Why We Speak Out.
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 02:51:41 PM EST
When I wrote about the Vatican's reinstatement of four schismatic bishops, including Holocaust denier SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson some readers commented that the Catholic Church's current hierarchy would not respond to the outrage it provoked.

As it happens, the Vatican is walking this one back as fast as it can.

On Wednesday, February 4, 2009 I was pleased to read this story on the home page of The New York Times:

ROME - Responding to an extraordinary burst of global outrage, especially in Pope Benedict XVI's native Germany, the Vatican for the first time on Wednesday called on a recently rehabilitated bishop to take back his statements denying the Holocaust.

As well as:

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Vatican Secretariat of State said that Bishop Williamson "must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shoah," or Holocaust, or else he would not be allowed to serve as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.

As I reported previously about the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X ("SSPX"), their reason for existence is clearly reactionary:

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.

Why would the Pope want to reach out to these folks? Simple, this is a pontiff obsessed with supposed schemes of secular moral relativism and nihilism. Quite possibly in an effort to buttress socially conservative support within the Church, he moved towards the reconciliation with this group of traditionalist renegades (No such outreach to a more loyal group such as Call to Action. But faced with outrage from Catholics far and wide, the Pope made certain that SSPX - specifically Williamson - to take back any statements he made denying the Holocaust.

Friends, this is precisely why we speak out. No, we don't win every battle, but we are starting to win a few - something worth considering since our movement is only now starting to coalesce. And no, we did not do this on our own. There were governments and religious leaders whose voices, added to ours' forced this change.

And yet all the same, it proves that we do - and will - make a difference.

...is not one of causing humiliation, but that the the right thing was ultimately done.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 02:54:41 PM EST
Leaving aside that at least the message coming out will be something more reasonable than Williamson's previouis stance, I just think that I'd prefer he refuse to change his position, rather than mouth words he has no intention of taking to heart. His sincere beliefs in Holocaust-denial, shown at the interview he gave, belie anything contradictory he might utter.

by trog69 on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 06:30:27 PM EST
I think those who call for Williamson to change his belief (with an implied "or else") miss a crucial point about what belief is. and how it works.

Belief cannot be mandated by authority. Belief is the result of an intellectual process whereby one weighs evidence, or in the irrational mode weighs one's feelings, and thus decides what one believes.

Behavior can be mandated. One can be authoritatively forced to be silent about a heretical or unpopular belief, or even to publicly repudiate it. But an actual change in what somebody thinks can only occur through other methods.

If one wants Williamson to change what he thinks about the Holocaust, one can, if one believes Williamson to be rational, debate the issue on the evidence. If one believes him to be irrational, one can try to persuade him to seek therapy. If one believes in the efficacy of prayer, one can pray for his thoughts and/or feelings to change.

What is totally fruitless is to expect pressure tactics of any sort to change what Williamson actually believes. If that could work, than he never really believed it to start with.

If he has publicly modified his stated position, that is the most that could have been hoped for from the approach taken.

Please note that my point is completely irrespective of the merits of Williamson's viewpoint. It is a statement of what kinds of efforts can change belief, and what kinds of efforts cannot.

It's like the historic wars over what would be the religion of a particular nation or region. The most that was ever won in such confrontations was behavioral change of the targeted populations. Nobody's heart or mind was changed, and nobody was converted.

Just a thought,

by scrocker1946 on Mon Feb 09, 2009 at 11:41:19 PM EST

The Vatican had to back down on this one. We should fight back more often. I don't think Williamson will withdraw from his odious viewpoint.  The Curia also failed to do its homework as well. I was aware of Williamson's history of making anti-Semitic and sexist remarks and I am just an ordinary citizen who uses a computer. What were they thinking?

by khughes1963 on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 09:24:14 PM EST

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