Thursday, March 5, 2009

LA Cardinal Mahoney Bars Williamson... for the Wrong Reasons

Bishop Mahoney of the LA archdiocese has barred Williamson from from any Roman Catholic church, school or other facility in LA. Apparently this was Cardinal Mahoney's idea.

It is, of course, largely symbolic in that Williamson has not given any sign that LA was on his travel itinerary.

What I found jarring was the statement by the spokesman for the archdiocese. "The cardinal wishes to send a clear signal to the Jewish community that Williamson is not a member or even welcome in the Catholic Church until he renounces his views"

This should not be a message to the Jewish community but to all people who think truth is important -- irrespective of their faith,

It should be a message that people who lie about history, distort the truth, express antisemitic and racist views, and pervert facts in order to defend one of the most diabolical regimes in history are not welcome in the LA archdiocese.

Racists, for example, should be shunned not to send a message to minority communities but because racists spread hatred, instill contempt, and work against communal tranquility.

I don't mean to quibble over this strong statement on Cardinal Mahoney's part. But to do this and define it as a message to the "victims" is to miss the point.

6 comments:

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Dr. Lipstadt,

You wrote,

"It should be a message that people who lie about history, distort the truth, express antisemitic and racist views, and pervert facts in order to defend one of the most DIABOLICAL regimes in history are not welcome in the LA archdiocese." (my emphasis)

I couldn't agree more. However, in fairness, Cardinal Mahoney may be reacting to the consistent complaint among Jewish intellectuals that the Church flinches from the specific Jewishness of the Holocaust.

Right now the Roman Catholic mind is getting mixed signals from Jewish activists. Whenever a R.C. functionary from the Pope on down tries to generalize the meaning of the Holocaust he is often accused of "Christianizing" the event, or short changing Jewish suffering.

However if a Cardinal or Pope concentrates on the Jewishness of the event he is accused of not seeing the greater significance and trivializing it.

Fact is the event has two aspects which have to be seen together and in a balanced way.

The Holocaust was a massive attack on all the civilized roots of Europe. It was pagan and totemic in its fantasies of neo-Norse blood lust. It was a general disaster for the West.

It was also a persecution of Jews in its essence.

When the Vatican made Edith Stein (Sr. Benedicta of the Cross) a Saint Rome was accused of killing a Jew in her grave by Christianizing her.

The bitching could be heard world wide. And Edith Stein was supposed to be a bridge symbol that expressed the Jewishness of the Holocaust AND the general significance.

I'm quibbling with your quibble.

There is no issue here except that this problem of the general and specific meaning of the Holocaust needs further dialogue and development.

RichardHutton said...

"Racists, for example, should be shunned not to send a message to minority communities but because racists spread hatred, instill contempt, and work against communal tranquility".

I agree; but there is another reason: it's not only the victims of prejudice and persecution who should find it offensive. The vulgarity of all human rights abuses, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or any other ideology of contempt should be an affront to everybody's human dignity. And of course, if prejudice can be brought to bear upon one group, then why not another? If Jews, gypsies, communists, Catholics et al can all be terrorised and murdered for political and ideological imperatives, then why not anyone in any walk of life?

I don't agree that "[the Holocaust] was pagan and totemic in its fantasies of neo-Norse blood lust". It was far worse: it was devised very carefully and pragmatically (for want of a better word) by technocrats, not lunatics; and was one programme for murder amidst Hitler's vast intentions for a racial re-ordering of Europe.

There is a more subtle and troubling aspect of the way that the overall tragedy of the Third Reich has come to be seen as a specifically Jewish tragedy, however: it creates too narrow a view of Hitler's evil, and of the ideals, motives and ambitions of his present-day adherents. The likes of Williamson and Irving (et al) are very careful to imply that persecution of Jews was the only malign aspect of Hitler's rule: the corollary being that if Jewish victimisation can be minimised, then the fundamental immorality of Nazism follows suit. This, I think personally, is the most dangerous element of denial for the present age - that anti-Semitism is seen as an aberration of an otherwise acceptable philosophy.

There is a good section on the Shofar website useful to anyone interested in Holocaust deniers and their intentions:

http://www.nizkor.org/

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Mr. Hutton, (and Dr. Lipstadt)

When I mention Nazism's “totemic” aspect I don't mean to say that it grasps the entirety of the Nazi evil. There was the technological menace; there was the neo-Norse blood phanatasy, and most of all there was the specific hatred of Jews. And these three don't even begin to exhaust all that happened.

Otherwise I entirely agree with your post.

On the issue Dr. Lipstadt raises with the Archdiocesan spokesman, I am confused.

