Thursday, February 5, 2009

Double Disaster at the Vatican: Indepth Analysis

There are two in depth analyses of the Vatican situation, one in the New York Times, which discusses how the reinstatement of the SSPX by the Vatican exposes deep divisions within the Vatican.

In addition Sandro Magister, a correspondent for the weekly magazine L’Espresso and one of Italy’s most highly respected Vatican experts, offered extensive background on this "tempest" which he describes a double disaster of “governance and communication” within the church.

I follow with excerpts from both articles.

The New York Times observed that while Pope Benedict has faced challenges before
the internal controversy created by Bishop Williamson’s rehabilitation is unlike anything the Vatican has faced in recent decades.
It also observed that Wednesday’s unsigned statement calling on Williamson to reject his Holocaust denial
publicly seemed to be a clear indication that the Vatican was facing nothing less than an internal and external political crisis.
The Wednesday statement also clearly addressed questions about what conditions the society would have to meet before being allowed back into the fold.
Most importantly it would have to offer its “full recognition of the Second Vatican Council” to receive “recognition” by the church.
The most interesting part of the article comes at the end where it attempts to explain how this maelstrom came to be.
Conversations with a variety of people inside and outside the Vatican portray an intellectual pope increasingly isolated from the Vatican administration. Many point to a lack of communication between the handful of cardinals responsible for revoking the excommunications and other members of the curia who might have opposed the move.

It is also quite striking that there was no consultation with Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German who directs the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and who is the liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations. Kasper has publicly said:

There were certainly management errors on the part of the curia.

* * * *
Sandro Magister writing on his blog described this as a "disaster" and said that in this situation

Pope Benedict XVI found himself to be the one most exposed, and practically alone
Magister explains at great length how, for the Pope, this is all about healing of schisms.

However, because of Vatican ineptitude that issue was lost in headlines world over that said: the pope clears a Holocaust denier bishop from excommunication, and welcomes him into the Church.

In response the Vatican went "scrambling for cover," with media statements.

Magister goes on to ask was this tempest "inevitable," or was it the result of "errors and omissions of the men who are supposed to implement the pope's decisions."

Magister comes down on the side of the second hypothesis.

Those Cardinals who were responsible said they did not know about Williamson's denial. Magister points out that a click on Google would have shown them that in 1989, in Canada, he openly praised Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel and that he was a 9/11 denier.

There were other failures in the Vatican as well. The press office did not handle matters well.
He delineates many other serious lapses.

Magister traces this back to the offices of the curia which "converge in the secretariat of state." He goes into a fascinating analysis of the Secretary of State.

There's a great mystery novel embedded in all this...

And a terrible leadership disaster for the Vatican.

My guess -- and that is all it is -- is that Pope Benedict will emerge from this weakened and unable to regroup.


Unknown said...

« There were other failures in the Vatican as well. The press office did not handle matters well. »

Converserly, the press office of the Roman catholic diocese of Stockholm performed quite well, distancing itself from the society of Pius X, and from racism and antisemitism as early as January 15th, probably as soon as the television programs announced what was to be aired on television on January 21st :

StGuyFawkes said...

Dr. Lipstadt,

This post gets it "dead solid perfect".

So perfect it allows me to stop ranting.

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Take a look at the comment I just added to the previous post.

Thanks for the compliment. I post 'em as I see 'em [that's American slang]


We need to remember that Pope John Paul 2, the Polish Pope, visited Auschhwitz and Yad Vashem, and on both occasions spoke movingly at both venues. His successor Pope Benedict XV1 visited Auschwitz in 2006, and his speech hid nothing about the horrors committed there. This same Pope is expected to visit Israel this year, and may visit Yad Vashem. I'm certain he will maintain and restore the dignity of his office.


If you don´t know, Bishop Fellay imposed a sanction on Williamson.

Communiqué de Presse de S.E. Mgr Fellay, Supérieur Général de la Fraternité Saint-Pie X

Nous avons eu connaissance d’une interview accordée par Monseigneur Richard Williamson, membre de notre Fraternité Saint-Pie X, à la télévision suédoise. Dans cette interview, celui-ci s’exprime sur des questions historiques, en particulier sur la question du génocide juif par les national-socialistes.

Il est évident qu’un évêque catholique ne peut parler avec une autorité ecclésiastique que sur des questions concernant la foi et la morale. Notre Fraternité ne revendique aucune autorité sur les autres questions. Sa mission est la propagation et la restauration de la doctrine catholique authentique, exposée dans les dogmes de la foi. C’est pour ce motif que nous sommes connus, acceptés et estimés dans le monde entier.

