Glasgow Archbishop Accuses BBC of Anti-Church Bias
He Points to 4 Examples of "Insensitivity"
(See Editorial Commentary after the article)

GLASGOW, Scotland, FEB. 4, 2004 - Archbishop Mario Conti accused British Broadcasting Corporation of encouraging "a tabloid culture" in which it has been guilty of "gross insensitivity" to the Catholic Church.

In a letter to the Herald newspaper published today, the Glasgow archbishop singled out four examples of BBC insensitivity to the Church.

He noted, for instance, that the decision to mark the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of John Paul II and the beatification of Mother Teresa had been juxtaposed with a documentary, "Sex and the Holy City," about the efficacy of condoms in the fight against AIDS.

"Such scheduling showed gross insensitivity to the spiritual and historical significance of these moments," the archbishop said.

The director of communications for the Archdiocese of Glasgow, Ronnie Convery, issued the full text of the letter, reprinted below.


Leaving aside a judgment on the outcome of the Hutton Inquiry, it is reassuring to note that the BBC has responded by conducting what might be termed an "examination of broadcasting conscience". Such a process can only be beneficial to the Corporation and satisfy those who rely on it for objective and authoritative reporting.

I hope that in this period of reflection it will not be forgotten that other institutions, besides Government, have had cause for complaint in recent years at some of the BBC's editorial stances. Even at the risk of apparent special pleading let me give examples from the Corporation's recent coverage of the Catholic Church.

Firstly the decision to mark the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II and the beatification of Mother Teresa with a documentary -- "Sex and the Holy City" -- about the efficacy of condoms in the fight against AIDS. Such scheduling showed gross insensitivity to the spiritual and historical significance of these moments.

I mention also the Corporation's plans to broadcast "Popetown" -- a cartoon which satirizes the Pope as a childish pensioner whose every fickle whim must be indulged. A prudent use of licence-payers' resources I wonder?

There was the hounding of the Archbishop of Westminster last year -- once more by the "Today" programme and "Newsnight" -- a process which seemed to owe more to the desire to claim an eminent scalp than to objective reporting of fact. And closer to home, "Newsnight Scotland," just last week, carried a sneering and aggressive interview on the Church's position on shared campus schools, failing to distinguish tabloid fictions from fact.

We do not object to probing questions. We do object to rudeness and prejudice.

Mr Gilligan's admitted failures have been symptomatic of an increasingly cavalier attitude on the part of some at the BBC towards institutions and individuals for whom the redress of a public inquiry is not available. I have some sympathy for Mr Gilligan. At another time and in another place his error would have been immediately corrected and an apology issued and accepted. I have less sympathy for those within the Corporation who have encouraged a tabloid culture to grow which has seen the world's most distinguished broadcasting organisation employ tactics and standards unworthy of it.

Of course the BBC is not the only, nor the worst offender, but we did expect it to set a standard of probity, and we expect it still.

+ Mario Conti
Archbishop of Glasgow

EDITORIAL COMMENTARY:  Talk about "insensitivity"....

It is interesting that such a strong, over-bearing, institution as the Roman Catholic Church would besmirch the BBC with a complaint when the RCC have more often than not failed or refused to listen to and act on complaints wherein they have, or do, allow their clergy through out the world to caste a pall of innuendos and claims of "false" priests upon many clergy who are not viewed by them as being "CATHOLIC" in a manner that makes the public falsely believe that the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is the sole arbiter of who is or is not truly CATHOLIC, be they autocephalous Orthodox Catholic, Old Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, etc. 

The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in many parts of the world, especially in North America, allow their parish priests to act directly and indirectly in making claims about other clergy who are not under a Patriarch of one of the major Patriarchates or Rome, which does not make those clergy un-Catholic or invalid whatsoever. 

It is interesting that the RCC, through the Glasgow Archbishop can make accusations while doing nothing to clean up one's own proverbial 'house' the Roman Catholic Church, be it in Glasgow or at Rome whereby the Vatican could bring pressure on all hierarchs and those under them to stop downgrading, castigating and demeaning those who are not under their own (RCC) thumb.  Such politics have been on-going for centuries. 

So, one can only wonder, by the example of the Glasgow Archbishop, how it feels to get a taste of their own medicine.  Politics and Religion do make for strange bedfellows, not in just the Roman Catholic Church, but most churches (be the Orthodox Catholic, Roman Catholic, pseudo-christian such as Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormon (Church of Latter Day Saints), Church of Christ, Assemblies of God, etc..

While this may sound a bit like the pot calling kettle black, in the proverbial sense of the term; it surely raises the red flags to many that the RCC is suffering.  And, why not!  The faith and praxis of the RCC has changed so very much since Vatican II that they have seemingly thrown out the 'baby' with the 'bath water' which has given it the more Protestant flavor of synchrestic ecumenism through the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Bishops, the World Council of Churches, etc., which the Seven Ecumenical Councils forbid. 

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