Cardinal Mahoney was speaking to the Jews first because Jews helped him write the document. The full quote from the Examiner reads like this:

"Holocaust deniers like Williamson will find no sympathetic ear or place of refuge in the Catholic Church, of which he is not - and may never become - a member," SAID A COMMENTARY SIGNED JOINTLY BY MAHONY.....AND TWO OFFICIALS FO THE AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE. (my emphasis)

"The cardinal wishes to send a clear signal to the Jewish community that Williamson is not a member or even welcome in the Catholic Church until he renounces his views," said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese."

The article goes on to say,

"The commentary was also signed by RABBIT GARY GREENBAUM, U.S> DIRECTOR OF INTERRELIGIOUS AFFAIRS OF THE AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE, AND SETH BRYSK, THE COMMITTEE'S LOS ANGELES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR."

I think that sufficiently explains the Archdiocese’s choice of words.

Dr. Lipstadt, given that the co-author of this statement were prominent Jewish spokesmen, I presume you have also directed a complaint to Rabbi Gary Greenbaum and the members of the American Jewish Committee?

Right?

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Dr. Lipstadt, given that the co-author of this statement were prominent Jewish spokesmen, I presume you have also directed a complaint to Rabbi Gary Greenbaum and the members of the American Jewish Committee?

Right?

Actually you are right. I was actually using the Cardinal's statement to make a far bigger point.

The danger of certain responses to genocide, the Holocaust included, or to things such as rape, is to see them primarily as problems of the victims.

In fact they are the problems of the groups that perpetrate them. The victims, of course, bear the wounds and feel the damage.

But the problem is that of the perpetrators. They are the ones who should be writhing in pain and conflict as to how such horrors could emerge from their "group."

But you are right about the Cardinal's statement.

The fault may actually lie with the well meaning folks who went to talk to him in the first place.

I am not suggesting that they should not have gone. I just wonder how they contextualized their comments.

RichardHutton said...

Hi S.G.F.

I share your opinion re. the Catholic spokesman: I realised I hadn't mentioned it shortly afterwards. But I agree - a lot of gentile commentators are caught between a rock and a hard place whenever they comment upon Jewish suffering under the Nazis' auspices; and sometimes a tiny minority of their critics have more sinsiter and perverse motives for criticising them (I've mentioned Melanie Phillips and Robert Spencer elsewhere on Deborah Lipstadt's blog, but I'm always happy to allude to their obnoxiousness).

I don't agree with the take on Nordicism though: there was an element of this in the Nazis racial lore, but the core of Hitler's belief was social Darwinism which during the era had adherents all over the world (America and Germany were the real hot-houses of this - and it was taken very seriously by a wide range of scientists and medics: see Richard Evans' books on the Third Reich).

However, one aspect of Hitler's war which seems to be slightly neglected is that it was an Imperial enterprise fought for 'living space' and colonial expansion. In some senses the third reich was unique (esp. the unprecendented death camps); but in another fundamental sense it was not: Western Europe's imperial powers have a long history of similar treatment of tribal peoples in their colonies and conquered territories (the Spanish in South America, the British in Tazmania, the Imperial Germans in Namibia, Belgium in the Congo, and the U.S. viz the plains Indians). In all of these instances, the regimes became genocidal when the tribal people fought back: they were initially deemed worthless, they were pushed to the limits of their own survival, and when they became hostile, slaughter becomes the logical corollary. There are important differences between these and the nature of the Third Reich's policies, but nevertheless important elements are essentially the same. (There isn't the space to outline them here, but Mark Cocker's book 'Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold' is invaluable I think. Ideology was a powerful element of all the above; but ruthless venality was equally significant.

p.s. 'RABBIT' GARY GREENBAUM?

StGuyFawkes said...

To Mr. Hutton, Dr. Lipstadt and readers,

Sorry. Typo. I meant to say Rabbi Gary Greenbaum.

On Mr. Hutton's substantive issues you raise I cannot but agree. However even the "lebensraum" motif was romanticized in Nazi propaganda as part of a primitive Aryan need to fullfill the needs of wandering warriors.

I like your point about the role of simple imperialism. The Germans were quite unhappy with the fact that France, Britain, The U.S. and even Belgium not to mention Spain had vast colonial empires, and Germany, well, had few or none.

Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism points to the ways in which the imperialist centuries prepared the mental life of Europeans for the idea of races who are only meant to serve European needs.

In a way the Nazis just decided to bring all the stuff already invented by the Boers in South Africa back to Europe and apply it to Jews, Poles and Slavs.

But again, it takes a lifetime of scholarship to map out all the streams of evil that poured together into National Socialism.