Personally I don't care if the pope wants to surround himself with raving antisemites. We're talking about a guy who claims to rule an empire under direct orders from God... and we're supposed to be surprised or concerned when he does something nutty? If the Catholic Church wants to heighten its own contradictions, who am I to complain.
But I am intrigued by today's news that, "The Vatican on Wednesday demanded that a prelate who denied the Holocaust recant his positions before being fully admitted as a bishop into the Roman Catholic Church."
Assuming that the AP paraphrase of the Vatican pronouncement is accurate (and from the limited excerpts I can find that's far from clear), what can it possibly mean?
Williamson can't simply apologize and say that his opinions were wrong, because he didn't get himself in trouble for expressing himself in the language of opinion. Now, had he merely said, "Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil, and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism," forcing him to recant might make sense. He could say those were dumb opinions and he was wrong.
But his most recent comments were made in the language of fact: "I think the most serious conclude that between 200,000 to 300,000 perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber. I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against, 6 million Jews having been gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler."
In other words, recanting now will necessarily mean one of the following equally unsatisfying and unlikely things:
1) He examined the historical evidence again and has now reached a different conclusion. Which just happens to be the conclusion he needs to reach in order to get his job back. Result: Williams looks like he's covering up what he still really believes and Benedict looks at best gullible and more likely complicit in accepting such a dubious recantation.
2) He admits that he never really looked at any historical evidence and simply lied so that he could have an excuse to say hateful things about Jews. Result: The Church sends the message that while it's generally wrong to say the Holocaust never happened, it's OK as long as you only did it because you hate Jews, not because you really believed it.
Seriously, can anyone envision an even remotely satisfying statement that Williamson could make at this point? Jewish groups that accept either of the above scenarios should be ashamed of themselves.
Also, will Williamson have to recant his conclusion that 9/11 was an inside job? 'Cause then that's gonna lose him half of my readers, and I'm not sure the Catholic Church can survive that.