Rowan Williams apologises to
By Chris Hastings and
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has
been forced to apologise to Britain's 330,000 Freemasons after he
said that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and that
he had rejected them from senior posts in his diocese.
Dr Williams has written to Robert Morrow, the Grand
Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, in an attempt to
defuse the row prompted by comments he made last year. In his
letter, the Archbishop apologises for the "distress" he caused and
discloses that his own father was a member of the Craft.
Freemasons, many of whom are active members of the
Church of England, reacted angrily to his disclosure that he "had
real misgivings about the compatibility of Masonry and Christian
profession" and by his admission that, as Bishop of Monmouth, he had
blocked the appointment of Freemasons to senior appointments.
His comments about Freemasons were in a private
letter leaked to the media shortly after Downing Street confirmed
his appointment as head of the Church of England.
Subsequent attempts by his advisers to defuse the row
only caused further offence. A spokesman said the Archbishop was
worried about the ritual element of Freemasonry, which has been seen
as "satanically inspired".
In his letter of apology, Dr Williams tries to
distance himself from his own reported comments. He claims that his
views were never meant to be public and were distorted by the media.
He wrote: "I have been sorry to learn of the distress
of a considerable number of Freemasons . . . In replying to private
correspondence, I had no intention of starting a public debate nor
of questioning the good faith and generosity of individual
Freemasons and I regret the tone and content of the media
He added: "The quoted statements about the 'satanic'
character of the Masonic ceremonies and other matters did not come
from me and do not represent my judgment. Since my late father was a
member of the Craft for many years, I have had every opportunity of
observing the probity of individual members."
Dr Williams does not, in his letter, deny that he has
misgivings about the role of Freemasons within the Church.
He wrote: "Where anxieties exist, however, they are
in relation not to Freemasonry but to Christian ministers
subscribing to what could be and often is understood [or
misunderstood] as a private system of profession and initiation,
involving the taking of oaths of loyalty."
He ends his letter by stating that Freemasons'
commitment to charity and the community is beyond question.
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