Notes from Underground
The Bishop Williamson fracas
From Holy Mother to Big Brother
By ANDY NOWICKI
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If there was one big thing that prevented me from taking that step for a while, it wasn't any of the usual bugaboos that often vex converts from Protestantism. I had no problem with the Church's Marian doctrine, or with the notion of praying to the saints, or with the presence of statues and icons, or with the dogma of transubstantiation (which declares that Christ is literally present in the wine and wafers offered during holy communion), or with any other uniquely Catholic traditions or rituals. In fact, I always very much liked those aspects of the Catholic faith. Call it a mere preference or inclination if you want, but I actually thought all those things were wonderful. I still do.
What made me hesitate in moving Rome-ward was, in fact, something quite
different: it was a sense that the Church just wasn't what it used to be, that
since the Second Vatican Council
But at times I wondered whether something more significant had departed
besides proper aesthetics. It seemed that maybe
Granted, none of the major doctrines of the faith were changed with
And, of course, there was a punitive side to
I found that transformation so objectionable, and so cruel in its effects on the
liturgically traditional faction of the Church, that I sympathized with the
Society of Saint Pius X, an order formed by staunch conservative Archbishop
Lefebvre of France that entered into formal schism in 1988 after Lefebvre
consecrated four bishops without the consent of Pope John
In recent years, the Church has taken steps to bring the SSPX back into the fold.
Sad to say, in the midst of that progress
the Church has become mired in a PR nightmare. It has been discovered that
one of the four SSPX bishops, Richard Williamson, has some unorthodox ideas
about the Jewish Holocaust and has openly stated his doubt that
the Nazis used homicidal gas chambers to murder millions of Jews during World
At this point in my account, allow me to digress for a moment and return to my own story. I am a believer in the official account of the Holocaust. That is to say, I hold that the National Socialist Party had genocidal designs on European Jewry. I accept that millions were wiped out in homicidal gas chambers and that their bodies were cremated. I don't know it for a fact, in the same way that I don't know any supposed historical event to be factual; after all, I wasn't there. However, I accept that most credible historians say that the evidence overwhelmingly points to the occurrence of the atrocity.
That said, I see no reason to think the absolute worst of anyone who dissents from the official story on the Holocaust or any other historical event. Many Holocaust deniers (or "revisionists" if you prefer) are probably kooks and crackpots, and no doubt a great many are bristling anti-Semites. But many are simply eccentrics or independent thinkers who see things differently, without, in so doing, holding malice in their heart toward anyone. I see no reason to despise such people, and I am genuinely puzzled by the assertion that their theories make them complicit in some great evil. Saying that mass murder didn't take place, or didn't take place in such great numbers, is quite different from saying that mass murder, or even individual murder, is ever pardon the term kosher.
With all of that in mind, I am quite disappointed in the pope's decision to force
Bishop Williamson to recant or be deposed as bishop. There is something about
it that strikes me as quite disgusting, in fact. It is true that throughout history,
popes have often used their position of power and imposed harsh sentences to
bring some recalcitrant king or other to heel. But those actions at least
ostensibly involved some doctrinal matter. The historicity of the Shoah during
And of course one can't help but remark the audacity of double standards. Last
year, when the U.S. Congress moved to recognize the Turkish slaughter of
millions of Armenians as a genocide, neocons squawked about the imprudence
of alienating the Turkish state, a supposed ally in the "war on terror." One
imagines that if Bishop Williamson held that millions of Armenians weren't murdered by the Turks or that Walter Duranty was right and millions of Ukrainians weren't purposely starved by the U.S.S.R. during the 1930s, the controversy wouldn't be nearly so pitched. One can't escape wondering why the enshrinement of some atrocities is so much of a
priority over that of others. Why are there laws in many European countries
making denial of the Jewish Holocaust a crime, while no other, similar
genocides receive any such legal privileges?
Though I am a Catholic, and a great
admirer of the current pope, and though I mourn the tragedy of the Shoah
(which I take to be historical fact), I am sick about the treatment Bishop
Williamson has received, not only from
It is one thing to distinguish one's own beliefs from those of someone you strongly disagree with; it is another to treat that person as if he is beneath contempt for holding different beliefs. It is quite another again to cave to political pressure, and denounce, isolate, and humiliate that person when the mob screams for his head. Though they cast shame on Bishop Williamson, it is in fact Benedict XVI, the Church Magisterium, and the SSPX hierarchy who ought to be ashamed of themselves in this whole sad affair. While engaged in a worthwhile endeavor of reuniting the Church with its traditional wing, they have tarnished and corrupted themselves terribly in the process. They now want Bishop Williamson to love not God but Big Brother.
February 19, 2009
© 2009 WTM Enterprises. All rights
Mr. Nowicki's personal blog is Dyspeptic Myopic, at www.andynowicki.blogspot.com.
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