By CHRISTINA FARRELL
THE 25m anniversary of John Paul ll's pontificate will be celebrated with an attack on the Church from the country's public sector broadcaster.
Last week The Catholic Herald reported that the BBC is planning to mark the anniversary of the Pope's election on October 16 with a high profile Panorama documentary titled Sex and The Holy City
Further details of the programme emerged this week. In a press release, the BBC said: "A quarter of a century ago the former cardinal Karol Wojtyla was widely seen as a modern Pope with progressive views about sex and love — a caring and compassionate man, who idealised women.
'Today though, critics argue his campaign against artificial contraception, and abortion under any circumstances, has deprived millions of women of the right to control their fertility — at a time when many have begun to see this as a key to development and eradicating poverty. They claim that withholding birth control from women who lace death from unwanted pregnancy, or advising people with AIDS not to use condoms is both immoral and inhumane."
The programme makers said Panorama would talk to "ordinary men and women about how their own lives have been affected and to leading members of the Church" to explain the thinking behind the Church's doctrine.
The BBC is also planning to broadcast Kenyon Confronts in October which will focus again on the subject of alleged clerical sexual abuse in the English Church. Mark Morley, head of the Catholic Communications Service, said the BBC's coverage of the anniversary was a "cheap shot" and that "John Paul II deserves better".
Mr Morley said it was a "fairly outrageous way of celebrating probably the most recognised figure of the 20th and now the 21st century. They [the BBC] are not going to cover themselves with glory on this one."
He said the BBC's focus dRI not give the Pontiff the "recognition and respect he deserves".
"I'm actually quite stunned. Is this really the best the BBC can come up with?"
' John Beyer spokesman for the viewers' watchdog Mediawatch said the Corporation had a duty to present a wider and more objective picture of the Church.
"Catholics pay their licence fee like everyone else and it is not the role of the BBC to single out any one group like this. I would have thought that the requirement for impartiality would require them to present a balanced view of these matters rather than the
same old prejudices that they churn out most of the time."
He said the subject matter was "inappropriate" to mark the silver jubilee of a man who has been a beacon of moral and religious authority not only for Catholics but for the world.
He added: "They ought to take the blinkers off and look more objectively at the work of the whole Church around the world rather than limiting themselves to issues of sexual morality, pretending that that is all that concerns the Vatican."
Editorial Comment: Page 9