Anti-Semitism History Holocaust Holocaust denial Politics Religion

Better late than never? The Vatican demands that a Holocaust denier recant

I guess even the Vatican responds to public pressure, if it’s intense enough.

Last week, I noted an extremely disturbing story, a story that outraged me, a story that I would have found even more disturbing were I still a practicing Catholic but that I found disturbing enough even though I no longer am one. I’m referring to the difficult to explain decision on the part of Pope Benedict XVI to rehabilitate four heretical bishops who had been ordained without the Vatican’s permission and who all belonged to a conservative Catholic organization known as the the Society of Saint Pius X. This organization was formed in the wake of Vatican II and its reforms, which its members explicitly reject.

One of the four bishops whose excommunication by Pope John Paul II was rescinded is a grade-A super loony nutjob. Specifically, this particular bishop, Bishop Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier. Moreover, he is the most obnoxious, blatantly idiotic sort of Holocaust denier, parroting the most easily debunked of denier canards as though they were fact; even his friend David Irving is not so dense. Even worse, it turns out that Williamson’s anti-Semitism is not at all subtle and over the years not even close to carefully hidden. Indeed, Williamson’s vile views were noted nearly a year ago in a news story that described just what he believed, including his acceptance of the Czarist forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the classic anti-Semitic tract that purports to describe a conspiracy by Jews to rule the world as described by the elders in its title, as authentic, as well as his being a 9/11 Truther, who, like many 9/11 Truthers, believes that the U.S. government was somehow in on the attacks of that day.

As you may recall, I, along with many others, was outraged that the Pope would try to rehabilitate such a raging anti-Semite. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why on earth the Church would want to rehabilitate such a hateful crank. One commenter by the ‘nym efarris tried to explain why:

The vileness of Williamson’s statements is undeniable, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a far more “nuanced” issue than the reporting indicates. Of course, “Pope says suspended bishop who has idiotic political views will be allowed to take Communion again – if he shapes up” doesn’t make nearly as sensational a news story as “Pope ’embraces’ Holocaust denier.”

In answer to the questions about whether this means the four are bishops again…

Lifting their excommunication does NOT make them bishops in good standing with the Church. It is essentially an invitation to reconcile with Rome. There’s a condition attached – to believe and obey what the Catholic Church teaches on faith and morals. This would include the recognition of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) that officially condemned all forms of anti-Semitism. (You can look this one up.)

They are still suspended as clergy and any services they perform are illicit. Lifting their excommunication doesn’t give them the right to function as priests or imply any approval of their views or actions. The only thing it does is give them permission to receive the sacraments of the Catholic Church. If you think (like many do) that those are meaningless, then the Pope has done — absolutely nothing. The Church basically doesn’t deny communion to people on the basis of their political views even if those views are at odds with Church teaching. When the Church doesn’t deny communion to pro-choice American politicians, for example, most Americans think that this policy is a good thing.

This, of course, was a rather specious comparison, mainly because this issue was about far more than a single disagreement with the Church. It was about open heresy and the flouting of the Church’s authority. Moreover, the very problem that I had with Benedict’s action was that he didn’t say that a “suspended bishop who has idiotic political views will be allowed to take Communion again – if he shapes up.” He simply said that said suspended bishop who has idiotic political views will be allowed to take Communion again. Period. No preconditions. No requirements. The Pope didn’t even demand that Williamson renounce his Holocaust denial, accept the Church’s authority and teachings (including Vatican II, which SSPX despises), and ask forgiveness. That’s some pretty easy forgiveness, if you ask me.

All of that is why I responded by wondering why on earth the Pope’s excommunication of these bishops was rescinded without his first demanding from them as a precondition of having their excommunication lifted a public renunciation of their previous disobedience of the Church in having accepted their clearly illicit ordinations and their current heresy against the Church, a public vow of obedience to the Church and a public statement affirming their belief in Church teaching–including Vatican II. To me, reversing the Lefebvrists’ excommunications without first requiring of them even those minimal public demonstrations of repentance sent the worst possible message in that it suggested to me and others that Benedict was so desperate for reconciliation that he didn’t even bother to make sure that the bishops would come back to the fold in both word and deed if he rescinded their excommunication for having participated in the “rogue” ordinations of bishops outside the authority of Rome.

