BY TRACY-JO SMITH
AN EMINI-Nr Catholic historian is Contemplating legal action against an American television company that quoted him on its website as denying the Resurrection of Christ and describing his "journey to atheism".
Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Magdalene College, Cambridge, was assured by the broadcaster, PBS Frontline, that he had made the remarks in an interview four years ago about Pope John Paul II. But Prof Duffy, who could not recall saying any of the things attributed to him, said; "I was appalled. I thought, have I been drinkingT'
The author of two widelyread and authoritative histories, The Stripping of the Altars and Saints and Sinners, Prof Duffy told The Catholic Herald: "I am very cross about the whole thing. I'm taking advice from an American lawyer to see whether there IS a case. I'm trying to assess the impact.
"It certainly seems extraordinarily careless for the wrongly ascribed interview to be put on the website and to remain there for four years."
In the interview he was quoted as saying that dying without belief in Resurrection "makes life even better, makes this world a better place". He describes his "long journey" from devout believer to sceptic.
Such was his concern that he started writing letters of apology and prepared his resignation from the Pontifical Historical Commission, with representations being made to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Comm Murphy-0' Connor.
"I wrote to the Cardinal and to my bishop and various friends who had expressed distress," he said, "explaining it was not what I believed and I did not remember saying, but that it was on the tape.
But it later transpired that all the material came from an interview with the German theologian Gerd Ludernann, who rejects the central tenets of Christianity in his book, The Great Deception. His interView was allegedly wrongly labelled and added to Prof Duffy's comments by mistake. Subsequently the interview has not been removed from the website, but has been correctly labelled and an apology to Prof Duffy appended.
PBS Frontline has added a note to its website saying: "When this page was first published, the opening section of it was incorrectly identified as being part of Eamon Duffy's interview. It was not. This wrongly attributed material is now appended to the end of this page, along with further information about this mistake. Frontline deeply regrets this error and apologises unreservedly to Prof Duffy."
The American journal First Things have also agreed to include a letter setting the record straight in their June issue.
Professor Duffy described the past weeks as a nightmare.
He said: "I am orthodox, I am a practising Catholic. I can laugh about it now and I got emails and letters and an appalling editorial in First Things, which is read by conservative Catholics and all over the English-speaking world.
"Because of the nature of my historical writing I have
quite a conservative Catholic following. Obviously I do not want to get involved in prolonged litigation, but I think they do owe me more than an apology."