The Vatican Reinstates the Far, Far Religious Right
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jan 24, 2009 at 03:30:00 PM EST
The Catholic Right, Part Seventy-five
The online edition of the New York Times for Saturday, January 24, 2009, reports:


"Pope Benedict XVI, acceding to the far-right of the Roman Catholic Church, revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust have provoked outrage."

Needless to say, as I read the whole story, I was outraged.

The four bishops all are members of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, of which I described in Part Thirty-two of this series:

Needless to say, as I read the whole story, I was outraged.

One such disgruntled group is The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, (also known by the acronym, SSPX) known not only for their fondness of the Latin rite, but also for the French Far Right, specifically, the neofascist National Front Party.

Founded in 1970 by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, they are not only anti-Enlightenment but they are openly contemptuous of the necessary (and unfinished) changes of Vatican II.

The group broke with Rome in 1988 after Lefebvre ordained four new bishops in defiance of Rome's orders. The Vatican responded to by excommunicating Archbishop Lefebvre and the bishops he ordained.

The Holocaust denier in question is Richard Williamson, of whom I wrote:

Several of the SSPX clergy have made anti-Semitic pronouncements, such as Bishop Richard Williamson, who threw in a little anti-Liberalism to boot:

"Supernaturally seen, such a scenario, capable of many adaptations, represents one more in many steps of the Jewish people towards their appointment with God at the end of the world, when, maybe converted by the heroism and endurance of the Catholics undergoing persecution by their Anti-Christ, they will at last convert (Romans XI) and discover their own true Messiah, Jesus Christ, who has never ceased to love them as his own people. However, until they re-discover their true Messianic vocation, they may be expected to continue fanatically agitating, in accordance with their false messianic vocation of Jewish world-dominion, to prepare the Anti-Christ's throne in Jerusalem. So we may fear their continuing to play their major part in the agitation of the East and in the corruption of the West. Here the wise Catholic will remember that, again, the ex-Christian nations have only their own Liberalism to blame for allowing free circulation within Christendom to the enemies of Christ."

As the Times also reported, Bishop Williamson is very fond of making outrageous remarks:

Most contentious was the inclusion of Richard Williamson, a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers. He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.

The Times further reported, "The decision provided fresh fuel for critics who charge that Benedict's four-year-old papacy has proven increasingly hostile to moderates and to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that sought to create a more modern and open church."

If anything, that is the understatement of the decade.

As a Catholic I am more than saddened by the passing of the days of Vatican II -- when Catholic-Jewish relations turned on the adoption of Nostrae Aetate which Cardinal Roger Mahoney properly explained, "undertook a rethinking of Judaism and the Jewish people in Catholic theology and liturgy, repudiating historic Christian teachings of contempt towards Jews and positively asserting the common spiritual heritage the Christians and Jews share."

But more than saddened, I feel a deep sense of shame for my Church. The Pope has denigrated us as well as our Jewish brothers and sisters.

And I am more than perplexed by the priorities of the church hierarchy that can excommunicate a peaceful priest, Father Roy Bourgeois who advocates for the ordination of women priests, but invites back those who try to white-wash the atrocities of Adolf Hitler.

That, my friends, is truly a disgrace. And I am outraged.

What are we going to do about this unfortunate sea change?

I also challenge those of the Catholic Right to try and justify this morally indefensible decision. Are you out there Bill Donohue, Michael Novak or Sam Brownback?

You all have a duty to try and reconcile reinstating Williamson with the actions and sacrifice of Father Maximilian Kolbe.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jan 24, 2009 at 03:31:39 PM EST

 The Catholic Church is lurching right, it seems, in tandem with Protestant Christianity.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 03:28:46 PM EST
the Roman Catholic Churh also was taking a far more active part in politics in Europe in the last years and generally in a rightwing way, e.g. in more or less supporting the PP in Spain and Berlusconi's coalition in Italy in the last elections or with the beatification of 498 rightwing Spanish clergy members who died during the Civil War (but not of 16 Basque priest who died because of their support for the republic against Franco's military coup); Pope Ratzinger also moved away from his predecessor's repentance for catholic anti-semitism and anti-judaism, e.g. in his speach in Auschwitz in spring 2006 and his praise of pope Pius XII.

by Entdinglichung on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 08:10:34 AM EST

I left a rather forceful comment on Richard Bartholomew's diary about some of Williamson's more hateful pronouncements. Benedict runs the risk of alienating more moderate and liberal Catholics. Benedict is already undoing the late Pope's outreach to Jews, and I find it sad.

by khughes1963 on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 05:34:35 PM EST

What a way to cause scandal to the Roman Catholic Church! He's the LAST person who should overlook Holocaust denial. It's one thing if B16 merely allowed them to repent of schism and return as laypeople, to be treated as laypeople. Under a right-minded confessor, the Holocaust denier would still have to publicly repudiate the malicious delusion (at the minimum) before being in communion. But the article suggests that B16 is still referring to the four as bishops.

by NancyP on Sat Jan 24, 2009 at 04:19:30 PM EST
You're absolutely correct Nancy; not only in deference to the living, but to the six million Jews and five million others who perished in the death camps.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jan 24, 2009 at 04:28:08 PM EST

This is a very polarizing move.  I doubt that the Vatican takes the beliefs and values of non- RC Christians into account (and it looks like they ignore our Jewish brethren and sisters as well)- and obviously the opinions and beliefs of non-conservative Roman Catholics are not being valued here either.

This move may backfire on them, and drive people from their idea of "the Fold".  What can be done about this- I don't know.  It's not good in any case.

