I’ve been a bit remiss about writing about this story. For that, I apologize. I realize a lot of you sent me links. For some reason, this week was an embarrassment of riches in terms of blogging material, and I didn’t have time to get to it all.
With that out of the way, let me just say that I find it very ironic that this particular story came to light during the week of the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. If the Pope is truly appointed by God to rule over the Roman Catholic Church, in this case God chose someone who has an exquisitely bad sense of timing. Actually, he appears to have chosen someone who has exquisitely bad sense. The reason: Pope Benedict XVI has decided to rehabilitate four excommunicated bishops by reinstating them. Given Benedict’s conservative dogmatism, it’s not surprising that all four of them were excommunicated had suffered that fate because they had formed a society to protest what they perceived as an increasingly liberal Church. In fact, it was Pope John Paul II, no liberal he, who excommunicated them, which should give you an indication of just how bad they were.
What is surprising, even to me, is that one of them, Richard Williamson of Great Britain, is a blatant Holocaust denier. Indeed, he denied the Holocaust explicitly mere days before the revocation of his excommunication, and his rehabilitation has raised an uproar among both Jews and Catholics:
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to rehabilitate four excommunicated bishops — including a Holocaust denier — has caused dismay among Jewish leaders. But the move also has shocked many Roman Catholics, who fear it may point to a repudiation of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s.
Just days before the pope revoked the excommunication of the four bishops, one of them, Richard Williamson, again denied the Holocaust.
“The historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler,” he said in an interview that aired on Swedish television.
When his interview began circulating on the Internet, the Vatican was quick to try to dampen the controversy.
These are lies, plain and simple. Check out this video for the full interview:
There are a number of classic Holocaust denier talking points here. Let’s take a look:
- “I believe that the historical evidence is strongly–hugely–against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.” This is a straw man argument that Holocaust deniers use that exploits the misunderstandings that most people have about the Holocaust. Most people think that most Jews killed in the Holocaust died in gas chambers. That is not true. They died by almost every means imaginable: mass shootings by the Einsatzgruppen, who claimed approximately 1 million lives as they followed the Wermacht into the Soviet Union rounding up Jews and Communist Party officials and shooting them in pre-dug mass graves. Jews died by intentional overwork and starvation in the camps. They died in death marches at the end of the war, as Germans forced their prisoners away from the advancing Allies because they did not want their crimes to be discovered. That Williamson would mindlessly repeat such nonsense shows him to be not only an anti-Semite, but a stupid and dull anti-Semite. Finally, the extermination of the Jews was Nazi policy decided at the highest levels and finalized at the Wannsee Conference.
- “I believe there were no gas chambers.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. This lie is extensively debunked on a number of sites, including The Holocaust History Project (on whose advisory board I serve), Nizkor, and Holocaust Denial on Trial. Indeed, the “good” ex-bishop parrots enough denier lies that even David Irving would blush with embarrassment (links rebutting the lie placed): that the Auschwitz gas chambers were really air raid shelters (about as dumb a canard as exists in Holocaust denial); that the gas chambers couldn’t possibly have been used for gassing; one of the gas chambers at Auschwitz is a fake for show for tourists; and that scientific tests show that the gas chambers never existed (see also this rebuttal).
- “…I think the most serious conclude between two and three hundred thousand Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber.” This is simply nonsense. There were more Jews gassed than this at Auschwitz alone.
Williamson even cites the Leuchter Report. The Leuchter Report! Truly, the stupid burns (along with the anti-Semitism), as Fred Leuchter has to be one of the most inept, hapless “scientists” there is, a man who claims to be an expert in execution techniques but has no such expertise. Not surprisingly, the Leuchter Report is perhaps the most pseudoscientific and poorly done “scientific” report I’ve ever seen, and one that Holocaust deniers often cite. You know, I hereby declare a new law, like Scopie’s Law about alternative medicine that states, “In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing Whale.to as a credible source loses you the argument immediately …and gets you laughed out of the room.” Here’s my variant of this law, which I hereby call Orac’s Law:
In any discussion involving the Holocaust, citing the Leuchter Report as a credible source loses you the argument immediately …and gets you laughed out of the room.
Cite it, quote it, love it. Heck, even David Irving doesn’t cite the Leuchter Report anymore!
There’s so much more in this idiotic interview, but fortunately for me Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt has methodically debunked the multiple other denier canards. Do Orac a solid and thank her for her work.
The Papal reaction to the uproar is, sadly, couched as an outreach to Jews. Nice touch, to slap Jews in the face by reinstating an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier (yes, there is no such thing as a Holocaust denier who is not anti-Semitic, as I have said time and time again).
Finally, believe it or not, Williamson has his own blog. Even more distressingly, he’s published an apology that is not really an apology there in the form of a letter to Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos. Get aload of what he says in this excerpt:
Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.
