I can’t believe the story in the Sunday Telegraph tomorrow: Ministers apologise for condom insult to Pope. The Government has apologised to the Vatican over official documents that mocked his forthcoming visit to Britain by suggesting he should bless a gay marriage and even launch Papal-branded condoms. The ideas in the paper didn’t seem to seriously plan an itinerary, but instead just went to extremes.
The proposals, which were then circulated among key officials in Downing Street and Whitehall, also include the Pope opening an abortion ward; spending the night in a council flat in Bradford; doing forward rolls with children to promote healthy living; and even performing a duet with the Queen.
In reference to the hugely sensitive issue of child abuse engulfing the Catholic Church, the Government document suggests that the Pope should take a “harder line on child abuse – announce sacking of dodgy bishops” and “launch helpline for abused children”.
The document was sent out by a junior Foreign Office civil servant with a covering note admitting that some of the plans were “far-fetched”.
Recipients of the memo were furious at its content and an investigation was launched. One senior official was found responsible and has been transferred to other duties.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, was “appalled” to hear of the proposals, according to a source close to him, and blamed “a colossal failure of judgement” by officials involved.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “This is clearly a foolish document that does not in any way reflect UK Government or Foreign Office policy or views. Many of the ideas in the document are clearly ill-judged, naive and disrespectful. The text was not cleared or shown to Ministers or senior officials before circulation. As soon as senior officials became aware of the document, it was withdrawn from circulation. The individual responsible has been transferred to other duties. He has been told orally and in writing that this was a serious error of judgement and has accepted this view. The Foreign Office very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused.”