Britain’s leading secularist organization is furious that Pope Benedict is to be given a slot within a flagship BBC news programme to speak unchallenged for several minutes.
The slot is called Thought for the Day, and it’s a programme within a programme. Normally, it lasts for about two and a half minutes, and it is produced within BBC Radio 4’s daily Today programme.
Today has more hard news than soft, and often interviewees are grilled by the man sometimes dubbed Radio 4’s Rottweiler, John Humphrys.
However, only three months after his visit to the UK in September – a visit in which he angered nonbelievers by equating atheism with Nazism – Pope Benedict will deliver a Thought for the Day homily tomorrow, Christmas Eve.
Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams gushed: “I’m delighted Pope Benedict is sharing his Christmas message with the Radio 4 audience.
“It’s significant that the Pope has chosen Thought for the Day to give his first personally scripted broadcast – and what better time to do so than on the eve of one of the biggest celebrations on the Christian calendar?”
However, unlike other controversial figures who have spoken on the programme, the Pope – who recorded his message at the Vatican on Wednesday – will not be challenged on his views.
“The Pope will be allotted an uninterrupted and unchallenged platform in which to continue to claim that he is the source of all that is good and the enemy of all that is bad. In reality, it is the other way round,” says the National Secular Society (NSS).
‘Most blatant concealment’
The society refers to a recent report delivered to the Irish government revealing even more cover-ups by the Roman Catholic Church of priestly child abuse and rape.
“Another chapter of the Murphy report was published showing the most blatant concealment and enabling of child abuse by the Vatican, whose chief aim is to protect the Church from scandal, not protect children from paedophiles.
“The Pope’s repeated attempts to blame someone else for the scandal – the latest this week was ‘the 1970s’ and again ‘secular society’ – show that he is unable to face up to his own culpability,” says the NSS.
Its website report continues:
No one on the Today programme will ask the Pope about the ban on condoms that is causing lethal overpopulation and leaving innocent people exposed to HIV/AIDS.
No one will question him about his church’s cruel insults and attacks on gay people and their rights.
There will be no explanation about the Vatican’s insulting exclusion of women and its constant attacks on their right to control their own fertility through its bans on contraception and abortion.
The pope will not be asked to explain why the Vatican bank is under investigation – and not for the first time – for money laundering.
Who will ask about the concordat he is about the sign with the dictator of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko – the man who has just violently crushed his opposition and fixed the election? What principle is it that guides the Vatican to do business with such a man in order to feather its own financial nest?
Benedict needs to answer hard questions. So what does the BBC do? It invites him on to its propaganda platform and gives him free rein.
The Daily Mail says that the BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson, is understood to have discussed the idea when he visited the Vatican in February. Thompson is a devout Catholic.