Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Benedict Condom
April 25, 2010 2:34 AM   Subscribe

The Benedict Condom: The British Government has apologised to the Pope over official documents that mocked his forthcoming visit to the UK by suggesting he should bless a gay marriage and even launch Papal-branded condoms.

Reportedly a "junior official" at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office circulated a list of suggestions for events to make the visit newsworthy, according to the Daily Telegraph. Other suggestions included 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. Our (hapless) Man in the Vatican has crossed the Tiber to offer apologies, and one senior FCO official was found responsible and has been transferred to other duties.
The BBC comments: "How serious and far-reaching the effect of the document is depends partly on how the Church itself responds." On recent form, this may not be a very optimistic view.
Unsurprisingly, the news has not appeared on the website of the UK Embassy to the Holy See.

As a former junior FCO official in another lifetime, I am dying to know who was responsible...
posted by aqsakal (59 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Of all the great offices of state, the Foreign Office is by far the funniest.

"spending the night in a council flat in Bradford"

That, however, is barbaric.
posted by vbfg at 2:43 AM on April 25, 2010


Whether fairly or not, it will leave some Catholics with the impression of a culture within official circles in which their Church's teaching is not taken seriously.

If officials don't take fucking stupid teachings like "Condoms cause AIDS" seriously, that can only be a good thing.

(Besides, how many *Catholics* take the church prohibitions on contraception seriously?)
posted by rodgerd at 2:44 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why you'd ever want Papal condoms for your personal archbishopric is beyond me—I wouldn't take my contraceptive advice from a guy who's never had sex with a woman. I mean, what, nine circles for her pleasure? Besides, the sex scandal the Church's embroiled in is so repugnant for precisely the same reason that those involved wouldn't have needed condoms.
posted by klangklangston at 2:47 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


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”.

Outrageous. Insulting. And absolutely spot on.

What the British Government (and every other government) should do is stop treating the despotic undemocratic dictator of a tiny Italian village as a head of state.
posted by three blind mice at 2:48 AM on April 25, 2010 [32 favorites]


I wonder what papal condoms* would be. Sorta like a turtleneck sweater, I guess.

*Also available with plenary indulgence.
posted by _dario at 2:53 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


What the British Government (and every other government) should do is stop treating the despotic undemocratic dictator of a tiny Italian village as a head of state.

In fact he was elected. As for size, I agree that it's tiny. How large do you think a nation must be before we treat its elected leader with respect?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:07 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the suggestions were witty instead of cringe-inducingly lame it wouldn't be so bad. So much for the FCO's treasured self-image as subtle and sophisticated. But it seems we live in the age of morons: who now would bet against the FCO being quickly out-fuckwitted by some three-neuron Catholic bishop likening this 'outrage' to the Holocaust or relating it to gay infiltration or something?
posted by Phanx at 3:24 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah...I've got to say...if they're apologizing for something, it should probably be for the quality of the humor, not the content.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:28 AM on April 25, 2010


In fact he was elected.

My parents are Catholic. They didn't vote for him. Or against him. In fact, they didn't get to vote at all.

How large do you think a nation must be before we treat its elected leader with respect?

Point well-taken Joe in Australia. I would answer that as Head of State the Pope should be accorded the importance of a nation having a population of 800 people - which is the population of Vatican City. Put him on the Christmas card list.

As for respect, this is something to be earned. What has this Pope done to earn any respect? Indeed, he's earned the mockery he's receiving.
posted by three blind mice at 3:34 AM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


undemocratic dictator of a tiny Italian village

Technically I think it's the only elective absolute monarchy in the world. And, Italy has fuck all to do with the Vatican city. We got this close, though.

A couple often overlooked points about the italian national hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi, he used to refer to the then-reigning Pope as "that cubic metre of manure living in Rome". And he used to call his donkey "Pius IX".
posted by _dario at 3:35 AM on April 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


My parents are Catholic. They didn't vote for him.

Are your parents citizens of the Holy See?
posted by brokkr at 3:46 AM on April 25, 2010


Yes, Joe in Australia. According to your own link, he was elected by the College of Cardinals. Which is about as democratic as the board of Monsanto electing the Ambridge parish council.
posted by howfar at 3:47 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What the British Government (and every other government) should do is stop treating the despotic undemocratic dictator of a tiny Italian village as a head of state.

What the mice said. All three of them.
posted by New England Cultist at 3:52 AM on April 25, 2010


Well, there's Eggs Benedict. Stands to reason there should be Sperm Benedict as well.
posted by emelenjr at 4:01 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


God. Where's Malcolm Tucker when you need him?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:03 AM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Are your parents citizens of the Holy See?

