Press for the pope’s September visit to England gets worse all the time. First, it was Richard Dawkins et al. calling for Benedict’s arrest upon his arrival in the country; now, an embarrassing Foreign Office memo has come to light that sarcastically suggests the pope “be asked to open an abortion clinic, bless a gay marriage and launch a Benedict-branded condom range,” among other things, while visiting.
Plenty of apologies ensued, but Ruth Gledhill suggests that the incident hasn’t gone over well at the Vatican:
Some senior Catholics in Britain attempted to downplay its significance but The Times has learnt that the document has caused enormous anger in Rome. It is regarded as just the latest, but by far the most serious, in a series of anti-Catholic episodes emanating from the UK that threaten to cast a cloud over the Pope’s four-day visit to England and Scotland.
Coming on top of comments about him over paedophile priests and threats by militant secularists such as Richard Dawkins that the pontiff could face arrest, in spite of enjoying diplomatic immunity as head of state, it is leading some Vatican advisers to question why he is coming to a country where the public mood even at the centre of government seems so hostile.
The document could also do lasting damage to decades of hard work building strong relations between the British Government and the Holy See, as well as to the reputation of the Foreign Office, an institution once known for employing the highest calibre of staff.
This all seems a little too lightly sourced — too many unnamed “advisers” predicting overly dire consequences for the rogue actions of one smarmy junior official. The staffer responsible should be sacked, no question — rather than having been “transferred to other duties,” as the article reports (wait, where have I heard that before?) — but the Vatican’s official decision to stay above the fray sounds right to me.