FREE SPEECH WINS IN CHURCH CASE
Jewish groups mad at Pope’s decision; disapprove of too much free speech, forgiveness for Bishop Williamson
By Daniel W. Michaels
Judging by the anger in the Jewish community, Bishop Richard Williamson, the spirit of Catholicism past, had committed a very serious thought crime. The bishop just recently expressed his personal opinion on the holocaust:
“I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”
The German government and courts, the Vatican, and the media were all alerted to the bishop’s “transgression.” Now, the unexpected Vatican response has outraged Rabbi David Rosen in Jerusalem.
Background: Many of the institutions that were dedicated to the preservation of the traditional values of the Christian West came under malicious attack in the turbulent 1960s, none more so than the Catholic Church. Traditionalists, clergy and laymen alike, who found the “modernization” of the church as prescribed in the Second Vatican Council (1960-1965) destructive of the values they had cherished and believed in, rejected the proposed changes and gradually drifted away from the “Mother Church.” Many of these dissidents eventually joined together to form the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) dedicated to preserving the beliefs and traditions of the pre-1965 church.
Members of the SSPX considered themselves to be the only truly genuine Catholics because, in their opinion, heretical leaders were misleading those who remained in the modern, errant church. Headed by strong conservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the SSPX has today become the world’s largest traditionalist Catholic priestly society. SSPX believes that Vatican II was grievously mistaken in its liberal policies of discarding much of the beauty and mystery of the church—the worldwide familiar use of Latin, the ecclesiastical music, the liturgy, the vestments, the rituals, and the Tridentine Mass, all developed and cherished over the centuries.
Before his death in 1991, Lefebvre consecrated Auxiliary Bishop Richard Williamson, a British convert to the church, to carry on the archbishop’s work. Williamson has upset the liberal community by admitting that he personally agrees with revisionists in recognizing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, questioning the holocaust, and sympathizing with imprisoned holocaust revisionist Ernst Zundel.
Bishop Williamson denies that the Society of St. Pius X is a schismatic sect, insisting that he and the Society adhere closely to the New Testament and keep the orthodox faith. He also denies that he is anti-Semitic on the grounds that he openly attacks all “enemies of Christ,” including communists and Freemasons.
The bishop’s breakaway church considers the Holy See’s misguided policy of welcoming ecumenical dialogues with nonbelievers and even with “enemies of Christ” objectionable. The attempted reconciliation with the Jews has, in the opinion of the society, needlessly exposed the church to attacks against core beliefs of the faith and against decisions made by popes past and present.
Williamson argues that, under the broad tolerance engendered by ecumenism, Jews and Freemasons, “enemies of Christ,” have contributed to the changes and corruption in the church as well as to the scandals that have surfaced since the implementation of Vatican II. Bishop Williamson feared that the mainstream church had fallen under the “power of Satan,” Malachi Martin used the expression other traditionalists have said “the smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary” to explain the aberrant behavior of clergy who have committed acts of pedophilia.
Although the present pope, Benedict XVI, has generally been described as a strict defender of Catholic orthodoxy, the society remembers him as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, one of the architects of the Second Vatican Council. As pope, he has offended the traditionalists by encouraging the construction of more mosques in Christian Europe, by his visit to the synagogue in Cologne and by his failure to enforce the church’s prohibitions against abortions and same-sex marriages more forcefully.
Worst of all, the society believes that Benedict’s tolerance has made him appear almost as a spokesman for the holocaust religion. Auxiliary Bishop Williamson drew fresh attention to himself and the Society by statements he made at a religious service held on All Saints Day in a seminary near Regensburg, Germany. A Swedish newsman at the event filmed the interview. When the conversation turned to the Jewish question, the filmed interview records Bishop Williamson saying as follows.
TV: Bishop are these your words? “There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies.” Are these your words?
BW: You are quoting from Canada, I believe, yes. I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.
TV: So there were no gas chambers?
BW: I believe there were no gas chambers, yes. I think as far as I have studied the evidence, I am not going by emotion, as far as I have understood this evidence, I think, for instance, people who are against what is widely believed today about, quote unquote, the holocaust. I think those people, the revisionists as they are called; the most serious conclude that between 200,000 and 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in gas chambers.
