Salon.com has an excellent essay today on the tone deafness of the Catholic Church with regard to the Holocaust and Antisemitism.
It comes in response to Pope Benedict rescinding the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, an outspoken Holocaust denier, Antisemite, and Freemasonry conspiracy theory crank.
The latest case in point is Richard Williamson, a priest in the ultraconservative movement known as the Society of Saint Pius X. The society is a traditionalist Catholic group that rejects the reforms of Vatican II and still uses the Tridentine Latin Mass. Williamson and three other members of the society were excommunicated in 1988 when movement founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, now deceased, consecrated them as bishops in spite of specific orders from Pope John Paul II not to do so. While not obeying the pope is a really big no-no and Lefebvre and his “bishops” have also gone so far as to call recent popes, including John Paul II, “heretical,” the current pope has apparently decided it’s time to make peace. Benedict has just rescinded the excommunication of Williamson and his three comrades. The announcement of the pope’s decision came not long after Swedish television aired an interview in which Williamson denied the existence of gas chambers and said no more than 300,000 Jews had died in Nazi custody.
But, hey, Hillary made up with Obama, so why can’t Benedict do it with these guys? It’s not like he’s trying to build a big church where everyone is welcome. Since becoming pope in 2005, Benedict has been quite clear that on any issue that concerns greater democracy or diversity in the church, or women and homosexuality generally, no détente is likely. He seems to want a small, obedient church, and the ultraconservative Lefebvrists, if brought back into the fold, are likely to be formidable allies in that effort. First, they are men; second, they are clerics; third, they were validly (if illicitly) consecrated bishops. They also have money and the support of some powerful lay Catholics, a bit like Opus Dei.
The ultra-right political views of the Lefebvrists were not unknown to church leaders who offered to lift the excommunication. Lefebvre had spoken despairingly of how the Allied liberation of France from the Nazis represented “the victory of Freemasonry against the Catholic order of [Vichy leader Marshal] Petain,” and his movement had given sanctuary to the fugitive French collaborator Paul Touvier, who was arrested in the society’s priory in Nice in 1989. Touvier was charged and convicted of ordering the assassination of seven Jews in Lyon in 1944 as well as other crimes against humanity. A priest of the order sat beside him during his trial as his spiritual advisor.
If you read the last paragraph of the above quote carefully then you realize that the SSPX “Lefebvrists” (of which Williamson is one) do not just have conspiratorial and obscene views about Jews, and the nature of the Holocaust, but were complicitous in harboring a Fascist war criminal, Paul Touvier, who committed crimes against humanity (ordering the murder of seven Jews), and giving Touvier comfort and support at his trial.
This is the “religious society” that the pope just let back into the Catholic Church.
Think about that.