BBC Assailed by Bishops of England and Wales

Programs Have Offended Many Catholics, They Say

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2003 ( The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales complained about programs on the country’s public television channel that «have given offense to many Catholics.»

The bishops, in Rome on their five-yearly visit, explained that «BBC News and Current Affairs have broadcast two programs which have been biased against and hostile to the Catholic Church.»

«In doing so they have given offense to many Catholics,» they said in a statement published today by the Vatican press office.

«The first was a BBC Panorama program, on Sunday …, entitled ‘Sex and the Holy City,'» the statement said. «The main argument of the program, 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 was a ‘Kenyon Confronts’ program, on October 15, which focused on past cases of the abuse of children involving two priests over 20 years ago,» it added. «The program 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 program regrettably persisted in using a single, uncorroborated source of proven unreliability as the basis for serious allegations against the Church,» the bishops said in their statement.

«For many decades the BBC has deserved and enjoyed a worldwide reputation for fairness and objectivity, especially in its News and Current Affairs,» the bishops said. «This reputation is increasingly tarnished.»

«In England and Wales there is considerable concern that elements within the BBC are simply hostile to religious belief and to any traditional sense of the sacred,» they added.

«Furthermore, the decision to broadcast both of these programs in the week when Catholic people throughout the world are celebrating the Silver Jubilee of the Pope and the life of Mother Teresa is a distressing sign of this insensitivity,» they observed. «It contributes to a further loss in the trust of many in the BBC as a public service broadcaster.»

The statement acknowledges, however, that «during this week the BBC, mainly through its Religious Affairs Department, is giving good coverage to the celebrations of the 25 years of the Pontificate of John Paul II and to the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. This is much appreciated.»

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