The Times reports the latest on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office memo scandal. Bishop's involvement in blue, bold.
'The civil servant in charge of the Pope’s visit to Britain has been suspended and is to be investigated for misconduct after a memo lampooning the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church was leaked to the press.
All the staff involved in producing the memo are to be sent on “urgent diversity training” and will have nothing further to do with organising the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in September. (Oh my..."urgent diversity training"...a pretty severe reprimand there. Poor guy! You can just imagine him. "No! Sack me! Do anything! Just don't make me do 'urgent diversity training'!")
Anjoum Noorani, 31, circulated the memo where proposals included having the Pope open an abortion clinic, launch a brand of Benedict condoms and bless a civil partnership. As head of the Papal visit team, he had initially been merely assigned to other duties after a diplomatic storm broke out this week over the document.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “As we have made clear publicly, it was a foolish document that did not in any way reflect FCO views. Although it was intended only for internal use, it was ill-judged, naive and disrespectful of some key tenets of the Catholic faith. It has caused great offence and done considerable reputational harm to the standing of the Diplomatic Service. Having considered all of the facts carefully we have taken the decision to ensure that staff involved in the production of the memorandum undergo urgent diversity training and have no further involvement in the visit. In one case a member of staff will be suspended pending a misconduct investigation. The FCO very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused. We strongly value the close and productive relationship between the UK Government and the Holy See and look forward to deepening this further with the visit of Pope Benedict to the UK later this year.”
The memo, entitled “The ideal visit would see” was distributed across Whitehall including Downing Street. Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton says in tomorrow’s Tablet: “The most disturbing thing is that it creates an awkward feeling, that there is a residue of anti-Catholic bigotry around. It suggests that it is OK to ridicule and vilify the Catholic Church and its beliefs.” He said that it was “silly and embarrassing” but would not damage relations between the Church and the Foreign Office.
Sir Peter Ricketts, Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, personally called Archbishop Vincent Nichols to apologise after the memo was made public.
Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, also called Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff to express his objection to the Foreign Office officials’ behaviour, The Tablet reports. While some have dismissed the memo as a joke, some senior government sources believe that the brainstorming session would have been taken seriously.
The Bishop of Hallam, John Rawsthorne, said that the memo was “very silly and very embarrassing” and that it was worrying that it could come from “so serious a department of state.”
Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood said: “It was ill-judged and insulting not only to the Pope but to millions of Catholics around the world.”'