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Pope pooh-poohs airport perv-scanners

Slams security sop as sinful. Sort of

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The Pope has come out against airport scanners - or maybe he hasn’t, but those operating the scanners may be sinning all the same.

Yesterday’s newspapers were full of reports that, in granting an audience to representatives of ENAC (Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile Italiana) and ENAV (Ente Nazionale per l’Assistenza al Volo) – bodies dedicated to the safety and regulation of individuals working in aviation and in support roles at airports - he roundly condemned the security measures from an ecumenical perspective.

In the relevant passage from his audience, the Holy Father says: "In every deed, the one thing that sits above everything else is the need to safeguard and value the person as a whole."

He then goes on to suggest that this aim is particularly difficult, "because of the economic crisis... and because of the terrorist threat, which has as the principle target for its subversive aim both airports and airplanes".

Then, in a passage that Vatican-watchers consider to be about as controversial as His Holiness gets on the subject of airport scanners, he adds: "Even in such circumstances, we should never lose sight of the fact that respect of the primacy of the person and care for his needs not only does not reduce the effectiveness of the service or penalise economic management, but, on the contrary, represent important guarantees of true efficiency and real quality."

So is this a fulsome condemnation of the evils of scanning? The argument in favour of such an interpretation is somewhat weakened by the fact that the speech is contextualised by reference to part 25 of a subsidiary document - Caritas in veritate – which talks at length about the downsizing of welfare and social systems.

We asked the Catholic church for clarification: unfortunately, the English Catholic Church does not comment on remarks emanating from the Holy See. So we phoned Rome, only to discover that the Vatican Press Office observes Italian opening hours, and the Director of Communications had already left for the day.

Readers must therefore judge for themselves what the Pope was going on about.

In the meantime, we were reminded of the dangers inherent in gazing upon the naked form. According to Matthew 5, 28: "Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Adultery, as all good Catholics are well aware, is a mortal sin. Luckily, this is unlikely to be an issue for airport security staff who have already spoken out to condemn any insinuation that they would ever use pics taken from the new body scanners for lewd or lascivious purposes.

As one security guard put it earlier this year: "The idea that we are going to get kicks out of seeing a blurry grey image of people’s bodies is frankly offensive."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department for Transport would not be drawn on whether or not they plan to scan the Pope when he visits the UK later this year, referring us to the interim code of practice, and refusing to comment on how they might be applied in individual cases. ®

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