Monday, October 10, 2011

Vatican adds its voice to attack on BBC

The BBC’s suggestion that religiously “neutral” terms should replace the use of “BC” and “AD” when discussing history has generated a fair amount of condemnation. It is being reported that the BBC ethics guidance suggested that the more modern phrases, “Common Era” (CE) and “Before Common Era” (BCE), should be used in place of the traditional Christian terms.

Such reports were met with strong criticism from inside the BBC, attracting the comments of a number of well-known BBC personalities. James Naughtie, the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, for example, said: “Nobody has suggested this to me, and if they do, they will get a pithy answer, which may be too pithy to share with readers of the Telegraph.” The move was also criticised strongly by Boris Johnson who described the plan as “puerile, spineless and absurd”.

Now, it seems, the Vatican also want to register their disgust about the reported change. The semi-official newspaper of the Holy See, L’Osservatore Romano, has come out strongly against the BBC. The newspaper takes a very critical line, arguing that “It is by now very clear that respect for other religions is only an excuse, because those who wish to erase every trace of Christianity from Western culture are only a few secular westerners.” It asserts that “to deny the historically revolutionary function of the coming of Christ on the earth, accepted even by those who do not recognise him as Son of God, is enormous nonsense. There is nothing more anti-historical and senseless.”

However, after such strong negative remarks, and a number of public complaints were received, the BBC clarified that it had not in fact replaced the date systems BC and AD with BCE and CE, although it acknowledged that this was a possible alternative terminology and that it is often used in historical research. The BBC also stressed that it had not issued any editorial guidance on date systems, since this decision rested with individual editorial teams. This, however, did not allow the BBC to weather the storm, since the Vatican’s complaints came after this BBC clarification. The Vatican remains unhappy with what it calls a “hypocritical gesture.”

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