Bishop Williamson: the silent blogger

Bishop Richard Williamson’s five-year sojourn in an Argentine seminary came to an abrupt halt this week. The controversial bishop, who claimed the gas chambers are a myth and that only 300,000 Jews died during the Holocaust, was given ten days to pack his bags and leave the country.

The Church never seems to do itself any favours when it comes to the media. Admittedly, most secular news outlets pay little heed to the institution’s main message, preferring headlines like ‘Randy Reverend in Love Tryst’ to stories on civic outreach or sermons on loving our neighbour. 

Still, knowing what the media agenda is, you’d think a comms expert from the flock would step up and give them some basic instruction. The Williamson story provides a good case in point. When the news first broke, I travelled out to the bishop’s seminary on the edge of Buenos Aires. Instead of providing a spokesperson, they padlocked the gates and hid away inside.

I phoned as well for an entire week. I finally got to speak with the telephone receptionist, but only because I met her at the seminary gates arriving for work. Apparently the phone lines were down. An unfortunate coincidence to be sure – especially given that the Pope was trying to get through too.

Williamson no doubt didn’t want to add fuel to the flames. But by saying nothing, he let reporters speak for him. After a fortnight or so, he did eventually break his silence, giving an email interview to Der Spiegel

The frustrating aspect of this whole saga was that Williamson has his own blog. For a week or more, the world waited for some clarification on his opinions on the Holocaust. And what was the bishop blogging about? A film with Meryl Streep that he’d just been watching and "the varied wealth and dynamic force" of Beethoven’s Third Symphony!