Thu 30th Oct 2014 | Last updated: Thu 30th Oct 2014 at 16:43pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo

Comment & Blogs

The BBC has done very well so far – even risking the wrath of humanists

The Independent, for a start, isn’t happy

By on Thursday, 16 September 2010

The BBC has done very well so far – even risking the wrath of humanists

The BBC’s coverage of the papal visit so far has been very good. Jim Naughtie on the Today programme this morning was almost Dimblebyian in his gravity and respect and sense of occasion, and the TV reporters did well too. We should be proud of our national broadcaster, in spite of its many faults. Not all of us are. Some have suggested that last night the BBC gave too much prominence to Cardinal Kasper’s chance remark that landing at Heathrow was like landing in the Third World. But did other broadcasting outlets not give it equal prominence? It’s what we call a “good” story – ie, it was bad news – and it therefore got a lot of coverage everywhere. It was the front-page lead in the Daily Mail and the Guardian, which between them cover all shades of opinion in Britain.

To be sure, it was distressing that a mini-scandal should erupt on the eve of the visit, but you’d hardly be human if you did not laugh at the explanation for the “gaffe” that came from the Vatican. According to a spokesman, the cardinal had “no negative intention or appreciation” towards Britain. “He was simply saying that when arriving at London airport – as happens at any other large city airport in the world – but especially in London, you are aware that you are in a country with many different human realities from all over the world.”

“Human realities” is, I suppose, one way of describing black and brown people who dress in exotic robes. But are these different human realities “especially” evident in London? Personally, I have always found JFK more Third World than Heathrow, perhaps because when an Englishman enters the US he counts as an alien and has to stand in line behind hundreds of Third Worlders with bulging cardboard suitcases and cooking pots hanging from their belts. Purpose of visit? Vacation. Many of these people will disappear immediately into the black economy. But an American friend who is here to cover the papal visit told me last night that London is now more “cosmopolitan” than New York. It’s easier to find someone who speaks English in New York than it is in London, he said. So let’s not diss Cardinal Kasper.

Back to the BBC. Last night it risked the wrath of secular humanists by broadcasting two very interesting and sympathetic papal specials – Mark Dowd’s Benedict: Trials of a Pope (BBC1) and Vatican – the Hidden World (BBC4). I have not yet seen the second of these, but it must have been good because it attracted the rather prim disapproval of the Independent’s Today’s Choice feature: “This documentary is eye-popping for its access to the Holy See, and also for its uncritical tone.”


  • Francis Delima

    I agree – the BBC coverage of the Pope's visit has been balanced and a credit to the Corporation and, indeed, deserving of the licence fee! Contrast this coverage – and indeed the acualite, i.e. the welcome that the Pope has received in Scotland so far today – with the scurrilous Peter Tatchell programme on Monday night on Channel 4 (a Channel that feels it ought to pander to the lowest common denominator in order to cater for 'minority' interests). I shall stick with the BBC and follow the Pope around Britain quietly with its continued balanced reporting.

    Francis de Lima

  • Duncan Hothersall

    Presumably what you mean is that all invited guests were pro-religion and pro- the pope, and the TV coverage moved to a distant overhead shot as the pope passed the demonstrations in Edinburgh, so that we saw only the lines of police in hi-vis jackets, and none of the banners that were being held there in peaceful protest. When the Catholic Herald calls something balanced it means something quite different in reality.

  • Asdf

    Yeah, those troublesome people 'dissing' Cardinal Casper for his racism.

  • CatholicBlogger

    The BBC HD coverage clearly showed Ian Paisley protesting, and also others along the route.

  • GFFM

    It is worth noting that Tatchell and Paisley are bedfellows in their protest of the Pope's visit. They sound very much alike: their tone is shrill, their rhetoric is over the top, and both are intolerant to the point of irrationality.

  • David Armitage

    Tatchell and Paisley are bedfellows, says GFFM. Eh? Stuart Reid is a lazy thinker. The patron saint of humanists is surely Thomas More. One can be a Catholic and a humanist. One can also be a Catholic and deplore the whole notion of a Papal state visit, as I do. Why? The writer of John's gospel has Jesus saying :My kingdom is not of this world. The Jesus of the gospels didn't seem to hold much truck for the idea of a sacerdotal-monarchical state. I believe the City State arrangemennt cooked up with Mussolini runs contrary to the authentic faith of the primitive Church and don't understand how intelligent, well-educated bishops and priests can in good faith acquiesce in this triumphalism.

  • James

    I prefer the Sky News coverage. It's been excellent. Further, Sky earn their money – they don't force you, under threat of violence, to fund it, like the BBC do.

