February 4, 2009

Don't be stupid, be a smarty

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.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


This ugly incident is certainly a speed bump in an otherwise smooth transition.

I'm sure you know the history of the church enough to know number one is just the way it goes.

To paraphrase Ned Flanders-as-Thomas-More "I'm sure a celibate ex-Hitler Youth weirdo knows a lot more about Jewish sensitivity than you do."

A public meeting with a prominent Jewish holocaust historian or survivor, followed by a recantation and apology?

This is a person willing to be excommunicated for his opinions, so a recantation seems a little unlikely. It seems like the Vatican is reserving the right to judge the sincerity of any attempt at reconciliation, as it should.

I have to say I'm sympathetic to the Vatican's original position that holocaust denial is abhorrent but not heretical. Given the logical consistency of this argument, and the fact that the Pope NEVER changes his mind, the significant thing here really is the fact that he admitted the the original response was a (small) mistake, in the face of criticism from Merkel, the ADL, etc. Hopefully this is a sign that he's serious about interfaith dialogue instead of a sign that he's picking sides with Jews against Islam in some kind of civilizational grudge match. Remember the Turkish thing from last year--I think that was another interfaith conversation that was badly bungled (on both sides).

But I'm waiting for the hard-hitting journalist willing to ask the real question here: what does Mel Gibson think?

Here is a download link to an hour long-video of the Chief Prosecutor for the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, Benjamin B. Ferenczat, as he later addresses the American Bar Association on International Law. He gives some very large numbers.

Sheesh ^^

*Benjamin B. Ferencz

Once a disgraced anti-Semite actually makes the move to Argentina, I don't think there's any going back on it.

It's possible the Pope really doesn't expect (or even want) Williamson to do any of that. The lifting of the ex-communications was really a symbolic gesture meant to reach out to conservative Catholics still unhappy with parts of Vatican II. By itself it doesn't restore these priests to their prior status (they would have to recant a bunch of other stuff they said first, most of it having nothing at all to do with the Holocaust), and my guess is the Vatican really doesn't want them back. Here Benedict gets to make a bunch of other radically conservative Catholics (and he's sort of one of them) happy, but he also stops short of actually inviting these particular guys all the way back into the church.

Of course the symbolism works both ways and it's sad the pope doesn't seem to realize that.

"Papal aides say Benedict, a former university professor and theologian, receives a daily news summary and occasionally watches television."

The Stars....they're just like US!

Personally I think this guy should go the other way, change his last name to "Wilhelmson" and start campaigning for reparations for Germany because their payments of "billions and billions on deutschemarks" were induced by a "guilt complex". that should at least get him a spot on Jerry Springer along with the guy who couldn't get a birthday cake for his son Adolf Hitler.

You guys are overthinking this. The graceful outcome is very simple.

3) "Ohhhhhh, thaaat holocaust."

The official pronouncement is online. The relevant section states:

"In order to be admitted to function as a Bishop within the Church, Bishop Williamson must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were unknown to the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication."

It also says "His Holiness desired to remove an impediment which was prejudicial to the opening of a door to dialogue," which sounds like some serious back-pedaling, since the original decree implied that the process of full reconciliation was much further along.

It's weird how everyone is saying "recant." That seems qualitatively different from "distance himself." I can envision several ways of distancing yourself from previous statements without actually recanting them.

Good point, but I don't think it makes too much difference in this case. Williamson can't claim to have been misquoted or taken out of context, and with the coverage this received, saying "I may have been wrong" or "I never really looked into this before I started putting specific numbers in my claims" is unlikely to make anyone happy. Not that that excuses the pope for trying to give Williamson some wiggle room.

He could take it back during National Brotherhood Week.

Spiegel just weighed in with an interview with Bishop Richard Williamson.

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