New Sherwood

Now for a bit of controversy

Many of you are aware of the recent interview with Bishop Richard Williamson on Swedish television. Suffice it to say that the bishop’s remarks represent the worst of thought and culture sometimes found in SSPX circles. I do not believe such ideas are common among those who attend SSPX chapels, but considering Williamson’s influence in the seminaries, they are not exactly marginal either.

Bishop Williamson is a brilliant man, but like many brilliant men he is slightly off his rocker. Bishop Fellay, on the other hand, has always seemed much more level-headed, balanced and thoughtful. Hence, I am disappointed in Bishop Fellay’s response to the interview:

If it is “shameful to use an interview on religious matters to introduce secular and controversial issues”, is it not equally shameful for Bishop Williamson to use religious contexts to do the same? Bishop Williamson has been using religious events, sermons, confirmations, etc., to promote his opinions about secular and controversial issues for a long time.

I don’t understand how the interviewer or the television station can be faulted here. The bishop did all of the talking, freely and without coercion, knowing the context very well. He could simply have stated that his views on the holocaust are not relevent to his religious mission in Sweden and he doesn’t want to discuss them. However, I think his views are indeed relevant, as they give insight into the kind of thinking that the SSPX tolerates and perhaps even encourages.

I don’t know much about the holocaust beyond what I was taught in grade school. But it does not seem possible for a propaganda campaign to deceive virtually all of Europe and America into believing that 6,000,000 Jews perished rather than 300,000, and that none were killed in gas chambers when there is obviously no shortage of witnesses. That’s some conspiracy. It is likely, in my opinion, that believing in such a conspiracy is not possible without grave moral fault – fault in denying the truth of human nature, and fault in imputing the worst possible motives to vast numbers of witnesses, survivors, and historians. The moral character of a Catholic bishop is not unimportant. The interviewer was right, in my opinion, to ask the bishop to clarify his views so as to more clearly ascertain the bishop’s character, and to avoid rash judgment based on statements made elsewhere.

January 24, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

19 Comments »

  1. I have to agree with you Jeff. Bp. Williamson should receive a similar rebuke from Bp. Fellay, as his superior. I think that Bp. Fellay should make the same points, that Bp. Williamson speaks beyond his capacity as a representative for the Society when he opines on such contraversial topics.

    Perhaps such a rebuke happened behind the scenes. It would be consistent with the prescriptions of Our Lord that this dialogue not be made public if Williamson showed contrition.

    I hope this sad situation does not affect the veracity of the good news you reported the other day.

    Let us pray for unity.

    Like

    Comment by ben | January 24, 2009 | Reply

  2. Good points, Ben. Bishop Fellay’s letter did seem to carry a thinly-veiled rebuke for Bishop Williamson. The much harsher rebuke for the reporter/TV station is what puzzles me. I think this flap does have the potential to derail the lifting of the excommunications. Jewish leaders have already asked the Pope not to go through with it. We shall see …

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | January 24, 2009 | Reply

  3. I didn’t know about any of this. It brings to mind a sort of empirical generalization I have been kicking around in my mind lately:

    When a person is a member of a political or ideological minority and gets used to being considered a nut, he may become willing to join with other people who for _totally different reasons_ are considered nuts and who in fact really _are_ nuts. He may become associated with them. He may even be influenced by them.

    Look at, for example, the way the 9/11 Troofers glommed on to the Ron Paul campaign, and the way R. P. didn’t have the strength of will to tell them just to get lost in no uncertain terms. Look at some of the weirdness that has happened with Pat Buchanan. (Remember when he made common cause eight years ago or whatever it was with some complete lefty woman, because they both believed in third parties or something like that?)

    It looks to me like this may be another example of the same thing. Maybe the Lefebvrists got used to being the crazy uncle of Roman Catholicism and eventually attracted _really_ crazy ideas by a species of ideological static cling.

    I suppose it’s a cautionary tale to all of us who take a certain mildly sour delight in being considered part of the non-mainstream of conservatism.

    Like

    Comment by Lydia | January 24, 2009 | Reply

  4. “ideological static cling”

    LOL. Can I use that?

    You are definitely on to something, Lydia.

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | January 24, 2009 | Reply

  5. Lydia,

    I loved your comments. Well said.

    Like

    Comment by annabenedetti | January 24, 2009 | Reply

  6. I think this flap does have the potential to derail the lifting of the excommunications.

    I agree with what you wrote re: Williamson and the letter of response, but I’m glad to see that this particular sentence was wrong!

    Like

    Comment by Francis | January 24, 2009 | Reply

  7. Help yourself, Jeff. Just hat-tip me if you use it. :-) :-)

    Like

    Comment by Lydia | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  8. Me too, Francis! Wish I was wrong more often. :-)

    Thanks Lydia!

