Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Richard Williamson and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month

Posted by sanityinjection on February 9, 2009

My apologies to Judith Viorst and poor Alexander for the disreputable comparison. But I couldn’t resist.

Here we thought President Obama was the only one having problems with the search firm vetting his people. Looks like Pope Benedict uses the same firm.

See, the Pope wanted to lift the excommunication of a handful of arch-conservative bishops from the Society of St. Pius X who had been kicked out years ago because of their refusal to accept the reforms of the Vatican II Council. Recent clarifications of church doctrine, such as the decision to allow the Latin Mass again as an option for parishes that request it, have helped to close the gap between the bishops and the Vatican.

Unfortunately for the Pope, this decision stirred up a whole mess of trouble because one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, is an open denier of the Holocaust. Naturally, Jewish groups protested the move to reinstate Williamson in the strongest possible terms, arguing that to do so would be to signal that Williamson’s views are acceptable in the Catholic Church. In an encouraging sign, these protests were echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and by the organization of German Catholic bishops.

Stung by the criticism, the Vatican at first stuck to its guns, but then ordered Williamson to recant his views as a condition of readmission to the Church, claiming that the Vatican didn’t know about Williamson’s views before making the decision to lift his excommunication.

So here was Richard Williamson, looking forward to being restored to the good graces of the Church, and now this comes along. In an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Williamson now says his denial of the Holocaust was simply based on his assessment of the evidence, which he will now “re-examine”. Unfortunately for Williamson, all this attention has caused all sorts of his previous public statements to be re-publicized. It’s clear from Williamson’s previous speeches and interviews that his Holocaust denial is hardly an intellectual matter, but rather is part and parcel of a pattern of overt anti-Semitism.

Now Williamson has lost his legal fight to prevent one of his old interviews from being spread on the Internet.  (For those who appreciate irony, the court that ruled against Williamson is in Nuremberg.)  And on Sunday, Williamson was dimissed from his position as the head of a Catholic seminary in Argentina. On top of it all, German prosecutors are now investigating Williamson for possible charges of incitement in connection with his Holocaust denial.

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the guy, until you read quotes like these:

“There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies.”

“…the Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new State of Israel.”

Here is a photo of Williamson:

The ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X said in a statement e-mailed Monday to The Associated Press that it has dismissed British Bishop Richard Williamson as director of its seminary in La Reja, outside Buenos Aires

Gosh, he looks like a sweet guy.

Personally, I long for the day when those who deny the Holocaust will be viewed in much the same way as those who maintain that the earth is flat: crackpots who are no danger to anybody. Unfortunately, we have not yet arrived at that day. There are still too many people in the world who are receptive to such a re-writing of history. Williamson should have the right to hold these opinions and say these things if he so chooses, but he should not expect to be allowed to hold any position in the Catholic Church or any other reputable establishment if he continues to espouse anti-Semitic hatred.

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3 Responses to “Richard Williamson and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month”

  1. tubby said

    Chris Hitchens adds his two cents in Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/id/182574

    He points out that Williamson also believes 9/11 was a government conspiracy. C’mon, Dick, don’t you mean it was planned by Israel’s Mossad in covert operation with Pentagon special forces (no high-level government involvement). (He might as well take it as far as he seems to be going with it…) Hitchens tackles the subject from the point of view of deicide, and how the Catholic church has a history of problems reconciling their mistakes. The concept of deicide is still controversial and open to interpretation, especially by crackpots like Mel Gibson’s dad. It’s too bad that the crucifixion story has lent artillery to so many extremists who want to place the blame for Jesus’ death on an entire race of people. Sometimes these guys really remind me of extreme Islamists.

  2. sanityinjection said

    Thanks for the link, Tubby. I respect Hitchens, but he has a pretty major bias when it comes to religious issues, being a proselytizing atheist who believes that religion is a major cause of the world’s suffering. Thus, he’s not disposed to look too kindly on the Catholic Church in this or any other instance.

    I don’t think Pope Benedict’s goal is to undo Vatican II. Nor do I think, given his own personal history, that he is unaware of or insensitive to the role that the Church has played in fomenting anti-Semitism. Rather, I think his move stems from his deep interest in trying to bring all people of the Christian faith into closer communion by stressing what they have in common rather than their differences.

    My admittedly limited understanding of excommunication is that it is intended to be a temporary condition designed to encourage the individual to repent. Permanently excluding a sinner from the Church would be tantamount to denying them God’s grace, and the whole point of Christianity is that no sinner is too awful to be redeemed.

    I think the Vatican has an opportunity here to strike a blow against anti-Semitism by keeping pressure on Williamson and any other bishops who share his views to recant.

  3. sanityinjection said

    Update: Bishop Williamson is being expelled from Argentina:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5769649.ece

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