A homosexual activist and Vatican protestor in the U.K. is slated to make what he calls a “factual” documentary on the Holy Father, which is set to air just before the upcoming papal trip. One critic of the proposed film called it further evidence of England being “a profoundly anti-Catholic country.”
Peter Tatchell, a noted gay activist and leader of the group Protest the Pope, is being sponsored by the U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 to make an hour long film on the Holy Father that will air before the papal visit this September.
“My aim is to make a robustly factual program that explores the Pope’s personal, religious and political journey since the 1930s, as well as the motives and effects of his controversial policies,” said Tatchell in a statement on his website.
“I intend to ensure that we hear the voices of the Pope’s defenders, as well as his critics,” he went on. “I would be like to interview the Pope himself. It would be ideal for Pope Benedict to be able to explain himself in his own words. But I doubt that I will be granted an audience.”
U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 released a statement in support of Tatchell, and the company Juniper TV that is producing the film.
“Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, a long-term critic of the Papacy, will challenge Pope Benedict XVI’s beliefs and positions on a range of issues - including condoms, homosexuality and fertility treatment - and examine the impact his policies have had on both the developing and Western world,” Channel 4 wrote in a general statement. “The program will give voice to a range of views on the Pope – featuring interviews with both critics and supporters.”
Ralph Lee, head of Specialist Factual programming at Channel Four, said on June 4 that the papal visit in September “provides an ideal opportunity to examine the impact of Benedict XVI after five years in office.”
“In keeping with Channel 4’s remit to provide a platform for diverse and alternative perspectives,” he added, “equality campaigner Peter Tatchell will assess the effect of the current Pope’s teachings throughout the world and the conflict between some of his values and those held by modern Britain.”
Several critics of the slated documentary have denounced the film as “hostile” and “polemical.”
On June 7, London's Daily Telegraph reported former conservative Member of Parliament Anne Widdecombe as saying, “I think this will confirm the view that there probably already is in the Vatican that this is a profoundly anti-Catholic country.”
“I wouldn’t call this the right thing for any serious broadcaster to do, but they’re doing it for the publicity, they’re doing it to stir up controversy,” charged Widdecombe, a Catholic convert.
“Mr. Tatchell certainly won’t be sympathetic to his subject, so what’s the point of doing it? It won’t be skeptical, it will be hostile.”
The Telegraph also quoted Catholic writer Christina Odone, who said that Tatchell himself “would be the first to admit that he is no authority on the subject.”
“And perhaps it would be good, rather than have some polemical, knee-jerk reaction to the Pope if Channel 4 would be interested in actually shedding light on a figure who is so important, and so often misinterpreted and misunderstood – and of whom more needs to be known,” Odone added.
Catholic composer James MacMillian, whose music is rumored to be performed at some of the Masses during the Pope's visit, denounced Channel 4 and other media outlets in the country.
“There is nothing surprising in the continued frantic jumping up and down by the Guardian/Channel 4/BBC axis in opposition to the Pope,” he observed.
“Their venom is now so repetitive that it has lost any potency it once had. Frankly, people are getting bored with them.”