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Vatican paper says reported BBC dating change is ‘senseless’

By on Wednesday, 5 October 2011

L'Osservatore Romano has joined Boris Johnson in condemning the date change (Photo: CNS)

L'Osservatore Romano has joined Boris Johnson in condemning the date change (Photo: CNS)

The Vatican newspaper has said it is “historically senseless hypocrisy” to drop the dating abbreviations BC and AD on the grounds that they might offend non-Christians.

In a front-page commentary L’Osservatore Romano said the change reflected a wider effort to “cancel every trace of Christianity from Western culture”.

The BBC has clarified, however, that it has not dropped the use of BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, or Year of the Lord) in favour of BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).

Even so, the religion page of its website says it prefers BCE and CE, explaining that “in line with modern practice, bbc.co.uk/religion uses BCE/CE as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD. As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians.”

A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology. It is also possible for individuals to use different terminology if they wish to, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research.”

The comments on the BBC religion page have attracted widespread criticism, including from London mayor Boris Johnson. Critics argue that the BCE/CE dating abbreviations use the birth of Christ as a reference point but without acknowledging the connection.

“To deny the historically revolutionary importance of the coming of Christ on earth, which is also accepted by those who do not recognise him as the son of God, is an act of enormous foolishness,” the Vatican newspaper said.

“Why not recognise that from that moment, the world changed?” it said. For one thing, it said, the modern concept of human rights owes much to the new Christian vision of the equality of human beings as children of God.

The newspaper said it was “anti-historical” to deny the cultural debt owed by civilisation to Christianity.

  • Anonymous

    Thirty years ago I followed a course in Biblical History at a Catholic College of Education. That was the first time I had ever met the terms BCE and CE, but it was explained that this usage was by then the norm in historical and biblical studies in the UK. 

    Perhaps someone should tell L’Osservatore Romano that the BBC has not dropped the use of BC and AD, and that while on just one of its websites the editor decided to use those terms, BC and AD remain the norm throughout the BBC.

  • Sean Benedicts

    Seconding Patrick Hadley, a very small amount of research might have led the OR to this http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/content/response/useofdatetermsbcandad
    “It is incorrect to say that the BBC has replaced date systems BC and AD with Before Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE). Whilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology, it is possible to use different terminology, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research. The BBC has issued no editorial guidance on date systems, and the decision rests with the individual editorial and production teams. It should also be noted that for every BCE or CE reference, there are still a great many BC and AD references used across the BBC.”

    How many times in the last few years have we called out the secular press for shoddy reporting, failing to check the facts or go into the issues more deeply? It’s embarrassing for the Vatican newspaper to show itself just as bad.

  • http://blog.echurchwebsites.org.uk/ Stuart @ eChurch Blog

    This entire story is a complete myth; a moral panic, that makes our community look ridiculous:

    BBC AD BC CE BCE Total bunkum and tosh. A paranoia fueled moral panic.

  • ms Catholic state

    The article exposes the real motives behind the BBC’s move stating …..“It is clear that respect for other religions is a mere pretext, because what they want is to wipe out any trace of Christianity from western culture.” (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-daily-criticizes-bbc-for-erasing-christ-from-history/)

    The desire to eradicate or at very least subvert Christianity in the West…. seems to be the aim of most secular organisations and even governments of Europe….including the EU.  This is what secularism is all about.  It was always thus.

  • Anonymous

    By 10:00am this morning I had listened to Prayer for the Day, Thought for the Day and the Daily Service on Radio 4, and at 3:30pm this afternoon I will hear Choral Evensong live from Exeter Cathedral.

    The BBC’s plan to wipe out any trace of Christianity from western culture is obviously going strong.

  • ms Catholic state

    There’s more than one way to skin a cat.  Sometimes ‘gently’ subverting the Christian Faith by promoting alternatives as equal and substituting a doctrine free, cultural Christianity is the most effective first step.

  • Anonymous

    Did you listen to today’s Prayer for the Day, or today’s Daily Service. Have you ever heard Choral Evensong on Radio 3? If so then I cannot understand how you could possibly characterise them as doctrine free, cultural Christianity. Frankly the only way that anyone could make that comment in good faith is if they are completely misinformed.

  • http://twitter.com/Stefano_Mazzeo Stefano Mazzeo

    I for one am very glad that the Vatican has finally woken up to the bias of the BBC and the tosh that exists there

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if anyone at the Vatican has ever compared the amount of high quality genuine religious broadcasting on the BBC with that on the television stations owned by the Papal Knight of St Gregory, Rupert Murdoch, or on ITV or on Channel 4, or on Five, or on radio stations such as Classic FM or indeed any other non-BBC radio station.

  • Anonymous

    @ Patrick_Hadley.
                                 There is very little “high quality” religious broadcasting on the BBC. Choral Evensong the only exception. The difference between the others you mentioned, is that we are not compelled to pay for them.

  • Parasum

    Thank God – someone else who knows the facts. This convention is used all the time in Assyriology – how very anti-Christian LOL.

    The Vatican should mind it own beeswax, and clean up its own act. Then – who knows ? – it might actually have something resembling a shred or two of credibility. Maybe It really needs to picks its battles, instead of barging on issues about which it knows zero. Getting in a snit about nothing and pontificating from ignorance merely makes the Church look moronic & meddlesome

  • Parasum

    “To deny the historically revolutionary importance of the coming of
    Christ on earth, which is also accepted by those who do not recognise
    him as the son of God…”

    A lot of people do not think he’s important at all. Why should they ? Christians don’t bother with the Hegira, or with Guru Nanak or with people and events important in other religions, so why the automatic assumption that a Jewish gallows-bird (which is historically, *if one leaves out faith*, is all Jesus of Nazareth was) *must* be of interest or importance to non-Christians ? This is such a silly attitude. (It’s also rotten theology.)