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  9. The bishop did not exactly “deny” the holocaust, or that six million jews were killed. He said:
    1)he didn’t believe jews were killed in gas chambers (he did not deny they were killed otherwise);
    2)he did not believe 6 million jews were killed by the nazis, but between 2 and 3 hundred thousands;
    3)he based his opinion on the scientific expertise of a “gas chamber specialist”, which certainly most of us here are not competent to confirm or disprove;
    4)he denies there was a systematic plan to wipe out the whole jewish race (while still acknowledging hundreds of thousands were killed).

    Watch here.

    Do not misunderstand me: I do not share the opinion of the bishop, for the simple reason that, as long I feel unable to appreciate the “evidence” Bp Williamson talks about, I’ll stick to the mainstream account.
    But we still have the duty to set the facts about him according to the truth, without distortions.

    What seems absolutely irrefutable by anyone is this: approximately six million jews died or disappeared between 1939 and 1945. But as regards the exact way they died, I think there may be room for debate. I suppose some (not the vast majority, of course) died as soldiers, or in bombardments. Many soviet jews may have starved along with their non-jew fellow citizens. I just don’t know.

    If it is “shameful to use an interview on religious matters to introduce secular and controversial issues”, is it not equally shameful for Bishop Williamson to use religious contexts to do the same?

    This statement is problematic for two reasons:
    1) The letter of the Superior general suggests the question about the holocaust constituted a breach of the terms of the agreement in which the interview was accepted. If this interpretation is true, the comparison you draw is not accurate, because the two situations would not be morally equivalent.
    2) The bishop thinks he is right about the facts, and, supposing he is, there ARE religious implications. It would mean there is a “Holocaust lobby” who scores heavily on the political level by foisting false historical accounts on everybody and exerting intellectual terror against those who voice their opposition. This would mean that the truth is being gravely obscured for political profit. I think it would be normal for a bishop to stand for the truth, and against that lobby, if it exists (for example: Cardinal Pell is frequently criticising global warming fearmongers. This is not irrelevant. The money spent on unprofitable, and sometimes even pollutant, renewable resources could be spent on something else, and this is not an amoral subject).

    Best Regards,

    Gregory Cantor

    Like

    Comment by Gregory Cantor | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  10. 1-4 do amount to Holocaust denial. Denying a deliberate attempt at a Final Solution _is_ denying the Holocaust. Denying that they were systematically gassed _is_ denying the Holocaust.

    And it is, by the way, a known trope of Holocaust deniers to say that they aren’t Holocaust deniers. One even sued someone who called him a Holocaust denier. The lower-case j on “Jews” is also an interesting little indicator.

    Jeff, if you don’t already know Gregory Cantor and know to the contrary, then I’d take this post of his as indicative of something unpleasant.

    Like

    Comment by Lydia | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  11. Gregory,

    With respect to the “gas chamber specialist” Fred Leuchter, this is recommended reading.

    Bishop Williamson may not have spelled it out, but in denying that more than a few hundred thousand were killed, and in denying further that their deaths were the consequence of a deliberate programme of industrialised genocide, he is necessarily insinuating that the vast majority historians, survivors, allied forces involved in the camps’ liberation and Jewish memorial groups are deceiving the public. By going on to make the remarks he did about German reparations, he suggests that the deception is one which results in financial benefits for the deceivers. We are presented with a conspiracy theory peopled by a very large number of Jews who tell untruths to make money. As the reporter in the interview said, if this is not anti-Semitism, what is?

    It is hard enough to introduce the Gospel to Jewish people without promoting or subscribing to this ignorant, malicious drivel.

    Like

    Comment by Francis | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  12. Lydia is very much on to something. Thanks, Lydia, for putting something into words that I never could. This kind of thing does lead to cults and other organizations that simply do attract some interesting people who want to belong. It does matter who you hang out with. Being friends with people different from you is very important, because it keeps you honest and it also reminds you that we are ALL children of God. And God knows what He’s doing. I know I don’t. :)

    Like

    Comment by Ann Marie | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  13. To Lydia:

    “Denying a deliberate attempt at a Final Solution _is_ denying the Holocaust. Denying that they were systematically gassed _is_ denying the Holocaust.”

    Dear Madam, supposing someone believes 6 million Jews were worked to death in concentration camps instead of being gassed for the purpose of the total annihilation of their race, how would you call that? I think the word “Holocaust” could still be appropriate. I may be wrong, but I think the term “Holocaust” became the rule because of the fact that the corpses of dead Jews were massively burnt in crematoriums, not because they were gassed.

    “Holocaust deniers” …. “The lower-case j on “Jews” is also an interesting little indicator”

    By the way… I am Portuguese, and English is only my third language. In Portuguese, one is not bound to use capital letters in those instances; sometimes, I forget the English rule… I couldn’t know this would be tantamount to the “mark of the beast” for you. Sorry.