C’est avec une grande peine que nous constatons combien la transgression de ce mandat peut porter tort à notre mission. Les affirmations de Mgr Williamson ne reflètent en aucun cas la position de notre société. C’est pourquoi je lui ai interdit, jusqu’à nouvel ordre, toute prise de position publique sur des questions politiques ou historiques.

Nous demandons pardon au Souverain Pontife, et à tous les hommes de bonne volonté, pour les conséquences dramatiques d’un tel acte. Bien que nous reconnaissions l’inopportunité de ces propos, nous ne pouvons que constater avec tristesse que les accusations continuelles à l’encontre de notre Fraternité ont aussi manifestement pour but de la discréditer.

Cela nous ne pouvons l’admettre et nous déclarons que nous continuerons de prêcher la doctrine catholique et de dispenser les sacrements de la grâce de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ.

Menzingen, le 27 janvier 2009

+ Bernard Fellay Supérieur Général

StGuyFawkes said...

Dr. Lipstadt,

Here is a post from a Catholic blog which describes a reconciliation meeting between the SSPX and Cardinal Castillion Hoyos. It took place three years ago.

Notice that the source of the quarrel, then as now, was the Second Vatican Council, and in particular the document on Religious Liberty.

Notice also that the SSPX takes the line that Bp. Tissier de Mallerais took last week when he said "nothing has changed".

The SSPX attitude three years ago, and for the seventeen years before it was that Rome must come to them and adopt their views, not the reverse. Please read this.

Obviously, in three years much has changed. Could this be the same Bp. Fellay we heard speak recently of full acceptance of the Council?

Or is it the same old SSPX?

I imagine that there are probably about 20 operatives in the Vatican who want nothing more than to see this re-union killed just because the SSPX has been so priggish that now everyone in the Curia just hates them. That may be part of this week's disaster.

The other part is that only Pope Benedict and about five guys know whether Fellay is sincere. Is he?

That's what Pope Benedict is going to have to show all the various Congregations before they get in step and let this thing happen.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dr. Lipstadt and Readers,

The full text in English of Wednesday's Vatican statement on the SSPX, the Shoah, and Bishop Williamson is on Rocco Palmo's excellant website "WHISPERS IN THE LOGGIA"

It is worth reading.

Most delicious are paragraphs three and four which contain the words one Jewish leader described as "the words the world has been waiting for". I quote,

"For a future recognition of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, the full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition." END

The text goes on to address the Shoah. It says,

"The viewpoints of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself noted last Jan. 28, when, referring to that savage genocide, he reaffirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide should induce "humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart," adding that the Shoah remains "for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all." END

All this amounts to one stinging taunt. Note particularly the phrase "our brother recipients of the 1st Covenant" to mean Jews.

That formulation -- so rich in Vatican II associations -- was meant to say one thing only:

"Time for the SSPX to "fish or cut bait". It's saying, "Straighten out your moribund problems with Judaism guys or get the next spaceship out of Planet Rome."

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Dr. Lipstadt,

The SSPX theology paper entitled "The Mystery of the Jews" has quietly been erased from cyberspace within the last 24-48 hours.

That's the document which contained all the ugly quotes.

Although one may classify this as an obvious attempt at window dressing, it is still interesting.

The order to pull the document would have to have come out of the SSPX, perhaps Bp. Fellay.

Because the SSPX and the Vatican are still at the "first date" stage of their relationship I don't think the Vatican could have muscled this, or maybe they could.

Is this a sign of a real desire to meet Vatican II halfway? Or window dressing?

James Martin, S.J. cites this in AMERICA, the Jesuit magazine.


I´m a profesor in Argentina. I´ll try to explain –not justify, in any way- why “revisionist” are so popular in here.

In my experience: a student buys and reads 3 Irving´s books and easily became a “revisionist”. Why? Because:

- Irving´s books are a smart lie. People don´t know about him. They think he´s “serious”.

- The books that Lipstadt and Evans wrote, are not available in spanish. And because of the devaluation of our currency, are very expnesive to import. So, “revisionists” have a big advantage with local editions and cheap ebooks.

- In Argentina, and in Latin America, there is a strong anti-american feeling. And people tend to see a strong link between US and Israel. So if they are ant-american, they are also anti-Israel.

- “Revisionist” give a perfect excuse to enforce the ani-american feeling.

Basically, “revisionism” is a (stupid) form of anti-americanism in Argentina.


Deborah Lipstadt said...

Did I not say this material would disappear??? I hate to say I told you so... so I won't!