  • Anonymous

    Mountain out of a molehill? The Church must really have a persecution complex.

    This is limited to the BBC religious issues site, the BBC uses AD BC almost everywhere else. If I were of another religion I would respect the tradition of AD and BC, but if I wanted to read specifically about different religions on the BBC’s specific religious website – then I would understand the decision to phrase it otherwise.

  • Joev

    Could it be more than mere coincidence, that we have the letters ‘CE’ thrust upon us from yet another quarter, the CE Mark having become colloquially , if unintentionally, associated with the Latin phrase ‘Caveat Emptor’ – Buyer Beware – perhaps the European Union’s only true contribution to free market principles.

  • Mark Castilano

    L’Osservatore Romano said the change reflected a wider effort by th BBC to “cancel every trace of Christianity from Western culture”. This is nonsense. The BBC have given no such directive, they have agreed to accept both expressions as equal (either, or, one or the other) and that is the whole story. L’Osservatore Romano is given to hyperbole.

  • Mark Castilano

    L’Osservatore Romano said the change reflected a wider effort by th BBC to “cancel every trace of Christianity from Western culture”. This is nonsense. The BBC have given no such directive, they have agreed to accept both expressions as equal (either, or, one or the other) and that is the whole story. L’Osservatore Romano is given to hyperbole.

  • Alan Rigby Marr

    What is the surprise !The BBC is generally anti Christian and when ever Christianity is mentioned on the BBC the broadcaster develops an unpleasant sneering tone. On the other hand when they are talking to anti Christians one hears positive and joyous tones.

  • Philip Ogilvie

    Perhaps, if the BBC is so committed to impartiality, it had better call ITSELF the BCE (Broadcasting Corporation for Everbody)!  Even Europe seems to be too narrow for its style.

  • Mark Castilano

    It is not helping the Catholic cause one bit when Catholic Newspapers and senior Catholic clerics make profound assertions that are later are shown to be unfounded. Peter Smith and Alexander Lucie-Smith have recently attacked the integrity and honour of the British and Italian courts respectfully without just cause.
    Senior academic priests making thoughtless, emotional outbursts only detracts from the dignity of Christ.

  • Fr Thomas Poovathinkal

    LET CHRISTIANITY DIE.

    LET JESUS COME UP.

    TO HELP HIS CAUSE LET US ALL BE WITNESSES AND PROCLAIMERS OF THE WORD OF

    THE-WORD-MADE-FLESH.

    COMMON GROUND FOR ALL HUMANITY HELPS.

    ALL CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS HEADS, BISHOPS, PRIESTS (AND ANYONE WHO HAS CHOSEN TO

    FOLLOW  CHRIST THE LORD), FOR THIS REASON, NEED TO BECOME APOSTLES OR DISCIPLES AND

    NOT REMAIN AS MERE PRIESTS MAKING TOO MUCH OUT OF IT.

    LET US STOP PROJECTING PRIESTHOOD.

    IT IS APOSTLESHIP  WHICH MEDIATES SALVATION IN  AND THROUGH CHRIST THE LORD.

    Fr Thomas Poovathinkal

  • D B McGinnity

    The BBC have no interest in suppressing any religion, but they must take account that religious organisations attract the unstable and unsavoury who wish to use the religion in question to promote outrageous superstition and doctrinal gobbledegook. Christianity does not have the respect of all the population and the Catholic Church does not hold a special position. Even the Church of England’s once special position is now devalued to the point of derision and mockery.  The message of Jesus would have been upheld and would still be upheld if clerics did not dress in outrageous hideous outfits that are completely anachronistic and serve no purpose in this day and age. The whole premise of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven is no longer sustainable as a dogma. The criminal and perverted conduct of Catholic priests and the cover-up by the Vatican demonstrates that the doctrine of the Catholic Church (Canon Law) are completely at variance with the pristine teachings of Jesus Christ.  The BBC are trying to discourage religious superstition and propaganda from any place of prominence, and to replace unfounded superstition with reason and logic. The term “religious contamination” is now becoming an accepted concept, that does apply to The Roman Catholic Church. Also, alliteratively speaking The Roman Catholic Church is in a “right state”, but it will never be Catholic State in terms of nationhood as some dreamers, fantasists and fanatics would wish. Even the legality and probity of The Lateran Treaty is now being called into question, because a contract cannot be legal and honoured if one of the parties to the contract is a criminal and murderer, as was the case with Mussolini. The recent Vatican attacks on President Silvio Berlusconi are considered to be most insulting by Italian politicians, and as political interference by the Pope. The Italian people may criticise President Berlusconi, but the Pope may not. The Pope seems to have learned nothing from his interference and admonition by the Irish Taoiseach.

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  • JByrne24

    BCE/CE is widely used in Catholic schools (including Primary schools). It has been used there for many years.
    The Catholic Primary (5 to 11 plus) that a daughter of mine attended (she is around 30 years old now) used it when she was a pupil. The Parish Priest there has always been Chairman of Governors and we had 3 different ones in my time (as parent). It is also used elsewhere, and has been too for many years.