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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
BBC accused of anti-Catholic bias
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols
Mr Nichols was speaking on behalf of Catholics in England and Wales
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Birmingham has criticised sections of the BBC, accusing them of anti-Catholic bias.

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols said parts of the news and current affairs department of the corporation appeared to view the Catholic Church with "hostility".

His remarks were made ahead of three programmes which he said criticised the Catholic church.

In a statement made in London on Monday he said one programme in particular was "offensive to every Catholic in this country".

Pope caricatured

The three programmes due to be broadcast are Kenyon Confronts, which investigates allegations of child abuse in the church, a Panorama documentary programme called Sex and the Holy City and a BBC Three animated series Popetown, in which the Pope is caricatured.

The archbishop singled out Kenyon Confronts for particular criticism and in his statement said the programme was focusing on "old" claims of abuse which had been properly investigated.

He also claimed researchers for the programme had approached priests in the Archdiocese in Birmingham in an aggressive manner, including an alleged call to one in the early hours of the morning.

A 79-year-old priest was telephoned by a reporter acting for the corporation on the day the priest had left hospital after major surgery, he said.

It is offensive to every Catholic in this country
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols on Kenyon Confronts

He claimed another elderly priest had been "cornered" by a reporter in a care home.

In the statement, the archbishop said: "The BBC is a very big corporation and my objections are not widespread across the BBC or to do with the BBC as an institution.

"But there are clearly elements or individuals, mainly - as far as I can tell - within news and current affairs, who seem to approach the Catholic Church with great hostility.

"Certainly the Catholic community is fed up seeing a public service broadcaster using the licence fee to pay unscrupulous reporters trying to re-circulate old news and to broadcast programmes that are so biased and hostile. Enough is enough."

'Untrue'

He also said plans by the BBC to mark the Silver Jubilee of Pope John Paul II and the Beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta with the screening of the Panorama programme Sex and the Holy City did not recognise the "emotional and historical significance of these moments".

A BBC statement said Kenyon Confronts was examining how the Catholic church treated victims of past child abuse.

The statement said: "It gives voice to those who feel their cases should be heard.

"We recognise the archbishop has concerns about the programme. We believe it is an issue of serious public interest which will be fairly examined and reported.

"We take great care to reflect all faiths in the UK and plan to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Pope John Paul II across radio, television and online. We will also mark the beatification of Mother Theresa for our audiences at home and abroad."

The archbishop's criticism comes after attempts by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, to draw a line under child sex abuse scandals in the Catholic church.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has apologised for his "mistake" in appointing Father Michael Hill as a chaplain in Gatwick airport in 1985.

The priest was jailed last year after pleading guilty to six offences of indecent assault against three boys.




SEE ALSO:
Priest jailed for five years
21 Nov 02  |  England


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