You may have heard of the “Leuchter Report.” Fred Leuchter was an expert in gas chambers. He designed three gas chambers for three states for the execution of criminals. So he knew what was involved. And he studied what the supposed gas chambers in Germany, at some point in the 1980s, what remains of the supposed gas chambers, the crematoria in Birkenau, Auschwitz, for instance. And his conclusion, his expert conclusion was, it is impossible that this could have ever served for the gassing of large numbers of people. Because cyanide gas is very dangerous, if you, let’s suppose you gas 300 people that you crowded into a chamber and you gas them. It is very dangerous to go in and pull out
the corpses because one whiff of gas that is trapped in the clothes will kill the person. It is extremely dangerous.
Once you have gassed people, you’ve got to evacuate the gas. To evacuate the gas you need a high chimney, if it’s too low the gas sinks to the pavement and kills anybody walking by. . . . If there were a high chimney then the shadow most of the day would have fallen on the ground and the allied aerial photographers that flew over the camp would have picked up the shadows of the chimneys. There were never any such shadows; there were no such chimneys. In which case the Fred Leuchter testimony, “there can’t have been any gas chambers.”
He looks at the doors of the gas chambers. The doors have to be absolutely airtight. Otherwise again the gas escapes and kills the people outside. The doors of the gas chambers they show to tourists at Auschwitz are absolutely not airtight. They are absolutely not.
TV: What you are saying now is, the holocaust never occurred—not in the way historians see it today?
BW: I am going by the historical evidence according to people who have observed and examined the evidence. I believe what they conclude. If they change their conclusion, I’ll be likely to follow their conclusion because I think they judge by the evidence. I think that two to three hundred thousand Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none in gas chambers.
TV: If this is not anti-Semitism, what is it then?
BW: If anti-Semitism is bad, it is against the truth. If something is true, it is not bad. I am not interested in the word anti-Semitism. The word is very dangerous.
TV: [Another] bishop calls you an anti-Semite.
BW: The bishop can call me what he likes. He can call me a dinosaur; he can call me an idiot. It is not a question of name-calling. It is a question of historical truth. Historical truth goes by evidence and not by emotion. There has certainly been a huge exploitation. Germany has paid out billions and billions of Deutschmarks and now euros, because the Germans have a guilt complex about their having gassed 6 million Jews. But I don’t think 6 million Jews were gassed. But be careful, this is against the law in Germany. You could have me thrown into prison before I leave Germany. I hope this is not your intention. (End of interview.)
The bishop is obviously interested in the truth, not in word mongering or name-calling. Despite warnings and the imposition of excommunication from the Holy See, the alternate church founded by Lefebvre endured and even flourished to the extent that Pope Benedict has had to make very public concessions.
As early as 2005 then-Cardinal Ratzinger received the general of the Pius Brotherhood, Bernard Fellay, and the German head, Father Franz Schmidberger, at his summer residence, Castelgandolfo. Pope Benedict has since permitted greater use of Latin in the mass and has reinstated the old Good Friday prayer. Last May the pope let it be known that the Vatican embraces the unity of the priestly brotherhood. A healthy exchange of views between the society and the church in Rome has continued until a decision was reached last week.
To the shock of some and the satisfaction of others, Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunications of all four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. Rabbi David Rosen, the Jerusalem-based head of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee and a key Vatican-Jewish negotiator, was outraged and cautioned that he could not see how business could proceed as usual. Further, Rosen called for the pope to issue a clear condemnation of all holocaust “denials” and “deniers.”
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, responded by saying that Bishop Williamson’s views were not acts of schism or other excommunicable offense under church law. “They are his personal ideas that we certainly don’t share, but they have nothing to do with the issue of excommunication and the removal of the excommunication,” Father Lombardi explained.
The German government and courts, which have always diligently pursued and prosecuted any perceived offense against victims of the holocaust, will no doubt again be called upon to investigate this affair.
Daniel W. Michaels was for over 40 years a translator of Russian and German texts for the Department of Defense, the last 20 years of which he was with the Naval Maritime Intelligence Center. He is a member of THE BARNES REVIEW’s contributing editorial board.
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(Issue # 6, February 9, 2009)