    I remind you that, under the bounds of Christian charity, you have no right to assume evil intentions on my part. I HAVE SAID WHAT I THINK, WITHOUT DUPLICITY. Keep your pessimistic opinion of me for yourself. I said:

    “Do not misunderstand me: I do not share the opinion of the bishop, for the simple reason that, as long I feel unable to appreciate the “evidence” Bp Williamson talks about, I’ll stick to the mainstream account.”

    If you don’t believe me, then… too bad for you. I just happen to be among those who try to understand before they attack. Even when it comes to bishop Williamson. It doesn’t turn me into a disciple of his.
    You smeared me, Madam. Shame on you!

    I am so sick of being accused of what I have not said… by people who consider themselves catholic!

    P.S.: Just for notice (this is the truth): I bear the name Cohen (among five names; in Portugal, there are people with up to seven names!), and have three Jewish cousins, and my brother is converting to Judaism. I suppose you think I want to exterminate them…

    Like

    Comment by Gregory Cantor | January 26, 2009 | Reply

  14. To Francis:

    Thank you for your comment, and for the link. I appreciate your constructive response. And, like I said, I still stick to the mainstream account.

    “As the reporter in the interview said, if this is not anti-Semitism, what is?”

    If the bishop sincerely thinks he is right about the facts, he can be accused of superficial inquiry, but not of anti-Semitism. I do not allow myself to believe he is not sincere. It would entail a rash judgment on my part (CCC, n. 2477).

    Like

    Comment by Gregory Cantor | January 26, 2009 | Reply

  15. Of course, if the bishop relies only on the said report, we may safely conclude that he is himself guilty of rash judgment.

    Like

    Comment by Gregory Cantor | January 26, 2009 | Reply

  16. Mr. Cantor:

    I understand your desire to give Bp. Williamson the benefit of the doubt with respect to his motives and intentions. At this point, however, it is difficult to see how his motives could be anything but dishonorable.

    The term “holocaust” could not possibly refer to 200,000 to 300,000 Jews killed by the Nazis. That’s a Friday night in Bogota, Columbia – not a holocaust. Holocaust in this context is inextricably tied to genocide, meaning the virtually complete extinguishing of a people. Whether by starvation, fire or gas is certainly not the point. There were 8-10 million Jews residing in Nazi-occupied Europe, so the term “holocaust” for 6 million killed (the number is, in fact, the original estimate of Nazi Adolph Eichmann) is not an exaggeration.

    Bishop Williamson denies the holocaust. He even refers to it as “the quote-unquote holocaust”. And he does not contradict the reporter who tells him “what you are saying is that the holocaust never happened”.

    “The letter of the Superior general suggests the question about the holocaust constituted a breach of the terms of the agreement in which the interview was accepted.”

    It is suggested, but I don’t buy it. Bishop Williamson’s previous remarks would indicate to any secular person that the subject is considered by the bishop to be religiously important. You can’t expect a non-Catholic secular journalist to make the distinctions Bishop Fellay is making. Chances are that Bishop Williamson doesn’t make those distinctions himself.

    “The bishop thinks he is right about the facts, and, supposing he is, there ARE religious implications.”

    Precisely. That’s why the journalist was not out of line in asking the question. For that matter, neither was Bishop Williamson out of line in answering the question. It IS a matter of truth and justice with religious implications, one way or the other. Let’s get it all on the table.

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | January 27, 2009 | Reply

  17. I apologize for misinterpreting your honest mistake regarding capitalization, Mr. Cantor. As a matter of information, I would only say that it’s useful for you to know that a certain type of writer does indeed make a deliberate habit of not capitalizing the word “Jew” and its cognates, so this info. might help you in avoiding future misunderstandings, especially when seeking charity for someone with Bp. Williamson’s views.

    Like

    Comment by Lydia | January 27, 2009 | Reply

  18. To Mr. Culbreath:

    “Bishop Williamson’s previous remarks would indicate to any secular person that the subject is considered by the bishop to be religiously important. You can’t expect a non-Catholic secular journalist to make the distinctions Bishop Fellay is making. Chances are that Bishop Williamson doesn’t make those distinctions himself.”

    “That’s why the journalist was not out of line in asking the question. For that matter, neither was Bishop Williamson out of line in answering the question. It IS a matter of truth and justice with religious implications, one way or the other. Let’s get it all on the table.”

    Granted, I have to admit you are right. Thank you for pointing at this contradiction of mine.

    Like

    Comment by Gregory cantor | January 28, 2009 | Reply

  19. To Lydia:

    I’ll be more careful next time :o)
    I was very sad at your first comment. I sincerely thank you for apologising. It warms the heart to know it was just a misunderstanding.

    Like

    Comment by Gregory cantor | January 28, 2009 | Reply


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