Cardinal featured in 'biased and hostile' Panorama documentary to give Cafod lecture
BY TRACY-JO SMITH AND SIMON CALDWELL
THE BISHOPS of England and Wales have issued a collective statement to condemn the alleged anti-Catholic bias of the BBC.
The bishops were furious that the BBC broadcast a Panorama documentary called "Sex and the Holy City", which attacked the Church's teachings on sexual morality, and Kenyon Confronts, a one-sided investigation into child abuse in the Church, during the week of celebrations for the Pope's silver jubilee and the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta,
They said the decision to show two programmes "biased and hostile to the Catholic Church" marked a "distressing sign of insensitivity" which contributed to a "further loss in the trust of many in the BBC as a public service broadcaster".
Their statement was followed by an attack on the BBC by Professsor Karol Tathowski of the Papal Academy of Theology, Krakow, Poland, who agreed to he interviewed for "Sex and the Holy City".
Professor Tarnowski issued a statement to say he was appalled that his comments were set in a context that was hostile to the Pope after he was "patently misled regarding this production's intention and direction". He said: "It is intellectually dishonest to trim statements to suit a thesis (or theses) already decided a priori from above.
"This practice was typical of the ideological mentality which Poles experienced in excess under Communism, and whose manifestations now appear to be found in Anglo-Saxon journalism, perhaps in Western journalism as a whole. At the moment of our entry to the European Union, this is a nasty surprise."
He added: "Since the BBC has acted so unfairly towards me, I feel I have an obligation to forewarn all those with whom it may seek to cooperate here in the future."
In their statement, the English and Welsh bishops said: "The main argument of the programme which cannot be sustained, was that while the Pope preaches peace and life, his teachings and the actions of the Catholic Church (in opposing abortion and contraception) bring about widespread poverty and death.
"The second ... focused on past cases of abuse of children involving priests over 20 years ago. The pmgramme did contain significant disclosures: the whereabouts in America of a priest of the
Archdiocese of Birmingham and a tape recording from 1985. But they were set alongside contentious and biased reporting of the Church's actions, both past and present.
"For example, the programme regrettably persisted in using a single, uncorrobated source of pmven unreliability as the basis for serious allegations against the Church.
"For many decades the BBC has deserved and enjoyed a worldwide reputation for fairness and objectivity, especially in its News and Current Affairs. This reputation is increasingly tarnished."
The BBC insisted it was not anti-Catholic. A spokesman said: "Both Panorama and Kenyon Confronts examined serious issues of public interest and it is entirely legitimate for the BBC to investigate and report them.
"The Panorama documentary investigated how men and women around the world have been affected by the Catholic Church's teachings on contraception and abortion.
"Kenyon Confronts examined how the Catholic Church is treating victims of past child abuse as they campaign for redress. It gave a voice to those who feel their cases should be heard." A CARDINAL who is leading the fight for international social justice will travel to Britain to deliver a prestigious annual lecture.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa in Honduras will give this year's Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture in London on October 31.
Cardinal Rodriguez led the Jubilee 2000 Latin American campaign for debt relief and has also won praise for his work to help the victims of Hurricane Mitch. He has represented the Vatican in talks with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on Third World debt.
In his talk, arranged by Cafod. he will call for the alleviation of poverty through the "globalisation of solidarity".
He last visited Britain in 1999 when he was invited by Cafod to speak on the subject of world debt.
Chris Bain, the director of Cafod, said: "We are delighted that he has agreed to return this year to deliver Cafod's Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture. Cardinal Rodriguez is an outstanding champion for the poor throughout the world. The Cardinal has been an energetic exponent of Catholic social teaching and a courageous campaigner for the peoples of Latin America, for debt cancellation and for human rights."