Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bishop Richard Williamson

Bishop Richard Williamson was recently re-instated into the Roman Catholic Church after being previously ex-communicated. He and four other Roman Catholic priests had been consecrated bishops in an unauthorised ceremony in 1988. The penalty according to canon law for an unauthorised consecration is ex-communication. It seems Williamson and his three co-consecrated were from the conservative pro-mass-in-Latin wing of the Roman Catholic Church. Then, just this year Pope Benedict lifted that ex-communication reinstating Williamson and the three others as a gesture of reconciliation to the more conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church.

It could have just been that story, containing a few mildly interesting subplots, however what is both sobering and shocking is that Williamson is a 'Holocaust Denier.' Denying the Holocaust is both a small cottage industry and an ideological bent shared by a variety of groups and individuals from across the political spectrum. It is essentially the belief that the Holocaust never occurred, that the evidence was falsified and that is essentially a Jewish plot of some sort. Debrorah Lipstadt wrote the brilliant and thoroughly researched: Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, in which she critiqued a number of individuals including David Irving. He sued her for libel and took her to court in England. Essentially the Holocaust went on trial. The entire incident is worth reading about because it is a fascinating intersection of truth, anti-semitism and historiography. Needless to say Irving lost, was thoroughly discredited and the sad truth of the Holocaust upheld. Holocaust denial is also a personal issue, my wife's great grandmother and great aunt were Jews, killed in the Holocaust.

So I was disturbed to see that Bishop Williamson a thoroughly committed holocaust denier, had been re-instated as a leader in the Roman Catholic Church. Leadership is not merely limited to a narrow public role. Remember Clinton and Lewinsky: people argued "the personal and public are separate" a strategy that didn't seem to work for Ted Haggard! If people have struggle with something in one part of their life it will effect other parts of their lives, people are complete, holistic beings. So Williamson whose job description includes I imagine explaining and defending the good histgorical news of Jesus (the Jew) has trouble with historical truth? Unfortunately Williamson's reinstatement has far reaching political and theological implications.

[Update posted 5/2/09] In breaking news the Vatican has called on Williamson to recant his postion on Holocaust Denial.