Watching and attempting to understand all the Vatican's decisions over all these years, is like reading a Gothic novel with every third page torn out.
Little or no sunshine until a matter is a fait accompli, or as in too many cases, a fait accompli of harms done.
Richard Williamson, was one of four bishops excommunicated in 1988 by Pope John Paul II -- with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger nearby. French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had consecrated the four in "unlawful" ceremonies that, according to the Vatican, constituted a "schismatic act."
But, Bishop Williamson et al, were late last month re-embraced and un-excommunicated back into Mother Church by Pope Benedict XVI... who used to also be Cardinal Ratzinger.
I know this continual change of identities, as well as who's "in" and who's "out," is confusing for many non-Catholics to follow.
Williamson is rumored by some to be "the loose canon" of the newly re-embraced prodigals... that's a Catholic joke, "loose canon," instead of "loose cannon," meaning over the decades, Williamson has created a long trail of seeming impulsive "pouncing-and-declaiming" whilst not exactly seeming to be seeking the Light of the World, but rather the limelight of the world.
These past many days he has purposely, or helplessly, invited scorn to fire on the Vatican and Catholics everywhere, insulted the Jewish communities worldwide, and attracted opprobrium to himself once again... in part, by repeating one of his many "conspiracy theories" about world events as though they are, by God, Gospel Truth.
But, they're not. And I mean no disrespect to note, they're only the personal opinions of an old man who despite his haute "bishop's" garb, actually looks and acts no differently than the old guy on the barstool giving out his opinions over his dry ale at the local pub.
A mind taken with conspiracy theories
Bishop Williamson's efforts to appear he's making epic revelations about various matters of history are not new, apparently. Perusing his writings and talks, one sees he feels certain he has "evidence" that 9-11 collapses of buildings were not caused by airplanes. He holds it was conspiracy by the US government.
He feels he has "evidence" that women are "unwomanized" by going to university. I'd have to agree with him. It is true. By going to university, women are often "unwomanized" from the matchboxes they've been stuffed into, and become superlative woman-sized in good and useful ways, instead.
But, the chronic conspiracy rants by Bishop Williamson, took a more bizarre turn when he repeated his old favored trope that Jews being gassed in the Holocaust was not true. And he has "evidence," he said, his voice shaking with excitement. And he managed to say it all in public on Swedish television.
Watching the Swedish television clip of Williamson holding forth, I took steno, (no doubt Bishop W. would eagerly approve my vocational-school skill.).
The interviewer asks, "Did you not say, 'There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers: it was all lies, lies, lies...'"?
Williamson proudly asserts, yes he did say that. Then he adds:
"I believe that the historical evidence, the historical evidence is strongly against, is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolph Hitler... I believe there were no gas chambers... I think 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber... If anti-Semitism is bad, it's against truth. But, if something is true, it's not bad..."
Without much comment about Williamson's roundhouse thinking, his peculiar staring-off while on camera, his over-affected intonation as he warms to his oration, and even less about the pomp he seems to want to infuse into his repetitive use of a certain word -- the word being, "evidence" ...
aside from all that, Bishop Williamson avers his source for his absolute knowledge that no Jews were ever gassed in the Holocaust, is Mr. Fred Leuchter, a self-styled "expert" in matters of gas... and about who did and who didn't die in death camps, and how.
Bishop asserts that "Fred said" no cyanide could have been used to gas Jews "because it's dangerous," and might have killed the people who pulled the dead out.
Williamson doesn't seem to know or perhaps remember that Nazis used many Jews to pull the dead out of the chambers. Nazis wouldn't care if the Jews they forced to carry out their diseased plans, died.
In the TV interview, Williamson also imagines those about to be murdered were herded into the gas chambers fully clothed... that a puff of gas left in their clothing would apparently obliterate any industrious Nazi pulling out the bodies after. Again, perhaps Bishop W. forgot the "waste-not-want-not" obsessive notions of Nazi commanders who were bent on "harvesting" everything from the living slaves, including their clothing before killing them, save their gold teeth. The gold was extracted from corpses who could no longer scream, fight, and "upset" Nazi guards and minions.
Fred Leuchter whom Williamson swears by, calls himself an "execution technician," and gave his opinion in defense of Holocaust denier, Ernst Zündel.