StGuyFawkes said...

Dr. Lipstadt,

I very well remember your prophesy. (LOL)

Although your prediction was that Bp. Williamson's letters on "women in college" and "The Sound of Music" would disappear.

THat stuff is still out there.

The document I cite is an internal theological document.

But you are right. You have a right to an "I told you so" on this one because it's much the same.

My point then was that this kind of thing would come from Fellay not the Pope. But who knows. These two organizations may have gotten to the "second date" where certain unspoken expectations are being addressed.

The website that MACNEALON gave us is really interesting too.


If you look carefully you can see some subtle shifts in theological approach. The criticism of Pope Benedict and Vatican II is much gentler.

I dunno Dr. but I think there's signs of movement on the other side.

What we have to watch for is this: Somewhere in the deal the SSPX will have to submit to regular inspections of their seminaries. That's standard stuff for a new religious or current religious order.

This is where "the rubber meets the road" as far as addressing anti-Semitism goes.

What Cathlics and Jews must insist on is that SSPX seminarians be vetted for signs of anti-Semitism, much the way current seminarians are being watched closely for suspicious interests in underage teens. Its a counselling issue.

(Sadly, in both the case of the so called pedophile scandal and this scandal, a crisis will have had to occur before Bishops started looking closely at seminarians.)

Now the fact is that it's harder to discover a pedophile seminarian because how do you discover what's inside a person?

And the same applies to anti-Semitism to a point. BUt you will know that the Catholic CHurch is serious about rehabilitating the SSPX in the good sense of "rehabilitation" when you discover that very careful examinations of theology textbooks and lectures are being made in the five year visits that come from ROme.

Also, my Church has ways of knowing what her young seminarians think. Jokes, graffitti, comments on term papers all give subtle indications of what kids think.

You're a professor. You know when a kid is having trouble with an issue.

But that's the real issue. The "formation" (as the French call it) of the young SSPX seminarians is the whole bag.

Best Wishes.



Dr. Lipstadt is fighting against "holocaust deniers". There is another big fight in History: Goulag deniers.

Best Wishes.


I told you that because of my expierience “revisionism” is a personal point of view of Williamson, and some others, motivated in stupidity and ignorance. I also said that he does not hate jews or coloured people like the KKK.

Look at Williamson in Argentina (20-XII-2008). See the black seminarian helping Williamson, and the brazilian (monk) and new priest. No racism there.

There is also jewish descendant brother. He´s treated like an equal.


The Smiths said...

I have a copy of the "Mystery of the Jews" web page. I will share with whomever for reference, articles etc. The SSPX web site still has some whoppers. For example, this one on the page Defense of the Inquisition:

"A large number of Jews had converted to Catholicism but continued to practice Judaism in secret.

Recall that the Talmud allows Jews to pretend conversion in order to avoid persecution. These pseudo-Christian Jews were called "Marranos."

Contrary to that which one has been led to believe, the Marranos had not converted under menace, although Spain had experienced a wave of pogroms in 1391. The Marranos were seeking rather to infiltrate Christian society in order to control it." End

Seems like their Antisemitism is very deeply rooted.

I have a copy of this web page too, just in case they remove it. :)

hockey hound said...

"Those Cardinals who were responsible said they did not know about Williamson's denial. Magister points out that a click on Google would have shown them that in 1989, in Canada, he openly praised Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel..."

Forgive my simplicity, but how is it possible that this guy, over twenty years later, is still a Catholic Bishop? This guy is no better than Ernst Zundel? And he is teaching Catholic laity? This is shameful, no matter how you look at, no matter the mountain of apologia or "protests" Williamsons's fellow Catholics throw at the media. And please, don't tell me, in light of all the other media attention this "traditionalist" group has been given over the years/decades, that the Vatican and Ratzinger didn't have any knowledge of these religious (and I say "religious" because of the discomfiting reality that Williamson is still a Catholic Bishop)! There's no way they couldn't have known! They can find Mother Theresa in the slums of India and proclaim her good deeds around the world, but they can't pin down such a virulent anti-Jewish hatemonger like Williamson and publicly excommunicate him? Please. Anti-Jewish hatemongers like Zundel and Williamson never relent from their madness, so why the bs about "healing a schism"? Wake up, Vatican! Do the right thing and kick this impenitent anti-Semite out of your Church!


