Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Vatican Gets the Message and Tells Williamson to Recant

Apparently the Vatican has come to recognize what a terrible mess it has gotten itself into. Chancellor Merkel's unequivocal condemnation may have helped them see the light. Merkel dismissed the Pope's previous comments as not "sufficient."

For her there were no ifs or buts. There was just make it clear you think he is a liar.

Well now the Vatican has called on him -- in unequivocal terms -- to recant. The statement, issued today by the Vatican Secretariat of State, said that Williamson “must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shoah,” which it said were “unknown to the Holy Father at the time he revoked the excommunication.”

The more I learn about the SSPX, the less worried I am about Williamson's denial and the more worried I become about their blatant antisemitism.

[I do not think the Pope is the least bit antisemitic. I do think he was willing to tolerate these views in the name of Church unity.]

For the BBC coverage see here.


StGuyFawkes said...

Dr. Lipstadt,

You wrote,

[I do not think the Pope is the least bit antisemitic. I do think he was willing to tolerate these views in the name of Church unity.]


My only quibble is that I would put it "tolerate" for now. His real thought may be that in the coming process he will doctor this Jew hating fever out...of the SSPX.

As I was telling the Smith's below there is a bit of theology here which I (please!) don't expect you to believe in, but which I hope you will take in just as intellectual background.

The Church (and the Pope believes there is only one) sees in these folks (the SSPX) body parts which have been separated from the BODY of Christ. As separated they are in a state of slow spiritual death.

That's the etymology of schism from the Greek (SXIZO to cut off). The religious belief of Catholics is that by re-attaching the separated body part fresh blood will flow in it again and that may cure the morbidity, a sign of which is Jew hating.

Again, I don't expect you to buy this. I offer this just so you know what HE (B-XVI) thinks he is doing. THis is why he will risk all to bring them back in!

All of which points to the fact that he HAS TO GO THROUGH with the operation so to speak. But, to continue the metaphor, the body can reject the re-attached part or accept it. Also the longer the operation takes, the more likely it is that the re-attachement procedure will fail, forever.

I'm skipping over a lot of technicalities in the theology. (For instance I'm not touching on schism has not killed the whole world of Eastern Orthodoxy. There is a longer story there.)

But for now do keep in mind that this is part of what explains what must seem strange behavior on the part of the Pope.

Williamson was probably supposed to be part of the "mop up". But no matter it's probably best to attend to him now.

As a practicing Catholic I want to give you my heartfelt thanks for your expressions of good will, and for the patient energy with which you have come so very quickly to grasp some of the remote details of the Catholic faith with respect to Schism and Church unity.

BTW, my sources in Traditional Catholicism, one of whom is very knowledgeable about the views of Rome, tells me that either sooner or later, Bp. Fellay will sign in and accept all with respect to Vatican II's view on Judaism. The other Bishops will not. But Bp. Fellay is the elected boss of SSPX and he'll bring in the bodies, the souls and the real estate.

Stay tuned.

StGuyFawkes said...


Don't miss this juicy detail in the BBC report. The Vatican demand for a recantation said,

"Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to the Episcopal functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah [Holocaust]," it said.

The Pope is threatening to bust him down to .....well not a priest but a functionless Bishop without territory, Archdiocese or souls to tend. In other words, retired.

And that's where it will end. He'll come in as a retired priest who was once a sort of bishop of a sort of Catholic Church.

Notice it does give a little wiggle room to Williamson. He won't be re-excommunicated. (There is a really good reason for that I'll explain to anyone who cares.)

me said...

What worries me when the Vatican wants Williamson to recant is: Implicitly that makes the Shoah a matter of belief which it isn't because it is a matter of historical facts.

Everybody knows that even if Williamson would recant he wouldn't do it wholeheartedly. In other words: he would lie und just acquiesce under pressure. It is telling that the Vatican wants submission and not just simply says farewell and good riddance to this guy.

But then, imagine a Pope who says "I screwed up". The Vatican formally added the priciple of Papal infallibility just in 1870. How many Catholics will faithfully stick to this doctrine after this affair? Never mind, they'll keep the doctrine. Looks like the Emperor's New Clothes.

StGuyFawkes said...