From this action, I had a really hard time not concluding one of two things: Either Pope Benedict XVI and his underlings didn’t know (or don’t really want to know) the full extent of the anti-Semitism and nastiness of these bishops, particularly Williamson. If that is the case, they are incompetent and ignorant, having exercised insufficient due diligence before making this decision. Indeed, as one wag put it, this mistake “suggests a failure on the part of Vatican ‘vetters’ that makes any of the Obama team’s mistakes small beer indeed.” On the other hand, the problem might well have been that the Pope apparently failed to consult the prelate in charge of interfaith dialogue, Cardinal Walter Kasper, a man who would certainly have warned them of Williamson’s extremist views.

The other possibility is that they did know and simply didn’t care. In that case, although I do not for one instant believe that he shares the anti-Semitism of SSPX and Bishop Williamson, I still have to wonder if the Pope himself sympathizes with other SSPX’s beliefs, a frightening thought to me indeed. Even worse, that Benedict announced his rescission of these bishops’ excommunications on the very week of Holocaust Remembrance Day showed a real tin ear and serious insensitivity.

It appears that, better late than never, the Pope has come around to my way of thinking:

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.

Late last month, the pope revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops from the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X, including Bishop Richard Williamson, a Briton, who in an interview broadcast last month denied the existence of the Nazi gas chambers.

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.


Benedict has said he revoked the excommunications in an effort to heal a rift within the church. Last week, he called them a gesture of “compassion” and a first step on a longer path toward the society’s full reconciliation with the church.

The statement from the Vatican on Wednesday also addressed questions about what conditions the society would have to meet before being fully welcomed back into the fold, saying it would have to offer its “full recognition of the Second Vatican Council” to receive “recognition” by the church.

Of course, this issue is about a lot more than Williamson’s Holocaust denial. The SSPX is a rogue organization steeped in anti-Semitism and anti-modernism, including a defense of the Inquisition, a 15th century view of the role of women, and a generally medieval and absolutist mindset. Apparently the anti-modernism and medieval mindset didn’t bother Pope Benedict in the least. Only the Holocaust denial, it seems, did. And, it seems, ignorance was the reason, although I wonder if that’s just a story:

The statement said that the bishop’s recent comments denying the Holocaust had been “unknown to the Holy Father at the time he revoked the excommunication.”

Efforts to reach Bishop Williamson were unsuccessful, and he issued no public response. The bishop has a history of public statements denying the Holocaust.

Yes, indeed, the Pope is claiming ignorance. There’s just one problem. This latest idiocy by Williamson was far from the first time that he had denied the Holocaust. Let’s take a look. First, here’s an excerpt from a letter Bishop Williamson wrote in 2001 shortly after 9/11:

The Jews are a similar case. As early as 200 the Church author Tertullian remarked that as Catholic faith goes up, so Jewish power goes down, while as Catholic faith goes down, so Jewish power goes up. In the Catholic Middle Ages the Jews were relatively impotent to harm Christendom, but as Catholics have grown over the centuries since then weaker and weaker in the faith, especially since Vatican II, so the Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their substitute-Messianic drive towards world dominion.

If we return for a moment to politics, the United States is now caught precisely between these two scourges of God. Unquestionably one main grievance of Arabs against the United States, provoking their terrorists to lash out as we have seen, is the United States’ one-sided favoring of Israel over the Arabs for the last forty years. But each time the United States attempts to act even-handedly towards the Arabs, Jewish power inside the United States – e.g. virtual control of finance and the media – blocks the attempt, and the United States returns to oppressing the Arabs.

Nice. But that’s not all. Let’s go back even further. In fact, let’s go back 20 years to 1989:

In 1989, for instance, one of the Society’s four bishops, Richard Williamson, delivered a virulently racist sermon while touring Quebec. Williamson, who runs a Lefebvrist seminary in Winona, Minnesota, was speaking at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes church in Sherbrooke when he stated that “Not one Jew was killed in the gas chambers. It’s a lie… the Jews invented the Holocaust so that we would kneel before them and accept their state of Israel… the governments don’t touch the Jews but they persecute the Zundels who fight for the truth.” [8] When a complaint was lodged under the hate laws, the RCMP found that there was no basis to charge Williamson because he “wasn’t inciting violence”. The bishop himself was unapologetic, claiming that “The church is going badly because of the Protestants, the Freemasons, the Communists, the media and the Jews…. I don’t believe that 6 million Jews were killed (in the Holocaust), it’s a physical impossibility.” [9]

There was also more:

There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies. The Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new State of Israel…. Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil, and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism.

As I said before, nice.

Actually, it’s so bad that even SSPX can’t take it. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of SSPX, issued this statement:

It is obvious that a Catholic bishop can only speak with ecclesiastical authority about matters concerning faith and morals. Our Society claims no authority on other matters. Its mission is the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine, set forth in the dogmas of the Faith. It is for this that we are known, accepted and esteemed throughout the world.

We are deeply grieved to see how much harm the violation of this mandate can do to our mission. Bishop Williamson’s statements do not in any way reflect the position of our Society. This is why I have forbidden him, until further notice, to make any public statements on political or historical issues.

We ask forgiveness of the Sovereign Pontiff and of all people of good will for the dramatic consequences of such an act. While we recognize how inappropriate these declarations were, we can only note with sadness that the incessant accusations against our Society are also obviously intended to discredit it.

I can’t resist noting that it’s funny how no one from SSPX, including its leadership, appears to have spoken out against Williamson’s Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism until it caused embarrassment to the organization. In other words, because Williamson’s interview is being used to “discredit” SSPX (which, if you read some of the essays on its website, doesn’t really need Williamson to be discredited; there’s plenty of anti-Semitism not involving Holocaust denial in the “mainstream” SSPX teaching to discredit it), SSPX had to try to distance itself from Williamson. Fellay’s protestations would have been more convincing to me if they hadn’t been necessitated by the worldwide outrage Williamson’s comments had caused, if SSPX had shunned Williamson all along. Remember, Williamson’s views have not been a secret. He’s been preaching them openly for at least 20 years. It’s only now, when Williamson’s Holocaust denial endangers SSPX’s best opportunity to rejoin the Church, that Fellay says anything. Less than a year ago, this is what SSPX said about Williamson:

Although Williamson’s anti-Semitism has been an open secret in the traditionalist Catholic world for years, there will be widespread dismay at the willingness of the SSPX headquarters to defend his views.

The Rev Arnaud Sélégny, the general secretary of the SSPX General House in Menzingen, Switzerland, said Bishop Williamson would not prove an “obstacle in any reconciliation with the post-Conciliar Church” and that the Society was “sure to include Mgr Williamson if there was a reconciliation” because “everyone is allowed to have his opinion in the Society”.

He also said that the Society did not have a policy on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and that “the Society has no duty or ability to make a pronouncement” on the document’s authenticity.

In other words, SSPX didn’t mind Williamson’s bigoted and hateful views until they became an impediment to its goals and sees no reason to condemn an anti-Semitic forgery that has been used to justify Jew hatred for over a century.

Finally, it beggars the imagination that Pope Benedict XVI wasn’t aware of Williamson’s long and very public history of denying the Holocaust and spewing the most virulently racist and anti-Semitic comments. Not knowing this about him would indicate a level of ignorance and incompetence beyond anything I would have imagined before. One would have to be quite willfully blind not to be aware of Williamson’s history. Combine that with a preemptive gesture of “forgiveness,” and it looks as though the Vatican got snookered into giving up something a Catholic would consider very valuable for, in essence, nothing, giving itself a black eye in the process. Apparently, “reconciliation” with an ultraconservative breakaway society takes precedence over responsibility, giving the appearance of supporting anti-Semites and Holocaust denial, or even the pure power calculation of enforcing obedience to the Church before providing forgiveness in turn.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

30 replies on “Better late than never? The Vatican demands that a Holocaust denier recant”


Does it really matter.

Nobody would give any credence to this religous nutter. he is clearly a bigoted, reactionary, anti-Semitic fruitcake and should be marginalised accordingly.

I am always amazed at what the absence of sexual relations can do to the mind (and I can’t even be bothered with a choirboy/kiddy fiddler joke either).

Get some sleep and get back to the jabbophobes.

This part of the Wednesday’s statement from rome confuses me:
(caps added by me to show the confusing part)
“or else he WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO SERVE AS A BISHOP in the Roman Catholic Church.”

I thought one of the points made in defense of the reinstatement was that this ass-clown would be bishop in title only, not actions. Doesn’t the statement contradict that?

As someone pointed out before, becoming a bishop is a sacrament that cannot be taken back (same as you can’t be unbaptised). There was speculation in the last thread that he was still suspended from his priestly functions, and I guess this refers to lifting the suspension in turn for good behavior.

I think Herr Stuhrbanfuhrer Pope Benedict is just paving the way for the eventual canonization of St. Adolph, who sacrificed his life for Germany in May 1945 , so that others could become Pope…

But seriously… does this not make you suspect that the Popester is gone over the edge? I wonder what the rules and regs are for Papal Replacement?

“The SSPX is a rogue organization steeped in anti-Semitism and anti-modernism, including a defense of the Inquisition, a 15th century view of the role of women, and a generally medieval and absolutist mindset.”

Well, the same things could be said of the Catholic Church as a whole… no wonder this staunchly conservative Pope feels a strong closeness to the SSPX’s core tenets.

It would be really hard to take the idea seriously that he had truly recanted his repugnant views if he were to do so at the pope’s demand. Any estimation of his sincerity in that regard would certainly be higher if he had already done so without prompting by someone else.

Interesting. Seems the SSPX has just bleached some scum off their website.

About 10pm Tuesday night I posted at an Economist message board about a particularly nasty bit of antisemitism on the SSPX website, which was at

It’s no longer there.

Here’s a compilation of quotes from the article that I posted at Economist:

By Frs. Michael Crowdy & Kenneth Novak
Originally printed in the April 1997 issue of The Angelus magazine.

” Catholics are not to enter into commercial, social, nor political relations which are bound hypocritically to seek the ruin of Christendom. Jews must not live together with Christians because this is what their own Jewish laws ordain and also because their errors and material superiority have virulent consequences among other peoples. If the other peoples reject these precautions, they will invite upon themselves these consequences, namely, to serve the Jewish people to whom belongs superiority in the kingdom of the material.”

“1. The Jewish people persecute Christendom.”
“2. The Jewish people conspire against the Christian State.

Some facts: In Spain (694) the Jews conspired with the Jews in Africa to let the Arabs into Spain; in 711 they allied with the Arabs; in 952 they handed over Barcelona. In 854, Bordeaux was delivered to the Normans by the Jews; at the end of the 12th century they made common cause with the Mongols against the Christians of Hungary.”
“4. Jews are known to kill Christians.”
“Nevertheless, though the Jewish people must be protected, it was recognized it was dangerous enough to be isolated into its own neighborhoods.”
“The Catholic Church perceives the deep desire of the Jewish people to impose its material superiority and the guilt of Catholics who seek this people to get material gain. The enslaving of Christians and Christian nations began by the fault of Christians.”
“If Christians wish to remain free, let them avoid entanglements with the Jewish people. It dominates in every branch of commerce and finance, in philosophy and the universities.”
“The gifted Jewish bankers have created a controlled economy whose ultimate end is the multiplication of money.”
“Beyond its financial influence, Judaic thinking comes to dominate the cultural and educational fields. The pattern repeats: Jews get into posts of influence, and submit society to a high degree of corruption in ways of thinking and acting, which leads to a reaction of public opinion against them.”
“But the preaching of the Gospel is continually frustrated by Judaism.”
” A characteristic strategy of Judaism is to perpetrate falsehood.”

IMO *worse* late than never. The official rationale for the change of position is effectively claiming gross negligence and incompetence. Even worse, the appearance is of “oh, people actually noticed. Well, better make some meaningless gesture.”

Every time I think my opinion of the Catholic Church can’t sink any lower, they somehow manage to surprise me again.

SSPX’s publishing arm, Angelus Press, offers on their website Hillaire Belloc’s book The Jews. It is advertised with the following text:

“An attempt by the author to present a frank and open discussion of the multi-faceted “Jewish question”.

From the Preface, “The object of this book is…the relation between the Jews and the nations around them…” Belloc skips over ad hominem attacks and focuses on the undeniable reality of the problem of Jews living in a Christian culture.

Belloc’s fairness and even – handedness is surprising. He speaks of:

•The Jewish control of banking yet does not fail to point out that the average European Jew is poor
•That Bolshevism is a Jewish movement, but not a movement of the Jewish race as a whole
•The Jewish mentality
•The failure of gentiles to be honest about the Jewish question
•Anti-Semitism (an evil to be deplored but hard to oppose because it exploits the truth so often denied by liberal gentiles)
•The only two forces capable of opposing industrial capitalism – the Jews and the Church and their divergent paths
•The interplay of the four most important forces in the world: the Catholic Church, the Jews, Islam and industrial capitalism
•The history of the Jews in England (fascinating – control of money-lending in the Middle Ages, their exile under Edward I, their return under the Protestant Cromwell and their alliance against their mutual enemy, the Catholic Church, attempts to form an Anglo-Judaic state in Palestine
•Zionism and much more!

If this isn’t pertinent reading for today, then we don’t know what is!”

… a level of ignorance and incompetence beyond anything I would have imagined before.

It would seem that, in the continuing de facto alliance between the Vatican and the US Republican Party, the influences run both ways.

Pope Benedict XVI seems to be in the running for the worst Pope since Alexander VI. Maybe even worse than Alexander VI, who was simply venal and greedy.


Hey, at least Roddy Borgia/Pope Alexander VI had verve. And lots of equally venal kids!

When it comes to anti-Semitism, Benedict is at the very least cloth-eared. He revived a Good Friday prayer (with an insubstantial language change), last widely used in 1962, for the conversion of Jews to Christianity.

When I read Apparently the anti-modernism and medieval mindset didn’t bother Pope Benedict in the least. Only the Holocaust denial, it seems, did., I can’t help but try read “Only popular public opinion, it seems, did.”

From the letter you quoted: … so the Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their substitute-Messianic drive towards world dominion. It’s sad he can’t stand back an realise this says that both the Catholics and Jews are at fault for this approach and if he is to condemn one, he has to condemn the other, too.

I still have to wonder if the Pope himself sympathizes with other SSPX’s beliefs, a frightening thought to me indeed.

Maybe he does. AFAIK, he recently allowed the use of the old-style Tridentine mass (Gregorian chant, Latin instead of vernacular etc.) again after it had been ditched as part of Vatican II. I must admit that this particular move is one I agree with (FWIW – not much since I’m neither Catholic nor indeed theist). While there’s much to be said for allowing the vernacular and a more inclusive style of celebrating the mass, I feel that, as a cultural matter, throwing out a thousand-year-old tradition seems pretty cavalier to me.

To perhaps explain where I’m coming from, I’m a musician and singer, and I’ve worked a lot on early music and chant, and consequently I’ve also ended up supplying the music for a number of Tridentine masses. It was only later I realized what political company that put me in.

“While there’s much to be said for allowing the vernacular and a more inclusive style of celebrating the mass, I feel that, as a cultural matter, throwing out a thousand-year-old tradition seems pretty cavalier to me.”

On the other hand, the Latin mass took the place of the original Greek mass. Presumably because nobody knew Greek anymore.

Ye gods. this guy should share the same fate as the anti-semetic bigot (portrayed by the late Vic Morrow) in The Twilight Zone movie. Locked into a cattle car a throng of those he despises. I’ve never been a fan of organized religion, and this is another example of why.

blast me.
that should have been “Locked into a cattle car amid a throng of . . . ”

Recant? Seriously?

Uh, Pope Ratzy,

The problem isn’t simply what the Bishop says out loud. It’s what he thinks and feels in his heart of hearts. Recanting means nothing.

It’s like Mel Gibson being sent out the morning after by his PR rep to say he takes back every anti-semitic snarl he spewed the night before. It means nothing! He’s still an ignorant, intolerant prick. He’s only sorry he got caught on tape. That’s all.

Of course, the height of cynicism in this whole affaire is that the pope’s defense is: “Ich habe es nicht gewusst”

My guess is he’s got the same problem as our politicians. If you start moving too much to the middle you start loosing some of your die-hard fans on the outside. And those can be some very vocal people, he might think it’s time to rain those in before they get too much independence.

Put yourself in the position of the Pope.

The ecumenical movement that began in the 1960s has made it politically unpopular to go out and crush oddball excursions into non-standard theology. On the other hand, trying to make the Church more populist alienated people whose God was an uptight, anal retentive and violent, albeit incorporeal being.

The RC Church isn’t alone. Proliferation of sects, heresies (my term for pentacostal lookalikes) and non-christian “church-like” organizations has proceeded apace.

We are left with the Western belief systems fragmented and somewhat radicalized. A mirror of the muslim decentralized system in certain respects. A mirror, in that bringing a cleric to heel is difficult when he has money and followers to stroke his ego.

At any rate, mainstream Christian theology has been far too willing to compromise. It must gather itself together and the appearance of compromise is a good way to do it. After the wayward former bishop is reeled in, he can be castrated.

Looks like it’s going to be “never”. This week-end, bishop Williamson the German news magazine Der Spiegel that “if he found proof” that gas chambers existed, he would change his tune, but that he thought “it would take time”. So much for obeying the pope who just accepted him back into the fold…

The interview is in Monday’s edition, but already online (in German):,1518,606173,00.html

Well, the Holocaust is indeed a hoax. Prove it happened. And I will guess that Orac is a Jew.

I would remind all of you good Christians, that you are supposed to be Christians and Jews are your natural antithesis. Smarten up idiots, they are congenital liars, the children of Satan himself as claimed by your Messiah.

Wow, it took you over nine months to come back with that evidence free comment! Did it take you that long to find the right letters on the keyboard?

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