January 6 2009. The Daily Mail, London, carry a two-page story in today's edition on Bishop R Williamson. They headlined it 'The High Priest of Ignorance', mention he lived in Beaconsfield, a small town 40 miles nw of London, father a Scots Protestant, mother an American citizen born in Paris, faith a Christian Scientist. The main thrust of the article was an interview with the Wiliamson's parents hired housekeeper who claims Mrs Williamson [[senr] hated Jews because her husband worked for Marks & Spencers chain stores as a buyer, and 'was never promoted to the Board of Directors because he was a *gentile'. To make it worse their son Harry also worked for Marks & Spencers and came home one day slamming the door in a temper because he had not been promoted. His mother soon guessed the reason why and said openly 'it was because he was not a Jew'. The rest of the article is rather amusing insofar as Williamson is said to have made silly claims such as: "Not one Jew was killed by the gas chambers, it was all lies, lies, lies," it's said he described the motion picture film The Sound of Music as pornographic soul rotting slush', and farcially claimed '9-11 was an inside USA Government job, Williamson is said to claim Pope John Paul 2, had a *weak grasp of the Catholic faith, and that he firmly believes in the Elders of Zion [forgeries]

Footnote: Marks & Spencers founders were Michael Marks, a Russian Jew who started an everything-a-penny stall on Leeds Market selling buttons, his partner was a non-jew named Tom Spencer. Isn't it strange that Wiliamson's mother should overlook this glaring fact!!!. *Mrs Spencer put up the funds to build the school my eldest daughter attended. Marks & Spencers are noted worlwide for charitable deeds and aid to worthy causes, far to numerous too list.

Unknown said...

Hockey hound, until a few days ago Richard Williamson was excommunicated, and the teaching he was doing was by no means approved by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. And the laity or clergy he was gathering around him was all schismatic and excommunicated as a consequence of $ 5 c) of Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei Adflicta" enacted by pope John Paul II in 1988 :

5 c) : "Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church's law".

It means that these clergy and laity were no longer to be considered Roman Catholics. They were an entirely new religion, having nothing to do with Roman Catholicism, like Lutheranism, or Anglicanism ... until January 21st 2009, when everything becomes unclear.

I think it is quite legitimate to criticize what happened on January 21st 2009 and henceforth. But the situation was quite under control before that, and the position of John Paul II was quite clear : these people are not Roman Catholics.



As a lawyer, who studied the canon laws at the University, I should say that o n l y if you make a formal adherence to the schism are excomunicated. Your conclusions about the laity of the SSPX are exagerated.

The Williamson affair, I think, it will end with his silence. Another chance, is that Williamson would get out the SSPX and make himself a sedevacantist.

I must be clear:

- "Revisionism" or "holocaust denial" might be a sin in the Church, but it is not a crime punished with excomunication;

- Williamson´s revisionism -I live in Argentina and know him in person- is more a personal opinion, tolerated by the SSPX in the past. But the official position of the SSPX (expresed by Fellay) is not that opinion.

- Williamson has been internally sanctioned by the SSPX: imposed silence. After that, I hope, that if reads more about the historical fraud of "revisionism", he will change. I hope he reads Dr. Lipstadt and Dr. Evans´books as soon as possible.

Yours in Christ,



Williamson knows full well that the Holocaust occurred, and he's well familiar with the various camps and their history's. Many of the newspapers and magazines he's purchased over the years have contained news and photographs concerning it, and of course he's seen on TV various Popes, Presidents and Prime Ministers visiting Aushwitz and Yad Vashem expressing their views. He now lives in Argentina so must have read about the Eichman arrest, the Eichman trial and the 1962 execution. This man is almost certainly a lifelong anti-semite who's approaching the end of his life and decided to 'come out of the closet'. He won't be the first or the last to wear a crucifix and an Iron Cross at the same time, with the latter giving him the most pleasure.

hockey hound said...

"He won't be the first or the last to wear a crucifix and an Iron Cross at the same time, with the latter giving him the most pleasure."

So true, Fairplay.

"This man is almost certainly a lifelong anti-semite..."

Aren't they all? I've never known any of these reptiles to relent of their hatred of the Jew. These people are SO very strange.


Thanks Hockey,

I'm glad to see Professor Lipstadt as just 'thrown down the gauntlet', by emailing Williamson an www internet debate challenge. If he fails to accept the challenge by not replying to her emails then he loses the debate by default and, on the international stage loses considerable 'face'.

hockey hound said...

"If he fails to accept the challenge by not replying to her emails then he loses the debate by default..."

Exactly, Fairplay. Subservient to a coward's prudence, Williamson will surely not take on Prof. Lipstadt in a public debate. For Williamson, as they say up here, that would be like throwing snowballs at a tiger.

Typical of all Holocaust deniers, Williamson is a gutless wonder.