In a transcript, Williamson's main man, Leuchter, apparently claims as his bona fides... to have improved the electric chair "to make it more humane," (gulp)...
to have designed a lethal injection machine... to have acted as a consultant about gallows and gas chambers... and, to be an qualified engineer ...
except, under oath, and when questioned by Judge Thomas in the case of Her Majesty the Queen vs. Ernst Zündel, District Court of Ontario 1988, Mr. Leuchter admitted he had no engineering degree at all.
Instead, Leuchter's degree is a bachelor of arts. Leuchter was disqualified for though he claimed credentials, he had none that applied. Apparently, men going to university can ruin them, causing a deadly un-truthfulness in some.
At The Real Auschwitz:
Bishop Williamson claims he's not visited a death camp in all his life... he's nearing his 70th year on earth now. Even though he's lived at times a mere little train ride from a death camp, he has not suffered to go.
But millions of other souls from across the world have suffered to go to the massacre sites. And I do mean "suffered to go." It takes brave-but-not-unafraid spirit to stand consciously in the midst of it all, to bear what comes rising up out of the ground, out of the walls, to participate in the World Soul's grief and sorrow at one more huge failure of humankind to be either kind or human.
I am one of those millions who "suffered to go." As adopted child of an immigrant and refugee family who had been slashed down during the war, as a little girl who saw the shreds of humanity pass though her own little house, all our refugee and escapee relatives half dead and starved of spirit and body... I vowed vehemently that had I ever the opportunity to somehow travel to Europe, I would never go unless I entered through the portal of a death camp.
You never know how life is going to turn out sometimes. The opportunity to teach in Europe came many decades later in 1997. Had it not offered a direct route to fulfill my promise, I never would have accepted it. But, I took it. And, the child's promise was met. The portal I came through, the first land my foot ever touched in Europe, was Polish soil: Auschwitz/Birkenau.
And here, four pages of four hundred pages I wrote by hand about what I entered and understood at Auschwitz... I could have written eight-hundred and not even that many would have given just coverage to all that died there and all that still lives there...
...The Sixth Room: Place of the Poisoning Chambers
The half-underground concrete bunkers used as gas chambers have pitted walls covered in bilious green and gray.
As a post-trauma specialist, sometimes I have knowledge I wish I didn't have. Now, I remember my physiology class in college: how small a baby's lungs are, like two small daisies in full flower... and how short a time it takes for a baby to die from poison gas… while the child's mother is yet only half dead... thus the mother forced to witness her own child's murder. It is nearly unspeakable.
It is hideous to remember how people lose their sight, then their bowels when they are gassed. It is unbearable to think of the dance macabre a person does when gas hits the nervous system; the body jerks, jumps, goes haywire.
Yet, even then, dying in piss, shit, and blood, lurching and writhing like Frankenstein's creations, these good people clawed walls, fell to cement floors breaking their hips, ribs, arms, legs, fracturing skulls-- and those stronger but only for moments-- buried their noses under their arms, trying with one last breath to pray to live through this burning Gehenna....
whilst under them lay the bodies of their children they tried to protect, draping flesh over their own flesh and blood in a futile attempt to save them.
They died, they all died in such roil and gyre here. The bodies were often left until after rigor mortis set in, and those who dragged the dead had to break more bones to pry some of the dead apart...
for the lovers, the parents and children, the mothers and daughters, the grandfathers and grandsons had held onto each other so....
...The Fourth Room: Place of the Shorn Women
A row of numbers were painfully tattooed inside prisoners" forearms because Nazi's held these souls were mere cattle to be branded. Nazis also discovered living humans could have parts sundered from them while they were still alive.
Nazis found a use for human hair. This huge room before us is filled to the ceiling with women's braids forcibly hacked off before they were murdered by being worked to death or, if ill or uncooperative or too holy, or just by being... sent to have their precious curvaceous, loving, ripe and rich bodies gassed and then burnt to ashes in the black, barely more than pig iron, ovens.
See how some braids are just little pigtails, so thin? Those are braids of little girls. See the rich red, brown, black braids? Those were slashed from heads of teenagers and grown women. See the salt and pepper, the silver, and the pure white braids which are often the longest braids? Those belonged to the very old women.
So many women murdered here had never cut their hair during their entire lives. To what use was the precious hair of women put?