  • Robinleslie

    You might call Thomas More a humanist only in the sense you might call Erasmus a humanist, but these men were humanists in the Christian tradition of Christendom. Today's humanists belong to an entirely different allegiance and context to Thomas More and Erasmus, so there is simply no comparison.

    The Vatican City State, whilst having some international clout and influence does not exercise political power like other States, its main influence now is cultural and moral, certainly where secular States are concerned.

    As for being a 'sacerdotal-monarchical state' this is not true today. Militant sacerdotalism was abandoned

    long before the Second Vatican Council, though there may have been fragments of it around after World War 2, it has never been a predominant force since.

    Besides you have a purists approach to the Church, you ignore the fact that the Church develops through Her contact with civilisations, and remains true to Herself throughout, shedding unnecessary accretions as she develops, exactly what Blessed John Henry Newman meant when he wrote his The Development of Christian Doctrine. You can hardly call the Papacy or the Church triumphalist today. Furthermore

    secularist critics are wholly mistaken if they think they can divide the Pope from the wider Church, the two are a unity, and are indivisible.

  • Scott H Moore

    “Back to the BBC. Last night it risked the wrath of secular humanists by broadcasting two very interesting and sympathetic papal specials – Mark Dowd’s Benedict: Trials of a Pope (BBC1) and Vatican – the Hidden World (BBC4).” The BBC is hardly brave in broadcasting these programmes – wrathful secular Humanists will not threaten violence, let alone carry it out. Indeed, Humanists are an easy target to offend. Barely two years ago Christians alone were protected by a truly archaic blasphemy law. A private prosecution brought against the BBC in 2008 for broadcasting an award-winning musical was, fortunately, unsuccessful. Even now, Christians are protected by Religious Hatred Legislation whereas Humanists can be threatened because of their beliefs without specific redress to the legal system.

  • Lnewington

    David has quite adequately shown us by using St Thomas More as an example that Catholics can be a Humanist and deplore the notion of the fanfare of the Papal visit, for many reasons.

    I also note the the Church's renouncing of Humanist's per se.

    It was their Union being members of the Worldwide Non Government Organisation (of which we have many Catholic affiliations including a Permanent Observer) , who brought the Vatican to account before the UN on the abuse of our Catholic children.

    World leaders apart from Germany's Angela Merkel,, Members of Parliament, Church leaders Politicians and the above mentioned NGO's sat on their hands doing nothing out of worldly politicial correctness.

    Jesus's Kingdom is not of this world yes, but the expectations as Children of the Universe at least, is given good cause to speak out as those claiming to be humanists and as atheist's have done on various issues.

    I too don't understand how intelligent well educated bishop's priest's and I add theologians, can in good faith acquience in any false triumphalism.

  • Corbus

    I find myself in danger of finding affection for Auntie. There is a genuineness in some of the reporting that hints at a real interest in Catholicism; Catholicism as it is largely: a force for the good and a form of extraordinary devotion.

    I don't believe it is just to do what TV feels it must to capture ratings, but is paying testament to a historical event.

    Well done…very good for what has on the whole been a nest for cynicism and anti-traditionalist ideologies. They haven't laboured the abuse scandal (too much), and seem to accept the Pope's contrition on behalf of the Church.

    It is a good day.

  • Tiggy

    Except on “Today” this morning where The self important Mr Piggott, informed us that the Beatification of Cardinal Newman was being performed because the Church was in trouble. In other words to deflect from the scandals. He really is a hoot!

  • logos27

    The BBC prior to the visit aired a couple of the usual lurid programmes about abuse, with lip-smacking graphic accounts and the usual “priests are evil” agenda. The coverage of the visit itself has been good and balanced, but there seems to have been an order to all commentators to mention child abuse at least once every ten minutes, just in case anyone should forget that Catholicism=abuse.

    Worse have been ITV and Channel 4, especially ITN news. Both channels put on highly negative programmes about Catholicism, including inviting Catholic-hater Tatchell to make an hour-long special on the Pope and his evil beliefs. Channel 4 news spent the day before the Pope's arrival looking for negative stories. They predicted apathy and “empty-seats” as well as focussing on an alleged abuse victim from the United States who had a very dodgy story that was presented uncritically – that she was regularly abused by a priest while a nun held her down! That sounds like the sort of thing deranged anti-Catholics make up after watching Ken Russell films. I've never heard of any such thing – and I'm sure that if the story were true it would have emerged before this. Yet it was reported without checking. If she'd said the same thing about an Iman, a Rabbi or even a Vicar, I'm sure they'd have held back and checked it out.