Edward Stourton is a BBC presenter who very much opposes the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and family life.
The BBC is funded by a compulsory fee imposed on everyone who has a television. There are serious legal penalties for failing to pay this fee. As it happens, our household does not have a television and I have to spend quite a bit of time explaining this by letter and email each year to the relevant authorities – I receive threatening letters saying that there are “detector vans” in the neighbourhood that will seek out TVs and impose penalties on householders who have not paid the fee.
Stourton, funded by this compulsory licence fee, has been promoting a book he has written about Pope John Paul. I am not quite sure why he is allowed to do this. People write books all the time – why is this book being given special promotion at public expense?
His publicity has got him the headlines he wanted – his book claims to have unearthed a previously “secret” set of letters – actually available in a library along with other papers and in no way secret – written by St John Paul, which show him to be a man of enormous warmth and friendship.
And..er…that’s that. But what Stourton seems to find terrible, important and frightening is that some of the saint’s friends were…women! Yes, that’s right. Women! One of them a translator who worked on his book “Person and Act”. She actually didn’t do a terribly good job in the end, because she rewrote parts of the book when translating it into English, and also muddled the title, calling it “The Acting Person”. But John Paul was incapable of bearing grudges, so he was happy to write to her in a friendly way, showing warmth and kindness even though she had wronged him.
And now, because of Stourton’s heavy hints and oh-goodness-me-I-never-suggested-anything improper-for-a-moment, we’ve had headlines and commentaries from all sorts of media people who just love hinting that all of this means that poor St John Paul should never have been obliged to be celibate and the fact that he could have women among his friends shows that he was repressed and unhappy and..er…um…well…it all sort of putters out into nothingness. But the headlines all somehow look exciting for those who love to sneer at the Church, at saints, and at celibacy.
Perhaps some day poor Stourton will do something sufficiently important for him to be the subject of a book himself. So far, he has just been a BBC journalist, and previous publicity has been concerned with his attitudes to marriage and family life.
Why did the public have to fund his publicity machine?