of common standards and common goals for our society.” He said Jesus “rejected violence and demanded love of enemies and patience in suffering”. The saints, he said, also showed courtesy and love and he quoted St Francis: “Realise, dear brothers and sisters, that courtesy is one of the properties of God. It is the sister of charity, by which hatred is vanquished and love is cherished.” The Cardinal said civil

ity was in trouble not only in society but also in the life of the Church. To be Catholic means sharing common beliefs, he said. Faith and worship is weakened when the Church is dominated by polarisation and impatience. Civility, he added, should also find its place in personal prayer. With an attitude that understands “God remains God; and we are not God”. “Our prayers should reflect that infinite difference,” he said.