Why would that matter? Citizens of the Holy See don't have the right to vote for their absolute ruler. The absolute ruler of the Holy See is elected by less than 120 people, all of which are selected by the former absolute rulers of the Holy See, who select one of their number as the absolute ruler for life.

Oh, and that body of electors? The *vast* majority are not citizens of the Holy See.

Funny, that.
posted by eriko at 4:11 AM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


“launch helpline for abused children”

The last thing I want the Catholic Church in general, and this pope in particular, doing is anything to do with children. Seriously.
posted by DU at 4:17 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What the British Government (and every other government) should do is stop treating the despotic undemocratic dictator of a tiny Italian village as a head of state.

Except from this tiny village this pope fellow leads - often in a very despotic way - the spiritual lives over one billion people.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:26 AM on April 25, 2010


If the pope doesn't deserve to be treated as a leader, than neither does the Dali Lama.
posted by garlic at 4:48 AM on April 25, 2010


If the pope doesn't deserve to be treated as a leader, than neither does the Dali Lama.

The Dalai Lama often isn't treated as a leader. And when he is, it's usually for ulterior motives - to make a statement to somebody else, using him as a chess piece to move and manipulate.
posted by aqsakal at 4:55 AM on April 25, 2010


eriko, it matters in that if they are not citizens of the Holy See, they can hardly have any more interest in the alleged despoticness of the Pope than the rest of us. (As Head of State, that is. As Catholics they may or may not agree with how he's elected as Head of Church, in which case they're free to start a religious war.)

As it is, only the citizens of the Holy See can have legitimate grievances about the way their Head of State is (s)elected. It does seem to me that the procedure is far less objectionable than, say, taking power by force.

> Except from this tiny village this pope fellow leads - often in a very despotic way - the spiritual lives over one billion people.

Not as Head of State.
posted by brokkr at 4:56 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the pope doesn't deserve to be treated as a leader, than neither does the Dali Lama.

Obviously, you've never listened to the Dali Lama speak.
posted by New England Cultist at 5:06 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the plus side the Foreign Office did not mention the war.
posted by srboisvert at 5:08 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Neither the British Head of State nor their current head of government are elected to that position, so I don't understand this rather bizarre derail.
posted by atrazine at 5:17 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's a picture of a further attempt of the Catholic church to cleanse itself. (Do not click if easily offended by religious humor.)
posted by sour cream at 5:23 AM on April 25, 2010


If the pope doesn't deserve to be treated as a leader, than neither does the Dali Lama.

The Dali Lama at least exudes a natural leadership and peaceful presence which causes people of all faiths to respect him. This current pope just honestly looks very creepy, and I'm not sure why anyone thought it was a good idea to slap his visage on a big billboard.

Anyway, Papal condoms have a mitre reservoir tip.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:26 AM on April 25, 2010


Let's at least get his name right, even if we disagree on his importance: it's Dalai Lama.
posted by aqsakal at 5:32 AM on April 25, 2010


I thought we were talking about Dali's llama?
posted by Burhanistan at 5:35 AM on April 25, 2010


A friend of mine brought me back a coffee mug from Italy with a photo of the Pope on it. It's kinda spooky to look at that first thing in the morning.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:35 AM on April 25, 2010


I'm comfortable with people making fun of the heads of every state and religion.

If I'm the Pope, I'm probably going to try and be gracious about this in the interest of generating some good PR for once. Of course, so far, Pope Ben seems to lack a certain je ne sais quoi in the PR department.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:36 AM on April 25, 2010


What the British Government (and every other government) should do is stop treating the despotic undemocratic dictator of a tiny Italian village [that shelters rapists and pedophiles from justice] as a head of state.

Fixed that for you. It isn't the size of the state. It's the rogue conduct of that state. The Vatican is like the Taliban when it was sheltering Osama Bin Laden. And that's right, I called the pope a terrorist. Of children.

And if only the Dalai Lama *were* head of his state and the pope had to operate from exile.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:40 AM on April 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pope Ben seems to lack a certain je ne sais quoi in the PR department.

Hardly surprising: The Holy See's press office is headed by an Italian Jesuit, Fr Federico Lombardi, a journalist who is also in charge of the Vatican's radio and TV stations. But whereas in any modern government's communication strategy the chief spokesman is in on all the major discussions about key issues as was, for example, Alistair Campbell during the Blair government, the same is not true of Fr Lombardi. He has not once spoken with Pope Benedict about the abuse crisis since it first blew up in Germany last February. Fr Lombardi describes himself as "a spokesman who is dependent on the Vatican's Secretariat of State, from whom I get directions". "It is the Secretariat of State that decides the line, and I try to communicate that as best I can," he said. He does not consider himself as co-ordinator of the Vatican's media strategy. "No-one has ever given me that mandate," he told me.

