Sunday, January 25, 2009

What was Pope Benedict Thinking?

Perhaps the Pope also thinks the Holocaust didn't happen, since he UN-excomunicated Richard Williamson - a priest who "believes there were no gas chambers" -- I find that odd (both what the Pope did and what Williamson believes), since there is tangible, concrete information readily available proving Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen really happened. Where has this guy Williamson been hiding? And why does the Pope think Williamson is ok? Is it because the Pope was a member of the "Hitler Youth?"  Is he trying to punish the Israelis for the Gaza bombardment?

Whatever the reason.  It seems like either Benedict has lost his reason; or he has a touch of evil in him.

Pope stirs up Jewish fury over bishop
The Vatican is reinstating a British priest who denies millions died at the hands of the Nazis

* Tom Kington in Rome and Jamie Doward
* The Observer, Sunday 25 January 2009

Tension between the Vatican and Jewish groups looked set to explode yesterday after Pope Benedict XVI rehabilitated a British bishop who has claimed no Jews died in gas chambers during the second world war.

Benedict yesterday welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church Richard Williamson and three other men who were excommunicated in 1988 after being ordained without Vatican permission. The three had been appointed by breakaway French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The Vatican decree issued yesterday spoke of overcoming the "scandal of divisiveness" and seeking reconciliation with Lefebvre's conservative order, the Society of Saint Pius X, which opposes the modernisation of Catholic doctrine.

But Jewish groups have warned the Pope that the decision could damage Catholic-Jewish relations after Williamson claimed in an interview, broadcast last week, that historical evidence "is hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler ... I believe there were no gas chambers".

Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Paris, said he understood the German-born pope's desire for Christian unity but said Benedict could have excluded Williamson, whose return to the church will "cost" the Vatican politically.

1 comment:

Melancholicus said...

May I make some remarks about this?

First of all, the secular media are generally hopeless when it comes to religion. None of the outlets who covered this story really understood the issues at play here. The Guardian, in particular, is well known for its hostiliy to the Catholic Church. So it is no surprise that this story is presented with such negative spin.

The Pope did not, as is alleged by these tendentious writers, "reinstate" anyone, least of all Richard Williamson. Neither Williamson nor any of the other three bishops holds any position or authority in the Catholic Church. None of them has a diocese, or any position of responsibility recognized by the Holy See. Full reconciliation has yet to take place. The lifting of the excommunications means only that they are no longer excommunicated. They are still suspended a divinis, which means that none of them may exercise any act pertaining to the office of bishop. To create the impression that Williamson has been restored as though to some place of honour in the Church is breathtaking irresponsibility on the part of these journalists. But given the general incompetence of secular media when it comes to religious matters, I suppose we can charitably put it down to ignorance.

The lifting of the excommunications has nothing at all to do with Williamson's odious remarks. That is a completely separate issue. In fact, both the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X - not to mention the Pope himself - have been profoundly embarrassed. Willamson has now been forbidden by his superior to make public comments on historical matters and he has also issued an apology for the offence caused to the Holy Father.

Williamson made his remarks in an interview recorded in November 2008. We may reasonably ask why this interview was not broadcast by the network until only a few days before the excommunications were due to be lifted. The timing can hardly be mere coincidence.

Richard Williamson has been as daft as a brush for years. That he has a tendency to say the most unfortunate and inopportune things - not restricted to holocaust denial - is well known. Remember he is only one of four bishops whose excommunications were lifted by the Vatican. The lifting of the excommunications is the most recent stage in a long process of dialogue towards reconciliation between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X which goes back several years. Was all that careful and patient work supposed to be thrown down the toilet simply because an eccentric individual made some politically-incorrect remarks on Swedish television?

It should not be necessary to say that the lifting of the excommunications does not at all imply that Pope Benedict condones Richard Williamson's views, much less shares them. But when has holocaust denial become an excommunicable offence? Williamson was excommunicated for accepting illicit consecration as a bishop in 1988. The conditions have now arrived in which the penalty he suffered for his 1988 offence may be remitted. His batty views are a separate issue, with no bearing on the canonical standing of the Society of St. Pius X.

No one can seriously allege that Pope Benedict shares any of Williamson's views on the holocaust. In May 2006, the Pope made his first papal visit to Auschwitz. See the pictures of his visit here and the unusually sympathetic report on his visit in Time magazine here. The Pope also feels deeply about the holocaust, since he too is German, and was alive at the time it took place. It is of course true that he was a member of the Hitler Youth during the Second World War; but it is also well known that his membership was involuntary and that neither he nor his family supported the Nazi regime. Look at this (again unusually sympathetic) New York Times article published when Pope Benedict was elected in 2005.

The lifting of the Williamson excommunication has nothing whatever to do with Gaza.

Finally, the Holy Father has not lost his reason - and as for having "a touch of evil" in him (a rather strange remark), my only answer to that is that we all have a touch of evil in us - you, me, everybody.