When he was still with us, a famous American journalist named Paul Harvey hosted a short afternoon program called “The Rest of the Story.” The program would feature little known facts about a generally well-known event. It would seem that Der Spiegel’s current hit piece against the SSPX needs its own “rest of the story” given that it is an incomplete version of what happened. The incompleteness is ironic given that the left always pretends to be tolerant and open to hearing other points of view. I will now give the account of the story as it was told to me in person, one week after the Spiegel “incident,” by Fr. Lindstrom and Bp. Williamson themselves, when I was visiting St. George’s House in London.
What actually happened:
The SSPX’s German lawyer, who advises the SSPX on all legal problems in Germany, visits London to explain a possible plea bargain which would head off the Regensburg trial. In September, the German State prosecutor, for whatever reason, refuses the plea bargain, but the Bishop was grateful to the lawyer, Maximilan Krah, for his pains.
The lawyer proposes another Spiegel interview, like the one he arranged in the spring. Now, you should know that Krah was the person who helped “proctor” the last Spiegel interview. For that interview the Bishop was given written questions, he answered, Krah reviewed the answers for propriety, and then Spiegel changed their questions so that they could look more ferocious and the Bishop could look more meek. Given that this was the ill use that the Bishop was given last time, I’m surprised that Krah was able to convince him to do another round with these people. However, Krah is aware of being “in front” of a story and so he wants to limit potential damage in the German Press on the upcoming first anniversary of the Swedish TV interview. The Bishop agrees in principle, though he does not confirm any details.
A couple of weeks later, at the end of the month, Krah proposes an in-person “pre-game” visit which would help prep him for the interview. This will help with the proper spin for the story. The Bishop is uneasy with “spin” and for him, what had been a “green light” earlier in the month now turns "yellow."
5 January 2010
Krah insists on coming for the pre-interview “coaching session.” The Bishop expresses the discomfort he has with Krah’s proposal and expresses the desire to change the interview format to the same as last time: written questions. Such a situation would make any London visit of Krah and the journalists unnecessary. The Bishop says to Krah, “Do NOT come, because I will not speak”. The yellow light turned red.
12 January 2010
Bishop Fellay’s personal secretary telephones St. George’s House at 1500 GMT to notify the Bishop that Krah and “two friends” will visit on Wednesday. It is said that they may indeed "already be in London."
That same Tuesday evening at 2030 Krah and two Spiegel journalists knock on the door at St. George’s House in Wimbledon. It is an odd hour for visiting clergy, and certainly for conducting an interview of this nature. While there was an announcement that “two friends plus Krah” would be coming, no further notice had been given by Krah all Tuesday.
The Bishop says his private Mass at 0545 every morning (a punishing time for a normally late-rising American) so he heads to bed before 2200. He is working on the second-floor common computer when Krah et al. arrive. Fr. Lindstrom, the “gaunt Swede” as he is labeled in the Spiegel hit-piece, shows them in to the first-floor library. The reader may assume at this point that had Krah not come with the permission of Bishop Fellay, he and the journalists would hardly have been admitted to an SSPX priory at 2030.
The journalists have their laptops with them, and Krah sends an email to the Bishop, who is upstairs, as they know, letting him know that they are ready to do an interview with him. The Bishop refuses to see them. They leave after waiting for some 50 minutes, taking a few pictures, as they are not allowed to venture upstairs.
At 2130 the Bishop, feeling bad for Krah, once again reiterates his offer to do a written-question interview.
13 January 2010
In the morning a colleague shows the Bishop a dossier of Spiegel articles written mainly by the senior journalist who had come the night before. The entire tenor of their writing is anti-clerical. The Bishop remembers how he was used last time, concludes that liberals rarely change their spots, and decides in principle to not even do the written questions. It is roughly at 0800 that he is perusing these documents, and at 0815 comes the knock at the door.
Krah is noticeably absent, as he thinks he is the problem (He is not). The journalists try to persuade the Bishop to be interviewed, but he refuses. They plead: “But please, let us at least take a picture of you, so we can tell our bosses that you were here.” He refuses.
At 1000, they return, and Krah with them. Final refusal from the Bishop. Rejected when they are usually welcomed and drooled over, the spurned journalists write a hit-piece which manages to tar every cleric mentioned in it. Der Spiegel has its revenge for having no story to tell, holds the “mirror” up to itself, and shows us a “spaniel.”
Some minor corrections
The above account should serve to correct a mass of disinformation that the article projected. There are some items here or there that unconsciously point to some other important omissions:
1. They frequently cite from the Bishop’s weekly column. They must be subscribers, and they have the luxury of reading the column in German.
2. There are citations of emails he has written to “fellow members of the SSPX.” If this is true, this means that clergy are leaking these emails to the paper. If they are just being incorrect in their terminology and are calling laypeople “members” then laypeople are leaking these emails. In either case, such leaking is unwarranted and wrong, and given where the leaking has led, perhaps sinful.
3. To give the appearance that they actually had access, they describe Bishop Williamson’s “private room” which sounds a lot like the vestibule or sacristy of the Chapel. Nice try, gentlemen. Bishop Williamson’s room is on the third floor; how could you describe that which you’ve never seen?
4. The Facebook page cited is not run by me or the Bishop, and the owner has never contacted either of us. He may indeed be a supporter, but until we hear from him, it can’t really be called “the Bishop’s facebook page.” Nice research job, gentlemen.
5. “Hundreds” do not read his column weekly. The number is “thousands.”
6. If Fr. Pfluger did indeed say: “He gets an idea into his head, becomes fixated on it and exaggerates. But he doesn't study the documents”, he is not only wrong, but unjust in his declaration. I’ll leave it at that.
Finally, I am dismayed that clerics from the SSPX felt obligated to speak unpleasantly about the Bishop. Whatever might have been excusable one year ago, to renew attacks on him now, solicited by a left-wing newspaper, on the one-year anniversary is, at best, disappointing. Shall we look to Menzingen for this to be an annual event?
In the meantime, while the world turns and the liberals rage, let us turn to prayer, not only for the bishop, who has served us so well over many years, but also for ourselves, that we seek truth and charity which is as binding on ourselves as it is on the writers of the Spiegel.