(From the BBC story linked above.)
posted by aqsakal at 5:48 AM on April 25, 2010


Uh..... This sounds like it was meant to be an in-office jokey e-mail forward meant to release tension on having to interact with someone incredibly powerful but morally abhorrent. So the real question is why didn't the person who leaked it get re-assigned?
posted by edbles at 5:48 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Uh, devil's advocate here. I'm not trying to imply that that document was not deeply insulting, but I read the article to imply that it was the result of a brainstorming session. The image I have is someone getting a random handful of very junior civil servants into a room and asking what would happen during an ideal visit of the pope.
If someone does brainstorming as per the instructions, _anything_ goes. The principle is that even very bad ideas can inspire good ones, and if you get enough random ideas, some of them will be good.
I think there were two problems. Firstly the session was badly handled and lost focus - it should have been based on what would happen in the Government's ideal visit, not the participants' ideal. Secondly, the document produced should have never been seen by anyone other than the participants - brainstorming is fuel for ideas, not something to be presented to management.
posted by YAMWAK at 5:51 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, OK, whatever you think about the hierarchy of the Catholic church, one of the funniest bits about this whole story is that the civil servant involved was what is know here as "sideways promoted". In the US this guy would be out on his ass in an instant if he insulted any foreign leader (and let's face it, the Queen has had to have some real dogs to dinner, she deserves a medal!), in the UK he is basically sent to another department, wash, rinse and repeat until he has probably been in every dept. in the FO.


But, the beautiful thing for him is, if they do not want to fire him, they generally have to give him a bump up in salary because they are changing the terms and conditions of his contract.

See, "sideways promoted" what a cleaver fucker!
posted by kairab at 5:52 AM on April 25, 2010


One could argue that un-hole-y condoms are good for all kinds of head, not just of state.
posted by gman at 5:58 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's this "Dali Lama" business? Did the cool kids change the spelling while I wasn't watching?

Anyway, this is all a bit silly: it's not as if there were anything intrinsically more sensible about Queen Elizabeth II being a Head of State. Or in fact about Barack Obama being one. It all comes from the Treaty of Westphalia, which I propose to post shortly along with an extemporised translation in terza rima, as a tribute to the Holy See.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:01 AM on April 25, 2010


in the UK he is basically sent to another department, wash, rinse and repeat

In the Vatican, too...
posted by aqsakal at 6:02 AM on April 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yep, the irony is beaut!

as usual Irish comedian Dara O Briain say it better!
http://twitter.com/daraobriain
posted by kairab at 6:04 AM on April 25, 2010


Barack Obama was elected by a majority of citizens, around 50 million of them. How is that no different from the Pope?
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:17 AM on April 25, 2010


I, too, was thinking of The Queen who is treated like...royalty..whenever she travels to other countries, but she has been very careful never to have any opinions and her background is immaculate. I would say at this point in time The Queen has more goodwill around the globe than The Pope does.

I wonder what the fallout would be if governments began to ignore or "downsize" their treatment of The Pope. I know that the millions of Catholics in this country (USA) would be vocally outraged but would it really matter come election time? And is there anything to be gained by snubbing The Pope? It never occurred to me until now, but he really is a little pissant elected by a few cronies and representative of no country of importance.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:24 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Barack Obama was elected by a majority of citizens, around 50 million of them.

And the Pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals.

Neither of these facts is a justification per se for their status as Heads of State. The fact is that they're Heads of State because that's the international consensus. If the USA were to have an elected Executive but an appointed Head of State (many countries do) the fact that your President was the elected head of the Executive would actually prevent him from being the Head of State.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:43 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a history of such things -

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timcollard/100036358/the-pope-and-the-foreign-office-a-colossal-sense-of-humour-failure/

"In the late Nineties I was the UK representative at EU coordination meetings in Beijing. After each meeting I would circulate a report of the meeting within the Embassy, couched in the most ribaldly satirical terms; sadly, none of us were inclined to take EU coordination (diplo-speak for “squabbling”) very seriously. More relevantly to the present case, just before the State Visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 1999, I satirised what I saw as the FCO’s unduly obsequious attitude with a set of spoof proposals culminating in the Queen abdicating in Jiang’s favour and the Archbishop of Canterbury proclaiming him the Fourth Person of the Trinity. Fortunately, in those days the FCO‘s access to high-tech communication was limited (for reasons of security), and I couldn’t email this stuff any further than the end of the corridor. "
posted by Devonian at 6:56 AM on April 25, 2010


The FPP buried the lede: I didn't understand the joke until I got through the comments and realized the fact that this guy was reassigned rather than fired. *ICEBURN*

But this is hardly a new conflict. The UK has historically had a bit of... let's call it a friendly rivalry... with the Pope: the Queen is technically the Supreme Governor of the Catholic and Reformed Church of England. This is just some sibling jostling between Cantebury and Rome.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:59 AM on April 25, 2010


> How large do you think a nation must be before we treat its elected leader with respect?

