Sunday Telegraph fails to correct misrepresentation of Archbishop
The Sunday Telegraph has failed to issue a public correction to a headline that its editor privately admitted misrepresented the views of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and caused thousands around the world to believe Dr Rowan Williams doubted God's existence following the tsunami disaster.
Two national newspapers have now carried a story, first published by the Ekklesia news agency, that the editor of the Sunday Telegraph had apologised privately to Rowan Williams, for the newspaper's "obtuseness" in running a headline suggesting that Dr Williams no longer believed in God.
The headline, on the paper's lead story on January 2 - supposedly based on an article that Dr Williams had written inside the paper after the tsunami - read: "Archbishop of Canterbury admits: This makes me doubt the existence of God."
The headline has been repeated by news agencies and newspapers around the world.
The article however suggested no such thing, but when Lambeth Palace complained, the sister title the Daily Telegraph claimed that the misinterpretation was the archbishop's own fault for not writing clearly enough.
The next week the Sunday Telegraph carried readers' letters criticising the headline and an equal number criticising the archbishop.
The paper has not apologised publicly, but in a letter seen by Ekklesia, Dominic Lawson, the editor, wrote to the archbishop blaming subordinates for the headline. The letter said the headline "apart from misrepresenting the nature of your argument was also theologically obtuse".
The story of the editor's apology has now appeared in both the Guardian and the Times newspapers.
In a letter to Ekklesia associate Simon Barrow a week ago, Mr Lawson wrote: "I share your sentiments ... It grieves me that we should let down our readers who have the right to expect the highest standards."
Jonathan Bartley, director of the theological thinktank Ekklesia which runs the Ekklesia news service, wrote to Dominic Lawson three days ago suggesting that the Sunday Telegraph publish a correction both on its web site and in its print edition, which has not been forthcoming. The misleading headline is still on the paper's website without acknowledgement of any error.
It is understood the paper was being edited on the day by its deputy editor, Matthew d'Ancona, who is a former junior fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and author of The Quest for the True Cross.