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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Usual suspects attack TV programme about Pope – before it’s even made!

A cabal of zealous Catholics reacted with fury at the news that the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is to front a Channel 4 documentary on the Pope, to be broadcast in the days before the September visit begins.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Cristina Odone, Anne Widdecombe and Jack Valero of Opus Dei lined up to condemn the programme even though it is only in the planning stage.

Peter Tatchell responded by saying: "My aim is to make a robustly factual programme that explores the Pope's personal, religious and political journey since the 1930s, as well as the motives and effects of his controversial policies. I intend to ensure that we hear the voices of the Pope’s defenders, as well as his critics. I would like to interview the Pope himself. It would be ideal for Pope Benedict to be able to explain himself in his own words. But I doubt that I will be granted an audience."

It is clear that the apologists for the Pope are terrified that anything other than complete fawning might be broadcast in the run up to the visit. They are agitating against anything that might risk difficult questions being posed about this Pope and his highly questionable behaviour, for example over the covering-up of child abuse and his often inhumane teachings.

But there has been no similar shrieking at the prospect of a documentary about the Pope that has been commissioned by the BBC from prominent gay Catholic Mark Dowd, who is unlikely to press the Church on difficult issues. Nor have the critics of the Tatchell programme said a word about the documentary the BBC is making about Cardinal Newman – which, again, is unlikely to examine the many questions surrounding the Cardinal’s sexuality or his personal disapproval of saint-making.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, concludes: “Obviously Catholic propagandists, who are on record as saying the visit is an opportunity to revive the reputation of the Church, don’t want anything ‘inconvenient’ or critical to be said in the press or on television. Nothing must disturb their hagiographies of Pope Benedict. But the Protest the Pope campaign is planning to try to disrupt this cosy fantasy by putting the Pope on the spot.”

Find out more about Protest the Pope

Published Fri, 11 Jun 2010