Press Column

CT press review of the year

12 December 2001

"Is it a bird, is it a plane? No: it’s the Pope!" — The year started with the Daily Express picking up on an Italian comic book which retold the story of th ePope’s life as a superhero. Then there was the first flurry of rumours that Dr Carey would retire, just before the Daily Mail devoted an entire leader to explaining that the Holy Family was not and had never been anything like a bogus asylum seeker. A reader of the Daily Telegraph made the same point more vividly: "Each Christmas the sentimentalists, abetted by leading clergymen, compare the plight of the homeless with ‘no room at the inn’. This year the Archbishop of Canterbury threw in the asylum seekers, legal and bogus. Jesus of Nazareth was not homeless. He was happily married with a family on the way, a home owner- occupier, a taxpayer, a hardworking lower middle class self-employed craftsman (a natural target for this government).", while the Sun, which knows what really matters, devoted it’s Christmas leader to chastising a clergyman who had suggested that Santa Claus might not exist: "Don’t panic kids. Never mind what the vicar says. Let The Sun put your minds at rest. Of course there is a father Christmas. The Rev Clive Evans should keep his daft ideas to himself."

In February came the first rumblings of an exploding Bates. Steven Bates of the Guardian had already taken a terrible revenge on Arun Kataria, then the Archbishop’s press secretary, by printing one of his pompous and waffly denials verbatim. This time he left a press conference half-way through, shouting about incompetence.

At Easter, we learnt once more that the Archbishop of Canterbury was due to retire, this time from Anthony Howard, in the Times , whose candidate was Richard Chartres. Steven Bates was bitten by the family dog, and renamed it Wesley Carr.

In the summer, the Church Commissioners published a report revealing that bishops’ expenses had risen by 10%, and held no press conference to publicise it because they thought there was nothing important there. Two prominent Roman Catholic gays sent 137 people, among them four professional journalists, emails inviting them to a blessing of their relationship, to be conducted by the bishop of Middlesbrough, and were surprised when the news leaked out on the morning of the ceremony. No journalists attended in a professional capacity because they were all off watching Kieron Conry, former head of the Catholic Media Office, be ordained Bishop instead.

In August, Arun Kataria was moved off to the Church Commissioners and his place taken by Jonathan Jennings. As a sort of backwards tribute, various religious affairs correspondents assembled a web page containing all the different ways in which the churches would announce the end of the world. The only one that got into print was from Lord Habgood: "This need not be an embarrassment for the Church of England. But the phrase ‘second coming’ needs a lot of unpicking".

In October the Sunday Telegraph announced that "Dr George Carey … is expected to trigger an internal Church race for his successor by retiring three years early next year.".

In November, Ruth Gledhill presented her first-born son,. Arthur, to the General Synod, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose office promplty sent a huge bouquet of flowers to her husband, as she’d forgotten to tell them that he wasn’t the father.

In December, the Sunday Telegraph carried on its front page the news that Dr Carey was expected to retire some time after November 2002; and, in an unrelated development, Steven Bates sued the Catholic Herald for libel. Coming soon: the seasonal leaders about Father Christmas, and the news that the Archbishop of Canterbury is considering retirement next year.

Front Cuts Book Back

This stuff written and copyright Andrew Brown. If the page looks bad, that's my fault, unless you're using Netscape 4.x. Then it's yours. Upgrade, and do yourself a favour.