For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God.
He goes on to thank the Holy Father for having reinstated him and to quote the prophet Jonas, I, 12. In other words, Williamson’s not in the least bit sorry for having repeated the lies, pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and distortions of fact common in the lowest circles of Holocaust denier hell. He’s not sorry for being a deceitful scumbag. Oh, no. Williamson is only sorry because he caused a “media storm” that caused Cardinal Hoyos and Pope Benedict XVI so many problems. This is all of a piece with Williamson’s persecution complex, where he whines at the end of his interview about how in Germany he could be arrested for what he said.
I had really wanted to give Pope Benedict the benefit of the doubt when he was appointed, but it would appear that he’s turning out far worse than expected. It makes me long for the days of Pope John Paul II. I don’t know which is the worse possible explanation for Benedict’s action: that he honestly didn’t know Williamson is a Holocaust denier or that he did know and reinstated him anyway. He had to know. As Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein point out, the Society of Saint Pius X, the organization to which Williamson belongs, is anti-Semitic to the core:
Yet there is an even greater crisis waiting in the wings that will soon be picked up by world media. Williamson’s fellow travelers — the entire network of the breakaway Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) — are vocal enthusiasts of a medieval religious anti-Semitism that gives the Islamist imams in Pakistan some serious competition.
The papal move to re-embrace SSPX was carefully negotiated. And if Pope Benedict was expecting any cosmetic changes in SSPX’s Jew-hatred he was dead wrong. True ideologues in their hatred, their group’s website remains unchanged. Jews, it tells us, are directly responsible for the crucifixion. Jews are cursed with the “blindness to the things of G-d and eternity.” As a people, they stand “in entire opposition with the Catholic Church.” “Christendom and Jewry are designed inevitably to meet everywhere without reconciliation or mixing.” Jews “should neither be eliminated from among us, nor given equality of rights.”
SSPX bookstores sell the anti-Semitic screeds — “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and Henry Ford’s “The International Jew.” But Jews, we are told in an essay by SSPX icon Fr. Denis Fahey, should not worry. He explains why he is not an anti-Semite. Anti-semites hate Jews, which he does not. He hates the Jewish naturalism, which is the plot of Jews (who have secretly abandoned God for the last two millennia) to take over the world.
Pope Benedict XVI has made a personal crusade of hastening Church unity. According to the Vatican document announcing SSPX’s rehabilitation, lifting the ban against the four bishops allows the Church to talk in earnest with the four, and the tens of thousands of traditionalist Catholics they represent. Short of assigning Bishop Williamson a stint as intern in the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum it’s not clear what else can be said to a man of God who just last week denied the Nazi gas chambers and that 6 million Jews were the victims of genocide.
If you have any doubts about how bad SSPX and Bishop Williamson are, die-hard neo-Nazis are labeling the firestorm of criticism that has erupted over the Pope’s action as The Crucifixion of Bishop Willamson, even going so far as to say:
Good thing Jesus isn’t around in human form these days or He just might just find himself in a German prison, like Ernst Zundel or Germar Rudolf, or anyone else who dares to question the Holocaust™. Because I am convinced that if Jesus were still alive on this earth in human form, there would be no shortage of Christians dutifully denouncing Him as a threat to Jewish-Christian relations! It really has become that pathetic.
These are the same sort of people who celebrated yesterday because it was the 76th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s being elevated to German Chancellor and the beginning of the Nazi regime. They like Williamson a lot, because they recognize him as one of their own. Worse, Williamson isn’t the only Holocaust denier in associated with Williamson’s organization:
Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the order, distanced himself from Williamson’s views, saying they did not represent the society as a whole, and apologised to Benedict. However this week Father Floriano Abrahamowicz, a Lefebvrist priest at Treviso, sided with Bishop Williamson, saying “I know gas chambers existed at least to disinfect, I can’t say if anybody was killed in them or not”. He also referred to Jews as being “the people of God who then became the God-killing people”, a direct contradiction of the teachings of Vatican II.
It defies belief that Pope Benedict XVI wasn’t aware of the true nature of SSPX. On its website are articles stating that the Jews are guilty of deicide, an article detesting “Jewish naturalism,” and a defense of the Inquisition. Relevant to science, note again how the the SSPX deplores “Jewish naturalism.” For those of you who aren’t aware of it, that’s a code word for science, folks. In addition to being anti-Semitic, the SSPX is clearly profoundly anti-scientific. In fact, the whole “Jewish naturalism” bit reminds me of Nazi purges of “Jewish” science from its universities. Moreover, SSPX leaders are not exactly shy about their beliefs or teachings. I can only conclude that Benedict either embraces SSPX beliefs or is so interested in Roman Catholic “unity” that he doesn’t care. Neither possibility speaks well of him.