The women's hair was used to stuff mattresses, pillows, for unsuspecting consumers and for soldiers to sleep upon, without realizing they were attempting to slumber over the soft, shining hair of women who had been slaughtered.
One wonders deeply, what nightmares must come to such a sleeper whose cheek nightly lay but a few thin threads away from the hair of murdered women?
And in our time?
What dreams must come to those who slumber today as though nothing untoward exists outside their preferred world, who lay their heads nightly atop the rough realities of unprovoked cruelty and murders in this world... and who still sleep so deeply and in such unearned luxury... awakening in daylight... without ever truly awakening?
--Bishop Williamson's Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, issued a statement making an apology to the Holy Father and "to all people of good will" for this "exorbitance" of Williamson's that has caused trouble. Bishop Fellay has also "forbidden" Bishop Williamson "to issue any public opinion on any political or historical matter until further notice." An actual copy of the full text of Bishop Fellay's letter can be found at the often satiric St. John's Valdosta Blog:
--Apology Letter of Bishop Richard Williamson to His Eminence Cardinal Hoyos, can be found at a blog supportive of Williamson:
--From Reuters, a must read and fairly balanced article reprinted in Haaretz: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1061193.html
Headline: "German-born pope under fire in his homeland over tolerance of Holocaust denial" details many Germans" loss of pride in the first German Pope they were so proud of four years ago. It is said that pride has now deteriorated to bewilderment and outrage. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany's voiced criticism of Vatican's choice to re-enfold Williamson, saying the Pope has not made sufficient clarification of why he allows such.
In the same article: "Worldwide Criticism of the Pope" is the headline at prominent German daily newspaper, Bild. Its editorial: "...the Pope has made a serious mistake. That he is a German pope makes the matter especially bad... [he] is inflicting great damage on Germany"... and of damage to Catholics and their heartfelt relations with Jews... "The pope must correct his mistake, reverse his decision and excuse himself."
Too, in the Reuter's piece, a citation from Benedict's travel to Auschwitz in 2006, he saying, in seeming contradiction to his actions pro-Williamson earlier: "May the Shoah be a warning for all against oblivion, against denial or reductionism." Pope Benedict has stated variations on this Shoah statement many times, and in good faith, I believe. All the more puzzling that he blundered so in this case.
The article notes that Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany... and the Swedish TV show with Williamson was filmed in Germany. State prosecutors in the city of Regensburg have begun investigating Williamson for incitement.
Reuters add that the pope has also faced harsh criticism from German Catholics. Hamburg Archbishop Werner Thissen is quoted as saying the pope's decision risked undermining trust in the church. Cardinal Karl Lehmann, former chair of Germany's Catholic bishops" conference and head of Germany's 26 million Catholics, has described the affair as a catastrophe. Others say it has exposed flaws in the pope's detached governing style.
"It's an unforgivable mistake, and also a political error that Swiss, German and French bishops" conferences, where most people of the brotherhood live, were not informed beforehand," widely respected theologian Hans Maier told Vatican Radio.
But, most of all, sadly and alarmingly for all, but especially for our brother and sister Jews, it is reported by many newspapers that the divisiveness caused by both Vatican and Williamson has also lit up German neo-Nazi and other international neo-Nazi websites and blogs to overflow with full support of Williamson's conspiracy notions. Perhaps even sadder still, this modern and violent Nazi vortex, did not have to be stirred with a stick had the Vatican sought wise counsel beyond it's own naïve or narrow notions.
As of this date, Williamson has proclaimed to the press that he himself will now "investigate" the true circumstances of the Holocaust since he's been asked to be silent and recant his perseverative statements. Pope Benedict, will hopefully notice, that again, Williamson is solely self-referent, attention-seeking, and insisting the problem is "out there" and only his own "investigations" will cure such... when if fact the investigation most needed, is likely within.
"Bishop Williamson Dreams "No Jews Gassed", ©2009, and "The Sea Endlessly Washing the Bones: Auschwitz/Birkenau 1997", ©1997, both by Dr. C.P. Estés, All Rights Reserved: email@example.com
Just $5 a month supports NCR's independent Catholic journalism.
We are committed to keeping our online journalism open and available to as many readers as possible. To do that, we need your help. Join NCR Forward, our new membership program.
Looking for comments?
We've suspended comments on NCRonline.org for a while. If you missed that announcement, learn more about our decision here.