No smaller than the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
posted by ardgedee at 7:26 AM on April 25, 2010


just what is a guy supposed to do with a stiff dick and a picture of the pope on it?
posted by kitchenrat at 7:29 AM on April 25, 2010


Why you'd ever want Papal condoms for your personal archbishopric is beyond me—I wouldn't take my contraceptive advice from a guy who's never had sex with a woman. I mean, what, nine circles for her pleasure? Besides, the sex scandal the Church's embroiled in is so repugnant for precisely the same reason that those involved wouldn't have needed condoms.
Oh no?
She traveled between Stebbins and Nome several times in the late 1970s, spending time in hospitals and receiving homes. By 1977, Rachel testified, Poole [a catholic priest] had given her gonorrhea, and by 1978 she was pregnant with his child. In an interview with The Stranger, she said Poole encouraged her to get an abortion and tell the doctors she had been raped by her father. She followed his advice. "He brainwashed me," she said. "He messed up my head, man."
Bonus story, different priest same area:
They say that, in one incident, this priest was called to a house in Yakima to administer last rites to a dying woman in 1989. "He raped the woman on her deathbed," Roosa says. "He told the family to go into the other room, the husband heard a weird noise, went into the bedroom, and caught him raping his unconscious wife."
posted by delmoi at 7:34 AM on April 25, 2010


Neither of these facts is a justification per se for their status as Heads of State.

Nor are they even remotely equivalent in their candidacy for such a justification. Talk philosophy all you want, but in the modern world, states have heads of state. You might as well be questioning the idea of "state" as such, and that's fine if you want to live on another planet.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:39 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I saw this question somewhere in AskMe:

Uh, papal condoms are too small for my archbishopric. What should I do?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:43 AM on April 25, 2010


I loved this. Merely hearsay from a friend working in the civil service, but apparently the suggestions came from a brainstorming session where they were supposed to say the most extreme things they could think of, then 'pull them back' to something more reasonable.
posted by YouRebelScum at 9:03 AM on April 25, 2010


I wonder what papal condoms* would be. Sorta like a turtleneck sweater, I guess.

The tip is in the shape of that hat the Pope wears, and the packaging bears the slogan "Tipped, For His Pleasure".
posted by mannequito at 11:10 AM on April 25, 2010


The tip is in the shape of that hat the Pope wears, and the packaging bears the slogan "Tipped, For His Pleasure".

It has five bands of ten ribs, then one band of one, one of three, and one of one at the base.
posted by genghis at 12:55 PM on April 25, 2010


Dalai, dammit.
posted by New England Cultist at 1:31 PM on April 25, 2010


Anyhow, the Papal Condom surely casts the phrase "say 'Seven Hail Marys and Five Our Fathers'" in a decidedly more salacious light.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2010


Do we need a tutorial on how to make hyperlinks?
posted by fixedgear at 3:25 PM on April 25, 2010


The Dali Lama at least exudes a natural leadership and peaceful presence which causes people of all faiths to respect him.

Um, yeah... you might want to try talking to some folks from China about him... I don't agree with them, but the Dali Lama is definitely not universally beloved. I'd say the Dalai Lama is arguably just as controversial as the Pope.
posted by Jahaza at 9:25 PM on April 25, 2010


I wish I had a God to guide me to real moral clarity so I could get up in arms about a lame memo but write off systematic paedophilia in my organisation as the work of a few bad gays apples.

Anyway, my Pope story, for what it's worth.

I went to Africa in the late eighties just after the previous Pope had visited. To commemorate his visit all sorts of Pope-themed special fabrics were made. It was not uncommon to see the Pope's head bobbling up and down on each side of a woman's backside as she made her way down the street.

But Papal condoms? Beyond the pale. Everyone knows 14 year old boys don't get pregnant anyway.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:10 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought we were talking about Dali's llama?

Breaking llama news: Llamas act as bouncers for chicks
posted by homunculus at 5:18 PM on April 28, 2010


Dutch sex shop to give away "Pope condoms"
posted by homunculus at 8:36 AM on May 19, 2010


« Older Enough Plumbers (Flash game), a nice twist on a cl...   |   America & Nation Building:... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments