HOME January-February 2009 Featured Stories Background Information News On The Web



by Dr Denis MacEoin


This is not about the ubiquitous bishop and the callgirl, or his friend the bishop and the choirboys, nor is it about that other figure from the pages of the News of the World, the bishop and the vanishing millions. Like Anglican vicars, such bishops exist largely in the fervid imaginations of the tabloid press. It is only rarely that they raise more than an arched eyebrow.

This is different. This is not about peccadilloes or even grievous sins, but about a man of the church who denies the greatest evil of modern times, and, by denying it, increases mankind's likelihood of revisiting past crimes and one day exceeding them.

A British-born bishop, Richard Williamson, has just been pulled in from the cold by the Vatican, where the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, has reversed his 1988 excommunication by a decree of 21 January 2009. Williamson started clerical life as a member of the controversial Society of St. Pius X, and was ordained as a priest by the Society's founder, French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. In 1988, Lefebvre, acting without a papal mandate, consecrate

I AM NOT A THEOLOGIAN, NOT EVEN A CATHOLIC, AND I HAVE NO INTENTION to enter into the many ramifications of traditionalism versus liberalism, shifts in Vatican policy, or changes within the SSPX. Lefebvre and other arch-traditionalists do, indeed, trouble me. Many of their attitudes, especially those about women, painfully remind me of the fundamentalist Muslims I normally study and write about. But they are the Catholic Church's children, and I will do well to stay out of whatever controversies they stir.

What does concern me is Williamson's stated position on Jews and the Holocaust. He is as thorough and unrepentant an anti-Semite as I have come across. He sides with a very dark evil, and that troubles me as much, I believe, as it must trouble the Catholic Church. As an unbeliever who respects the Church as a bearer of moral values, it shocks me, not only that Williamson has been restored to communion with the Church with the sins of racism and the concealment of genocide on his hands, but that representatives of the Church have tried to put blue sea between the bishop's views and his reinstatement. A Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, has maintained that Williamson's opinions had no impact on the decision. Why not? Monsignor Robert Wister has argued that Williamson's beliefs about the Jews may be 'offensive and erroneous' but do not constitute a heresy and are not 'an excommunicable offense', making Williamson no more than a liar.

To be honest, I'm not convinced by any of that. Williamson is much more than a liar. He has called Jews 'enemies of Christ' and charged them with corrupting the Catholic Church, asserting elsewhere that they aim at world dominion and claiming that the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an authentic document that chronicles a global Jewish conspiracy.

Worst of all is his open denial of the Holocaust. 'The historical evidence,' he has said, 'is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. I believe there were no gas chambers'.

ONE OF THE GREATEST INFLUENCES ON ME IN MY MID-TEENS WAS A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, a Czech woman called Helen Lewis. I have never forgotten the impact of seeing the numbers tattooed on her arm. She had zest for live that I have seen in few other people. Years later, I read her poignant memoir, "A Time to Speak," and understood something of what she had suffered in the camps. Bishop or not, Richard Williamson is a wretched creature when compared to her. And though I am not a theologian, I venture to suggest that his wilful, knowing, and contemptible denial of history's greatest and best-documented crime is one of the six sins against the Holy Spirit: 'Resisting or impugning the known truth'.

In her subtle novel of an English spinster in Venice, Miss Garnet's Angel, British author Sally Vickers restates the sin in the words of an Italian Monsignor: 'The defiance which denies the good yet knows it is good as it does so.' The good and truth are often interchangeable. They are never opposed. Out of the utter wickedness of the Holocaust and its allied crimes came a certain good. Humanity had been brought face to face with incalculable evil. Film of the liberation of Auschwitz, Birenau and other camps, photographs of bodies heaped up in tangled hillocks, a teenager's understanding of numbers on a woman's arm. I was born shortly after the war, a year after Israel was created as a safe haven for those who had survived the Nazi terror. I grew up knowing what the face of evil was, taught by family and school that we must never see a repetition of those horrors. But that good depends on the truth. Once the truth of the Holocaust is denied and mocked, our fingers lose their grip on the fragments of good that come from our understanding of six million deaths, from our ability to imagine what it was like to be herded naked into a tiled chamber that would soon be filled with gas. To deny us that great good through his denial of that immense truth, Richard Williamson is an evil man, and I have no hesitation in saying so. And I do not understand how such a man can be a bishop.

IT IS FUTILE TO ARGUE THAT BISHOP WILLIAMSON SPEAKS OF THINGS PAST AND FORGOTTEN. In the past few weeks, during Muslim-led marches to protest the Israeli assault on Gaza, some chanted 'Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas' and others 'Jews back to the ovens'. Today I watched a short film that had been broadcast on al-Rahma TV on January 26, my birthday. It shows a lecture by an Egyptian Muslim cleric, Amin al-Ansari. The gist of his talk is this: the Jews are an evil, corrupt and despicable people who have ruined and still ruin human societies. The Germans stood up to them, but the Jews helped defeat the Third Reich and brought about such things as the bombing of Berlin. Our sheikh shows films of these 'Jewish atrocities', but follows them with films of dead and living Jews in the concentration camps, cheering this on and citing it as an example of God's punishment. He even declares that he hopes this will happen to the Jews again, but this time at the hands of the Muslim. He is in good company. The President of Iran crows that he will wipe Israel off the map, and, significantly, holds a Holocaust Denial Conference and a cartoon exhibition in which Jews and the Holocaust are cruelly mocked.

In the past few weeks, Jews and Jewish businesses have been savagely attacked in Paris, London, and elsewhere throughout Europe. An old evil is stirring once more. As the Catholic Church works to effect some form of reconciliation with the Jews, and tries to restore the reputation of Pius XII, it seems counter-productive to bring such a vulgar exponent of murderous hatred onto centre stage. Already, Jewish bodies like the Simon Wiesenthal Center have spoken out against Williamson's rehabilitation. Now, it is time for the Church to speak, and not with weasel words that decouple his ecclesiastical status from his indulgence in a sin for which there may be no forgiveness.

Dr. Denis MacEoin is a novelist, an Islamicist and editor-designate of the Middle East Quarterly.

This article appeared in the Scottish Friends of Israel website:


Return_________________________End of Story___________________________Return

HOME January-February 2009 Featured Stories Background Information News On The Web