Thirty years ago a wonderful Catholic priest I had come to know well said, much to my surprise: “Now take that doctrine of Papal Infallibility: Pius IX was around the twist, you know…” I couldn’t but agree, as I had long thought this the case; indeed most reasonably well-informed historians probably would agree. I was surprised that Father thought so too…
But then Catholics are often better than the Catholic Church, though they may not put it that way at times…
Now we have the current Pope going out of his way to demonstrate fallibility, and offending well-informed historians, not just Jews. I am sure someone will explain, or attempt to justify, the political/theological game he is playing. Frankly, I just find it very sad.
I refer of course to this:
EMMA ALBERICI: Pope Benedict’s decision to welcome Richard Williamson back into the Roman Catholic Church coincided with the broadcast of this interview with the 68-year-old breakaway Bishop on Swedish state television.
RICHARD WILLIAMSON: The historical evidence is hugely against six-million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.
EMMA ALBERICI: Richard Williamson is a rector of a seminary in Argentina. This interview was recorded in Germany last November but was only broadcast last week. The bishop even conceded that his words could land him in jail.
RICHARD WILLIAMSON: The revisionists as they’re called, I think the most serious conclude that between two and 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber. Germany has paid out billions and billions of deutschmarks and now Euros because the Germans have a guilt complex about their having gassed six-million Jews. But I don’t think six-million Jews were gassed. Be careful, I beg of you. This is against the law in Germany. You could have me thrown into prison before I leave Germany. I hope that’s not your intention.
EMMA ALBERICI: The head of the Vatican’s press office, Father Federico Lombardi said there was no connection between Mr Williamson’s views and the decision to reinvite him into the Church.
FEDERICO LOMBARDI (translated): The declarations of Bishop Williamson cannot be shared in any way, and are not shared at all by the Catholic Church and the Pope. However, they have nothing to do with the issue of the excommunication….
EMMA ALBERICI: Richard Williamson and three other men were excommunicated from the Church in 1988 after being ordained without Vatican permission. The three had been appointed by breakaway French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The Vatican decree spoke of "overcoming the scandal of divisiveness" and seeking reconciliation with the French Archbishop’s conservative order which opposes the modernisation of the Catholic doctrine. Pope Benedict’s decision comes at a sensitive time in Vatican-Israel relations after the Pope likened Gaza during the recent conflict to a concentration camp.
Holocaust denial is rather more than “a matter of opinion”; it is (in my book) a very clear breach of the commandment on “false witness”, if you want to put a “sin” category on it. In other words, it is to embrace a lie. I would have thought Bishop Williamson’s excommunication more merited than most. It isn’t as if he has repented or recanted.
Perhaps the Pope plans to visit Iran…
I wonder what Wild Reed, a progressive and very thoughtful Catholic, thinks of this. I do refer you to posts like Beyond Papalism on his site to get some idea.
And on another front, I do commend a personal post by Wild Reed, who was born in Australia but lives in Minnesota these days: My "Bone Country". It is quite beautiful.
Update 29 January
The Sydney Morning Herald has a follow-up report this morning: Bishops apologise for Holocaust denier.
…The Lefebvrian bishops, who form part of the traditionalist Fraternita San Pio, have had their excommunication rescinded by the Pope in a bid to mend a 20-year schism within the Catholic Church.
In a letter published overnight by the Holy See, the bishops not only seek forgiveness for Monsignor Williamson’s denial of the gas chambers and the Jewish genocide – broadcast on Swedish TV last week – but imply that he has been gagged…
Italy’s Repubblica newspaper quoted Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, saying that the bishop’s use of the word "inopportune" underplayed the enormity of the Shoah, or Holocaust.
"It is not good enough to simply shut down the comments of one denier. I want to know from the Lefebvrians exactly what the Vatican Council’s decrees are regarding Jewish people," he said.
On his regular blog, Dinoscopus, Monsignor Williamson crowed about the group’s reintegration into the Catholic Church but made no explicit reference to his denials of the Holocaust. Rather, he referred to a "media uproar", which he claimed was designed to halt the Pope’s decision to rescind the Lefebvrians excommunication.
An arch conservative in matters of gender and dress, Monsignor Williamson argues that women should not wear trousers or shorts and has also aired conspiracy theories on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the destruction of the Twin Towers. He insists he is not anti-Semitic but merely a follower of the words of the New Testament…
The Pope’s decision to return it to the fold is underpinned by the desire to shore up the conservative and traditionalist ranks inside the Catholic Church.
The move holds particular significance at a time when it has become clear that any hope of a union with the Anglican communion is unlikely.
However, Monsignor Williamson’s statements on the Holocaust and his endorsement of anti-Semitic forgeries, including the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, have sparked a backlash in Europe since the Pope’s decision, reported to have been made without seeking advice, became public over the weekend.
I think “fruit loop” is a mild descriptor for Williamson, don’t you? He really could be flavour of the month in Iran! This is an extreme example of conservatism as mental illness, in my view; there’s no doubt it sometimes is. After all, inability to distinguish fact from fiction and reality from delusion must surely mean something.