WA Opposition Leader suggests Pope is married

Western Australian Opposition Leader Matt Birney suggested yesterday that the Pope is married, a blunder that is said to have shocked even his Liberal colleagues.

The Australian reports that it was either "a case of either sheer ignorance or dreadful taste".

Mr Birney was last night refusing to apologise for the gaffe he made while defending his decision to take his girlfriend on a taxpayer-funded trip to Greece.

Asked by a caller on ABC talkback radio whether it would be appropriate to take his partner to meet the Pope, Mr Birney replied: "It's a very hypothetical question. If it were the sort of function where it was appropriate to have partners there, ie, if the Pope happened to have his partner there, then yes, absolutely," he replied, seemingly unaware of the Catholic clerical vow of celibacy.

Mr Birney's answer brought an angry response from Police Minister Michelle Roberts, a Catholic, who branded him either astoundingly ignorant or guilty of appalling taste.

Ms Roberts demanded an explanation from Mr Birney, who is already reeling from accusations his absence overseas last week allowed the Government to strike a crucial deal on electoral reform.

State MPs expressed shock and disbelief when told of Mr Birney's papal clanger. "He said what?" asked Tom Stephens, the Labor member for Central Kimberley-Pilbara and a Catholic.

But Mr Birney was unrepentant and rejected any apology.

Premier Geoff Gallop attacked Mr Birney's leadership credentials.

Papal gaffe hooks Lib leader (The Australian 5/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Leader of the Oppositio Matt Birney MLA

Birney 'should apologise' over Pope (Courier-Mail/Australian Associated Press 4/5/05)

5 May 2005