Benedict Derangement Syndrome? No, Kathryn, not really. Steven Mulvain’s ”suggestions” were a puerile joke, the work of an early-twentysomething, none-too-diplomatic junior diplomat, and they were disseminated in an internal email (not that such a thing truly exists anymore). Idiotic? Sure. Big deal? No.
The Brits were right to apologize (which they have), and the Vatican has been right to say “move on,” which it (generally) has. The Spectator’s Rod Liddle has a good take on the matter:
Mulvain’s email is certainly typical of a certain faux left, middle class, public-school educated mindset, one which reeks of self-righteousness and moral superiority, and which I suspect is prevalent throughout the modern civil service (and indeed most of the public sector). You cannot imagine that Mr Mulvain would have been quite so ready to make similar sorts of jokes if the visitor to Britain was a high profile representative of Islam, for example; “make him eat a bacon sandwich, cut the ribbon on a gay pride march and say sorry to the Chief Rabbi.” Such “humour” would not have occurred. Roman Catholics are fair game, though, because adherents of the faith are less likely to turn up in Trafalgar square with banners howling for Mr Mulvain to be executed. And also, in the faux left’s idiotic view of competing religious faiths, Islam is ok and Roman Catholicism bad. But despite this I cannot see any reason to sack Mulvain, as many on the right (having temporarily lost their sense of humours) seem to wish should happen. This was a private email, never intended for public consumption. We have to get to grips with this issue of the public versus the private: who among us could defend every email they have ever to sent to anyone? Mulvain’s email might be indicative of a certain mindset, but that is not reason enough to sack him. And if the Pope cancels his visit, so be it, as they say in the church.