Friday, April 30, 2010

BBC Radio Oxford and the FCO Memo

Yesterday I had a brief live interview on BBC Radio Oxford with Louisa Hannan, on the subject of the Foreign Office memo about the Papal visit. I had prepared myself for some aggressive questioning but we had a very amicable chat, even when I drew the parallel with the leaked BBC memo of 2006 in which it was acknowledged that it would be acceptable for a television show guest to throw a Bible in a bin but not a Koran. You can hear the interview for a few more days here.

I pointed out that such a memo would never have been written about a non-Christian faith, and that far from being entirely a joke, it made clear that the authors had a problem with the Pope simply because he disagreed with current Government policy: on adoption, condoms, abortion and, interestingly enough, on the ordination of women. You can see the famous list in full here.

My interviewer asked me whether I thought that jokes about religions should be allowed at all. I was able to point out that it was the Government, opposed by Christian groups, which had tried to suppress criticism of religious beliefs and ways of life, in recent legislation. They clearly had Islam and homosexuality in mind: when it comes to Catholicism different rules come into play.

The Latin Mass Society is asked from time to time to provide people to give interviews; recently a Committee member was part of a television panel as a result. This is the third time I've been on the radio; on this occasion they got my name off a University list of people willing to talk to the press. I'm glad the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have got a list of young people willing to talk to the press during the Papal visit, although I am concerned that the clumsy attempts by Austin Ivereigh to exclude 'controversial' figures have not only generated a lot of bad publicity, but will have left the list of 'Catholic Voices' looking rather bland. The list does rather give the impression of being a university CathSoc committee - a lot of theology graduate students, and few people with experience of the media, the hierarchy, or dealing in a practically way with the issues they are likely to be asked about. But if the media aren't impressed by them, they will simply go elsewhere for Catholics to talk to.

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