Speccy row develops into a bad habit

Memo to all journalists: never cross a monk with a tape recorder.

That would appear to be a pretty sound rule, judging by a fascinating tale being played out in the highbrow pages of The Spectator.

It all started when the mag’s writer Mary Wakefield went to interview a Benedictine monk called Dom Hugh Gilbert. Nope, never heard of him either, but readers are assured in the strapline that he is the ‘Pope’s ‘dark horse’ candidate to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor”. So he could be quite important then.
At the end of the article, Wakefield questions the holy man about whether he will ever leave his community for pastures new. ‘Would you ever leave Pluscarden?’asks Wakefield who admits she expects a ‘definitive no”.  Thankfully (when it comes to standing up her story), the monk replies: ‘Yes. I think it’s time to leave. I can’t stay there forever.”

But Dom Hugh Gilbert has a very different recollection of their conversation and fires off a letter to The Speccy (5 April) to take issue with the ‘gracious article’on his future.

He writes that he is credited with the words ‘Yes. I think it’s time to leave. I can’t stay there forever,’but he adds: ‘I can find no trace of these words in the recording I made of the interview. Certainly they do not express my mind. As a Benedictine with a vow of stability, I cherish the intention of living and dying in my own community, and have my heart set on the plot in our cemetery which awaits me.”

Axegrinder is not quite sure which is the more alarming – that even monks now carry tape recorders to take issue if they are misquoted, or that anyone would risk misquoting someone with a hotline to the Big Fella upstairs.

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