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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Holocaust-denying Bishop Gets the Boot From Argentina

Argentina has done something the Vatican has yet to do. They've punted Catholic bishop Richard Williamson to the curb.

Williamson had been excommunicated for 20 years, along with three other members of the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X who had been consecrated without Vatican approval. But German-born Pope Benedict XVI didn't know what a firestorm he'd created by lifting Williams' excommunication in early February. Because the British bishop was a longtime Holocaust denier. In January, a Swedish television station aired a November interview in which Williams claimed that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust and only 200,000 to 300,000 were killed, not 6 million. "There were no gas chambers."

This isn't a new development with Williams. As far back as 1989 when he was at a seminary in Winona, Minnesota, he was quoted as saying that "Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism." He made the claim that "the Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new state of Israel."

In letters and interviews, he has claimed Jews and Freemasons ("Judeo-Masons") have caused "changes and corruption" in the Catholic Church, referring to "Jewry" as enemies of Christ, and has supported the belief that the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion are an authentic outline for world domination by Jews. In the Swedish interview, he cites the long discredited (and patently ridiculous) claims of Fred Leuchter and the so-called "Leuchter Report" as 'proof' that there could have been no Nazi gas chambers.

Holocaust denial is illegal and punishable in Germany by imprisonment. Regensburg District Attorney Guenther Ruckdaeschel said authorities were investigating whether the remarks can be considered "inciting racial hatred."

In January, Williamson sent a letter to the Vatican, saying, “Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems." Note the lack of actually recanting his views. Many of his tamer views can be read on Dinoscopus, his personal blogsite.

The pope has now demanded that Williamson recant his views before he can be recognized as a Roman Catholic bishop, but after spending 20 years under excommunication before this, it's hard to see this as much of a threat to his vocation. Meanwhile, the Society of St. Pius X, which has long argued forcefully against the reforms adopted by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, is attempting to keep Williamson away from them—they've had enough trouble over the years without salting a Holocaust-denying bishop into the pot. On February 9th, they sacked him as head of their Argentina seminary in Buenos Aires. That in turn set off Argentina's Interior Ministry's mechanisms for showing Williamson the door and bestowing upon him the Order of the Boot.

On the way to his plane back to London, the peace-practicing bishop raised his fist at a local reporter, and shoved him into a pole. Nothing like turning the other cheek.

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Blogger Chris Hodapp said...

On February 26th, the Associated Press reported that Williamson publicly apologized for his remarks:

While Williamson apologized in a statement Thursday to all those who took offense and for the distress he caused, the bishop did not specifically say that his comments were erroneous, or that he no longer believed them.

"If I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them," Williamson was quoted as saying in the statement carried by the Zenit Catholic news agency.

Last month the pope, seeking to help heal a rift with ultra-traditionalists, lifted a 20-year-old excommunication decree imposed on Williamson and three other bishops who had been consecrated without Vatican approval.

The move immediately caused an uproar among Jewish groups. Benedict later condemned Williamson's remarks and spoke out against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

"Observing these consequences I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks," Williamson added, according to Zenit.
The agency quoted him as saying that to all that took offense, "before God I apologize."

It was not clear if the apology would satisfy the Vatican, which had demanded that he recant before being admitted to the church as a clergyman, or Jewish groups, which had expressed outrage.

February 26, 2009 at 9:37 PM  

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