A PR job on God Almighty? No way ...

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The Independent Online
I made one of my occasional trips to London the other day and was delighted to bump into my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street, the doyen of public relations operators.

"Or is Max Clifford the doyen of PR men these days?" I asked him mischievously, as he dragged me into a coffee bar for a strong espresso.

"I have no idea," said Adrian. "Personally, I wouldn't use the word `doyen'. I never use words which the British public cannot pronounce and do not know the meaning of. Call me the crown prince of British PR. Call me the vizier of British PR. Call me the Lord High Executioner, the court jester or even the burly midfield sweeper of British PR, but not the doyen. I looked it up once in a French dictionary. It means `dean'. Who wants to be called the dean of British PR, or, indeed, the dean of anything?"

"A dean might," I suggested. "The Doyen of St Paul's, for instance?"

"Don't talk to me about churchmen," growled Adrian. "I've had churchmen up to here."

Such vehemence seemed out of character in my old friend, who was normally suaveness itself, as befits the eminence grise of British PR.

"Tell me about it, dear boy," I murmured. "Who is it this time?"

"Just the Catholic Church, that's who," he groaned. "It's this celibacy business. They're in a right old tizzy about these Catholic bishops who turn out to have mistresses and children."

"So what do the Catholic Church want you to do about it?"

"Get them off the hook, that's all," said Adrian. "They know I'm a great damage limitation fellow. Look at all the rumours about Ted Heath's love life, for instance."

"I've never heard any such rumours, Adrian."

"Of course you haven't, dear boy. Thank Uncle Adrian for that. But this Bishop of Argyll business ..."

A deep and sorrowful frown came across his face, like clouds spilling across England from the west.

"They came to me and said, `Adrian, we're in big trouble here in the Catholic Church because we have nowhere that naughty bishops can go to and pour out their troubles.' `Hold on,' I said, `I thought that's why you invented the confessional.' `No, no,' they said, `that was invented so priests could learn the facts of life.'

"So I said I'd have a quick look into it, and they said not to take too long because at this rate there'd be cardinals coming on the scene with secret children, and then there'd be some huge damage limitation. `And don't forget,' they told me, `that we have somehow got to restore the image of celibacy. Jesus was celibate. We priests model ourselves on him. That must stay the same.'

"Anyway, I bought a copy of the Bible and I had a look into this Catholic business and briefed myself on it, and called them back again. I looked at them very seriously and said: `Gentlemen, you must prepare yourselves for a shock. I think celibacy is about to be blown out of the window. Jesus may well have been a celibate, yes, but it didn't run in the family. You didn't tell me about that.'

"They looked at me. They looked at each other. `What do you mean?' they asked. `I mean,' I said, 'Jesus may have been a goody goody, but it's more than you can say for his Father. You never told me that God the father did exactly the same as the Bishop of Argyll. God had a secret love child, and his name was Jesus.'

"You should have heard the stunned silence then.

"`Think about it,' I said. `Mary was never consulted by God about becoming pregnant. He just got her with child. Nor did God have the courage to come and tell her himself that she was in the heavenly family way, but sent an angel instead to spill the beans. Correct me if I am wrong, but God the Father didn't provide much in the way of maintenance while Jesus was growing up, and didn't show up in the family home much. Nor was he around much in Jesus's last days. Believe me, gents, there seems little to choose between the Bishop of Argyll and dear old God the Father! The Bishop is following a very strong Biblical tradition indeed.'"

There was a silence.

"And then?" I asked.

"Then they said it was not my job to rewrite Christian history in newspaper headline terms, and I said, `Listen, cardinals, sweeties, if you can find a PR firm willing to represent God, I'll be the most surprised man in the UK! We sometimes have to look after some dodgy clients, but if half of what the Bible says is true, then God is not a person I would ever want to handle. Take your business elsewhere and stay elsewhere.'"

There was another silence.

"Don't mention this in your column, will you?" said Adrian. "If it got around that I was letting morality govern my conduct, I'd never live it down."

"Promise," I said.