Although non-Roman Catholic (I'm not sure what type of Christian I would be considered), I consider moves like this to have a strong impact on the world, and I feel grief and frustration that this move has been made (I believe that it harms the Body of Christ- All Christians).

This may sound trite (although I mean it for well), but I pray for you and your church.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 01:03:58 AM EST

I get the impression that B16 is perfectly happy to have Westerners leave the Roman Church - he has said something to the effect that the West, especially Europe, is lost to Christianity, and has pointed to the Global South as the future of the Church.

He may see more need to attain detente with Islam, in order to evangelize/sheep-steal inhabitants of existing non-Islamic territory, most of whom have no particular interest in Jews or European holocausts because they have had their own troubles with millions of lives lost. I wonder if B16 believes that the Islamic world will eventually succeed in controlling Jerusalem. The man's not too stupid to be incapable of thinking about global trends, even if he may back the wrong horse. Is he seeking some sort of "Concordat" in advance? There has been some cooperation between the Vatican UN representative and some Islamic countries over "family issues", and it wouldn't surprise me if B16 was thinking  in this manner. Please note, this is mere speculation, assuming that the Pope spends a great deal of time considering global politics and power.

One thing that is likely to keep the RCC from any domination of the Global South is the explosion of Protestant conservative evangelical churches, many non-denominational. These churches have eaten into market share in formerly solidly Roman countries, and seem to be hugely popular in many subSaharan African countries.

by NancyP on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 06:13:27 PM EST

The evangelical churches bring their own issues with them, and this blog has documented many of them, including the breaks in the Anglican Communion and the connections with some African nations.

by khughes1963 on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 07:16:43 PM EST
One thing that has come to me about this time and time again...

In the past people split with Rome over issues.  This far-conservative bent and the way it has impacted moderate and progressive Roman Catholics could get to the point of hard choices again.

I hope not, as that would be terrible for a lot of people.  But that seems to be the direction things are going.

(BTW- not all members of the Anglican Communion consider themselves evangelical.  We used to think of ourselves as Anglo-Catholic, until we were driven away!)

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 09:04:34 PM EST

One thing's for sure... there is an agenda.
Certain Italian moderators at the Catholic Online Web Forum are deleting  many of the comments that dare to criticize Williamson or the move to rehabilitate him.

by CynthiaGee on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 09:20:03 PM EST

I know you should say we should fight, but how?  I just avoid church personally.

by strayroots on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 04:09:56 PM EST
Go to Church, become involved in parish activities and no matter how unpopular you may seem, offer a dissenting opinion to reactionary pronouncements from the pulpit.

For example, when a bishop or a visiting priest rails against pro-choice Catholics, at the end of the sermon, quietly, but forcefully - and most of all, with dignity - say "I dissent."

And above all, as an aging Frederick Douglas once told a young African-American when asked the same question, "agitate, agitate, agitate." Only do it astutely.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 05:17:28 PM EST

"Go to Church, become involved in parish activities and no matter how unpopular you may seem, offer a dissenting opinion to reactionary pronouncements from the pulpit."

Dissent from within will get noticed, and hopefully give others the impetus to voice their disagreement too. Outside agitation usually just makes them close ranks even more.

by trog69 on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 02:35:15 AM EST
Non-Catholics can too easily be dismissed, It will, as you observed, cause a closing of ranks; this will not.

The backlash is starting in other areas of contention. I was heartened when I saw the parishoners in the Diocese of Boston willing to go to jail in order to keep their churches open - clearly in defiance to the Archbishop.

These are the things we must do to push back the reactionaries.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 07:14:36 AM EST

I hope that this "inside agitation" will work.  I am concerned that it will lead to a crackdown, and possibly a bunch of excommunications.  Another horrible thing they could do is deny the Roman Catholics in areas of "rebellion" the sacraments.

Everything I've heard about Bishop Ratzinger is that he is an authoritarian, and they will do ANYTHING to remain in power- except give up some of that power and control.

I'm praying for the success of the resistance to this rightward move- it's about all a non-RC can do (along with providing moral support!)  You're right, we (non-RC) aren't important or equal in the eyes of the hierarchy,  so anything done from "outside" isn't going to do much good.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 10:52:58 AM EST

Thank you for your prayers, Bob. But you can also agitate OUTSIDE --- shining a light on a dirty situation is always good policy.  The Catholic Church DOES care about its PR;  and make no mistake, many, many US Catholics are just as upset about this situation as you are.

But get a load of who DOES approve of Williamson... this guy quotes the good bishop at some length:

The comment on the Stormfront site links to a sermon written by Bishop Williamson, where he says:
"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.... Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil, and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism.".

...but don't bother trying to follow that link. The original article (first preached as part of a sermon delivered in 1989 in Sherbrooke, Canada), has been very recently removed from the intenet, and the site where it was posted, no longer exists; the site is no longer available via the "Wayback Machine" search engine, and it has been scrubbed from the Google cache as well.

by CynthiaGee on Tue Jan 27, 2009 at 11:29:39 PM EST

And I weep for the Church.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Jan 28, 2009 at 07:07:16 AM EST

Frank,  call me naive, but I'd like to think that for every cloud, there's a silver lining, and for every Bishop Williamson, a Father Desbois.

Check it out:
"Priest Uncovering Beginnings of Final Solution"

Way to go, Father Desbois...
...let Williamson and his SSPX buddies shove that in their antisemitic censers and smoke it.

by CynthiaGee on Sun Feb 01, 2009 at 12:30:15 AM EST

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