News that top-shelf publisher Richard Desmond has acquired the Anglican weekly Church Times and the Catholic weekly The Tablet, has sent more than a frisson of excitement through the faithful.
‘Oh, I can’t wait to see what will be in next week’s newspaper’, said Cyril Wilcox (78) a Church Times reader for fifty-years. ‘It’s time for a change. Mary Magdalene and the Blessed Virgin Mary are OK, but they’re not what you want to see on your page three every week, are they?’
Mr Desmond, who also owns the Daily Express, Daily Star and the weekly OK! said he planned to bring his new acquisitions into line with the Star and OK!
‘There are many aspect of both the Old and New Testament that lend themselves to an adult entertainment treatment,’ Mr Desmond said. ‘Take S&M for starters.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said he was ‘ quite comfortable’ with the prospect of an adult entertainment entrepreneur owning the Church Times ‘as long as some of our buxom Anglican lasses get a look in’.
Dr Williams pointed out that ‘Mary Magdalene had a reputation as a prostitute, albeit a repentant one, and she quite liked wiping men’s feet with her hair. I think she’d make quite a good Star Babe,’ he said.
The Archbishop of York , Dr John Sentamu, said he believed Mr Desmond had much to contribute to the Church, and the Church had much to offer him. He said:
‘The Virgin Mary, for one, could attract thousands of new readers if she’d only appear with her kit off in a stable.’
But a spokesman for The Tablet was more guarded. ‘This is an unusual departure for the Catholic Church,’ he said. ‘But the Holy Father has given it his blessing. As he says, we must use all means to spread the good news, and if bums and tits do the job, then Amen – or that’s OK! as the Pontiff now says.’
A spokesman for the Salvation Army said they were concerned that the sales of their popular Christian weekly newspaper the War Cry, might suffer with readers attracted away by the Desmond style of Christianity.
‘We are looking to beef up the War Cry with a new page three featuring some of our younger female members posing stark bollock naked except for the bonnet. In colour. Let them try and beat that!’ she said.