Pope Benedict XVI about to be put on trial by the BBC
The BBC is planning a drama called The Pope on Trial about child abuse.
Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, may be a devout Catholic, but the corporation is doing little to make Pope Benedict XVI feel welcome ahead of his first state visit to England and Scotland in September.
The BBC is planning a 90-minute drama which will take as its premise what would happen if the Pope were to go on trial for covering up sex abuse perpetrated by priests.
A BBC spokesman denied any knowledge of the project, but Paul Gilbert, who works in the corporation's drama department, admitted to me that he had for the past two weeks been involved with the "development" of a project with the working title of The Pope on Trial. He said it was "too early" to talk about casting or on what channel it was envisaged the drama would be broadcast.
The Pope, who has pledged to rid his church of "filth", has already been subjected to an investigation by the Radio 4 programme The Report into allegations that he covered up abuse. The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, believes sections of the BBC are pursuing an anti-Catholic agenda. He had earlier been irked when the BBC had attempted to broadcast Popetown, a cartoon which mocked Pope John Paul II.
The Tablet, the Catholic newspaper, today expresses concern about how "hostile" British television in general is towards the Pope. Peter Tatchell, who is organising protests during the papal visit, has lately been commissioned by Channel 4 to make a programme about the Papacy.
When Thompson met with Vatican officials in Rome earlier this year, he reportedly lobbied for the Pope to contribute to Thought for the Day on Today on Radio 4.
The idea did not, however, appeal to the Pope.