Williams forced to recant criticism of Irish Catholics

Archbishop of Canterbury marks Easter by adding to his long catalogue of gaffes and clangers

An extraordinary war of words between the Catholic and Protestant churches culminated yesterday in the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, apologising for remarks that are not due to be broadcast until tomorrow.

Catholics in Ireland reacted furiously to comments made by Dr Williams in a pre-recorded interview – but released by the BBC – in which he said that the Catholic Church in Ireland had lost "all credibility" over the way it dealt with paedophile priests.

Within hours, however – but not before the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said he was "stunned" by the remarks – Dr Williams issued an apology, saying he had "no intention of criticising or attacking" the Catholic Church.

The row overshadowed the most important festival in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday, which marks the resurrection of Christ, and was threatening to derail the Pope's visit to Britain in September.

"The unequivocal and unqualified comment in a radio interview of the Archbishop of Canterbury that the Catholic Church in Ireland has 'lost all credibility' has stunned me," Archbishop Martin said. "I have been more than forthright in addressing the failures of the Catholic Church in Ireland. I still shudder when I consider the harm that was caused to abused children. But... I have rarely felt personally so discouraged as when I woke to hear Archbishop Williams's comments." His Church of Ireland counterpart, Dr John Neill, said he listened to the words with "deep regret".

Catherine Pepinster, the editor of the Catholic newspaper The Tablet, said many Catholics would be surprised by Dr Williams's "intemperate" and "extreme" remarks.

Dr Williams is said to have telephoned Archbishop Martin to "express his deep sorrow and regret" over the remarks. The Archbishop of Canterbury has a track record for gaffes, and it is likely his latest comments will be considered another clanger.

Before the apology, Ms Pepinster said that there were concerns within the Catholic community that his intervention was a riposte to the Catholic Church's overtures last year to Anglicans who were uncomfortable with gay priests.

"The Catholic Church in Ireland has lost credibility, but to say it has lost all credibility seems a little extreme," she said. "There's been some suspicion that Rowan Williams is so angry about the overtures the Catholic Church made to Anglicans who were uncomfortable with gay priests that this is a response. Perhaps as somebody who himself is a father, these particular cases of abuse revolt him so much that it causes his language to be more intemperate. Lambeth Palace is being consulted on the Pope's visit to Britain throughout. The meeting of the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury is an important moment in the visit."

She added that a dispute between the two branches of Christianity could derail the Pope's visit – the first such visit since John Paul II in 1982.

In the interview recorded last month but to be broadcast on Radio 4's Start the Week tomorrow, Dr Williams said the abuse scandal had been a "colossal trauma" for the Catholic Church.

"I was speaking to an Irish friend who was saying it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now. And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society suddenly becoming, suddenly losing, all credibility – that's not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everyone in Ireland."

The Vatican declined to comment yesterday, as did the head of the Catholic Church in England, Archbishop Vincent Nichols. His spokesman said they wanted to hear the full broadcast.

Trials and tribulations of a prelate

April 2003 Archbishop Williams apologises to the nation's 330,000 Freemasons after saying their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity.

February 2008 Dr Williams faces calls to resign after saying that Sharia law in Britain "seems unavoidable".

August 2008 Nineteen bishops are forced to come to Dr Williams's defence after he said that a same-sex relationship "might... reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage".

December 2008 Dr Williams falls out with Gordon Brown after remarking that the PM's plan to boost spending during the credit crunch was like an "addict returning to the drug" and likened the Government's economic policies to those of the Third Reich.

November 2009 Pope Benedict says the Catholic Church would make it easier for disaffected Anglicans to convert, forcing Dr Williams to write to Anglicans: "I am sorry there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this. I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage and we await the text of the Apostolic Constitution and code of practice in the coming weeks."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Powertrain Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I hope you are well. My client based in ...

Java Developer - Banking - London - Up to £560/day

£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried