Leaked Pope condom memo sparks anger, not laughter

A
23-year-old British Foreign Office employee has managed in a day what a team of
crisis PR experts at the Vatican couldn’t in weeks – to make the Catholic Church
look sympathetic.

Steven
Mulvain, a recent university graduate, is the man who distributed an internal
government “brainstorming” memo proposing a bizarre itinerary to mark Pope Benedict’s
September visit to the U.K.

The
document, entitled “The Ideal Visit Would See …”, included suggestions that the
Pope apologize for the Spanish Armada, cut a charity record with the Queen,
launch a range of Benedict-branded condoms, open an abortion clinic and address
the current sex-abuse crisis by “sacking dodgy bishops.”

The
suggestions for the 83-year-old Pontiff also veered from the serious (e.g.
meeting with unemployed Britons) to the hazardous (e.g. doing somersaults to
encourage children to be active).

The
memo was apparently the result of a spitballing session between four junior Foreign
Office staffers on the Papal Visit Team, including Mulvain. It was included in
a series of background documents circulated in early March.

When
Mulvain sent the document out to several government ministries, it was marked
with a note that it should “not be shared externally” because it contained the
“most far-fetched ideas.” Instead, the memo was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph.

On
Monday, as the British government dispatched its ambassador to the Holy See to
make cringing personal apologies, all eyes turned to Mulvain.

According
to the Telegraph, Mulvain had gone to ground inside his
London home. He will not be fired. Instead, the unnamed supervisor who vetted
the document has been disciplined and reassigned.

Condemnation
of the document was universal and ringing inside the British government.

Jim
Murphy, the MP charged with arranging the visit, called it “absolutely
despicable.”

Calling
the paper “foolish,” the Foreign Office offered its own apology in a release.

“The
Foreign Office very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the
offence which it has caused,” the release continued.

While
some fulminated, church officials at the heart of its power chose to be
magnanimous.

“For
us, the case is closed,” Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi said,
adding that Mulvain’s note would have “absolutely” no impact on the Pope’s
visit.

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