The "Doctrine of Papal Infallibility" isn't about everyday issues no matter how important the issue might be. It's restricted to a VERY narrow set of moral and theological situations where the Pope has to hold his hand up, in effect, and say, the following statement is "Ex Cathedra".

I don't think it's been invoked more than once, or twice.

So, in the R.C. Church the Pope is allowed to screw up. Unless of course the press finds out, then the Doctrine of Infallibility, infallibly comes up as a punch line.

I agree that Williamson's recantation, if it happens, will be in bad faith.

You asked, as I'm sure many do, why the Vatican can't just say "farewell and good riddance to the guy."

I'm sure millions wonder.

Part of the problem is that a consecrated priest can't really be fired. That goes into some theological issues I won't bore you with.

Best Wishes.

me said...


Thanks for your clarification. I freely admit that my personal experience with Catholicism is basically limited to touristical visits of impressive cathedral buildings. As a part of the world outside of Catholicism, I obviously had a wrong impression of this infallibility principle.

Well, then, somebody has got to tell the Pope that he is allowed to screw up.

Nevertheless the current affair isn't just about a minor issue. If the Vatican wants someone to recant this will infallibly evoke comparisons with Galilei etc.

In my home country Germany Holocaust denial is a criminal offense. I'm not happy with that. It should neither be a criminal offense nor a matter of religious faith. Holocaust denial basically is an expression of anti-Semitism, a complex of resentments and attitudes which as well should neither be punished by criminal laws nor be a matter of religious confession.

But on the other hand Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism shouldn't be treated as just another flavor of acceptable opinion. They are not acceptable. While within the boundaries of a nation's jurisdiction a government does not have and should not have the means to exclude a citizen because he is an anti-Semite, nobody is forced to accept an anti-Semite within the ranks of an organization based on voluntary membership, be it a political party or a church.

But I wasn't talking about the priest to be fired. The FSSPX folks had already separated themselves from the Catholic Church. The Vatican apparently was so eager to get them back into their ranks that everything else didn't matter anymore. Unless of course these laws are applicable:

(Hanlon's razor)
"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

(Grey's law)
"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

If the latter applies to the current affair, it would be futile to discuss how the mess has been produced. The damage is done, and a huge amount of the Vatican's credibility is gone. Now the Vatican even starts spinning conspiracy theories: the Pope had been trapped into this affair by the Swedish TV journalist who again had been inspired by a French radical lesbian (German report). This is a real major problem in the future: the Vatican won't be taken seriously, whether infallible or not.

Unknown said...

Another important point in the Vatican's Secretary of State's note released on wednesday, is the statement that the four bishops have "no canonical function" and are not serving any "lawful (or legitimate) ministry" (my translation from French from the Figaro's article [1]). It means now quite clearly that although they are unexcommunicated, they are not reinstated.

[1] "pas de «fonctions canoniques» dans l'Église et «n'y exercent pas de ministère licite»".


Dr. Lipstadt:

Maybe, because of my personal circumstances, I can explain some things about Williamson. I´ll explain it, in the following order:

1.- I reject the revisionist point of view about the extermination of the jews, that you name "holocaust denial";

2.- I live in Argentina, I´m catholic and I personally know bishop Williamson and there people.

3.- My mother is jewish. I´m catholic, and usually attend to the FSSPX mass.

4.- About Williamson´s statement:
a) He´s been influenced by revisionists, not only Leuchter but Irving. In Argentina, Irving became a very "prestigious" and "victimized" historian.
b) If you, or someone else, try to explain him that he might be wrong, in a sincere and respectfull dialogue, he would change his point of view. If I could, I would give him a copy of your book or Evans books.
c) Williamson use to be not prudent when he speaks about things that are out of his pastoral competence as a bishop. He´s not a historian, but a reader and a cultivated man.
d) He has not any kind of ethnic or religious hate against the jews. I can asure it personally. He lives in a big house with coloured seminarians an a jewish descendant brother, for example. And Bishop Fellay, the Superior of Williamson, declared that the FSSPX does not support his opinions about the holocaust. (See:

I´m open to answer all your questions. Is not easy for me to explain, in english, about the "sucesfull reception" of revisionism in Argentina.

Sincerely yours,

Marcelo N.