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Archbishop Rowan Williams on Start the Week

Sunday 11 April 2010, 21:55

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Rowan Williams

For a gentle, kindly, mild-mannered man, the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be often at the centre of a great deal of controversy. Part of the problem is of course that he is transparently honest and finds it very difficult not to give straight answers.

He is an academic rather than a diplomat, committed to the pursuit of truth rather than disguising it for political or institutional advantage. Above all he is serious, and so when Start the Week"s Andrew Marr asked him about the impact of clerical abuse on the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland he gave a serious, thoughtful, answer.

The result was unwelcome news headlines, and offence taken by some of the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, this before the programme itself was actually broadcast. The Archbishop apologised for any offence given but should it have been the BBC News department issuing the apology for misquoting Dr Williams and taking his remarks out of context?

That is the view of many Feedback listeners after they had heard the actual programme, which was broadcast two days after those news headlines. See what you think when I put those concerns to the Deputy Head of the BBC Newsroom, Craig Oliver:

Tell us what you thought of the programme in a comment here on the blog.

By the way, you won"t be able to hear Feedback on fridays at 1330 during the election campaign, as The World at One is being extended by half an hour. However the programme will still be broadcast at 2000 on sunday evenings. Please join us then, or subscribe to the podcast or listen again on the Radio 4 web site.

Above all, please keep writing, phoning and emailing us, not least about the BBC's election coverage.

Roger Bolton presents Feedback on BBC Radio 4

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    "He is an academic ... , committed to the pursuit of truth ..."
    Considering his job, I cannot take this comment at all seriously. He cannot be both of those things AND head of a church, because if he was at all academic and truthful he'd have to admit it's all rubbish.
    I guess I just can't understand why children get chastised for blaming accidents or malicious behaviour on their imaginary friends, while grown men can command the respect of millions for doing the same thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    JustHere4Coffee, please don't be so unscientific as to consider the possibility of a higher being the same as that of an "imaginary friend". Granted, the evidence is more indirect than that of most laboratory experiments, but plenty of scientific, historical and archeological disciplines have to use indirect clues to piece together a bigger picture that takes into account all the strands of evidence. This requires intellectual rigour which people such as the Archbishop possess in spades.

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    Comment number 3.

    Whilst I agree with the comment by JustHere4Coffee (5:53pm on 12 Apr 2010) (and reject the vacuousness of Chritina Biggs' reply), I still think that Rowan Williams deserves to be accurately reported. In the interview on Feedback, Craig Oliver came across to me as slightly contemptuous of the truth. There were a number of distortions in his responses to Roger Bolton's questions, some of which Bolton picked him up on.

    In recent years, misreporting in the Times has increased and is sometimes blatant and without repentance, yet the paper still seems to be treated as a credible source by some others. Was this a factor in the BBC's misreporting of what Rowan Williams said, despite the fact that the BBC had access to the original recording? I would have thought it unlikely until I heard Oliver's account. Did the influence of the initial falsehood, combined with the BBC's obligation to respond to a news story that involved the BBC (when the actual truth was less of a news story), result in the BBC Newsroom not noticing the vast difference in meaning between "lost" and "loosing"? I was shocked by Oliver's complacency about this.

    The BBC has a good reputation for news reporting. Personally, I dislike its attempts to seek a balance between sense and lunacy (or, in the case of some religious items, to present only the lunatic response), and I am very suspicious about certain important news items that the BBC have failed to cover. But I would be sad to see it loose its integrity.

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    Comment number 4.

    Behind that kindly face there is a shrewd political operator who excels in his ability to manipulate the minds of gullible millions. No significant misreporting of his mischievous remarks occurred, and when a minor mistake was made in one bulletin it was quickly corrected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    How do you think that Rowan Williams is manipulating the minds of gullible millions?


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