|Triumph and Tribulation|
|Pope Under Fire for Lifting Excommunication of SSPX Bishops|
Christopher A. Ferrara
|REMNANT COLUMNIST, New Jersey|
With the excommunication of its bishops finally lifted, the Society of Saint Pius X finds itself mired in a needless controversy over the Holocaust.
(Posted 1/26/09 www.RemnantNewspaper.com) Pope Benedict XVI has once again made history by a dramatic act in favor of Tradition: the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X are no longer deemed excommunicated by Rome. The decree of excommunication issued by the Congregation for Bishops on July 1, 1988 has been annulled by a decree of the same Congregation, issued January 21, 2009 at the direction of the Pope and according to a specific faculty he granted to the Congregation. Te Deum Laudamus!
This is great good news for the Society and the Church at large. But the good news is accompanied by bad news about a problem that must be addressed in order to prevent grave damage to the cause of Tradition. First, let us consider the import of the good news.
The Good News
To begin with, it can no longer be said by anyone in good faith that the four surviving bishops of the Society are “in schism.” Further, those who have spent the past twenty years calumniating the priests and lay adherents of the Society as “schismatics” have finally been deprived of even the pretense of a canonical basis for this insult.
Sad to say, however, even after the Pope’s decision some “conservative” commentators have resorted to contrived legal arguments and obscurantism in order to maintain an unjust ostracization of the Society. For example, Inside the Vatican asserts that “The SSPX reverts to the penalties given by Rome prior to the episcopal consecrations, and all six bishops in the Society remain suspended a divinis.”[i] That contention is nonsense. First of all, two of the “six bishops” are dead. Secondly, the only bishop of the Society ever declared “suspended” was Archbishop Lefebvre, by a decree of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops dated July 22, 1976 imposing said penalty on account of the Archbishop’s ordination of seminarians in that year. The penalty became moot with the Archbishop’s death in 1991, and no such penalty was ever imposed on any of the surviving bishops, who were subjected only to the penalty of excommunication in 1988. Therefore, if Inside the Vatican wishes to engage in legal hairsplitting, it must admit that removal of the excommunications means that the four surviving bishops are under no canonical penalty at all.
Inside the Vatican further asserts: “The Society remains a group of Catholics in an irregular state. No chapel [my emphasis] of the Society of St Pius X in the world is in communion with the Universal Church, and its priests sharing in the suspension are deprived of the clerical state….” That contention is false and unjust for two reasons:
First: Now that the excommunications of the bishops have been revoked, all the Society’s adherents, both clergy and laity, must be presumed to be in “communion with the Universal Church.” The Code of Canon law does not recognize any such thing as “a group of Catholics in an irregular state.” The Society’s adherents are either Catholics, pure and simple, or they are not. Indubitably, they are Catholics. The suggestion that the physical chapels in which the Society celebrates Mass are not “in communion with the Universal Church” is pettifoggery. Ecclesial communion involves persons, not real estate. The exact canonical status of the chapels as places of Catholic worship is merely a matter for technical canonical resolution.
Second: Since none of the surviving bishops of the Society has been “suspended,” none of the priests of the Society can be said to be “sharing in the suspension”—whatever that means. By the way, a suspension a divinis is not a “deprivation of the clerical state,” commonly known as defrocking, but rather a penalty barring the exercise of the power of office. So much for Inside the Vatican’s pseudo-canonical argumentation.
Legal technicalities aside, in justice the Society and its one million adherents must now be seen by everyone as a bona fide “ecclesial movement” within the Catholic Church, with any remaining issues being precisions of canonical regularity to be resolved by further decrees. The Pope has remedied another of the great injustices of the post-conciliar epoch. Moreover, he has unleashed what could be a major contributing force for a Cluny-like revival of the Church and Catholic social order throughout former Christendom, should the Lord God permit the time for such an outcome.
The Pope’s act is perhaps even more courageous than the one by which he freed the ancient Mass from a decades-long fraudulent attempt to simulate its de jure suppression. And it appears that the Pope’s decision was made without the usual post-conciliar dance of the Vatican dicasteries and the endless “consultations” required by “collegiality.” Cardinal Kasper, for one, protested that “he had not been consulted. ‘It was a decision of the Pope.’”[ii] A decision of the Pope! Imagine that!
Nor can the Pope’s decision be dismissed by the usual conspiracy-mongers as part of a sinister neo-Modernist plot to capture and neutralize the Society. As Bishop Fellay declared in his communiqué:
We express our filial gratitude to the Holy Father for this gesture which, beyond the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, will benefit the whole Church. Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the Pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world, and which Pope John Paul II had designated as a state of “silent apostasy.”
Besides our gratitude towards the Holy Father and towards all those who helped him to make this courageous act, we are pleased that the decree of January 21 considers as necessary “talks” with the Holy See, talks which will enable the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the Church.
The Society itself acknowledges that the Pope has acted decisively, courageously and without guile for the good of the Church. Nothing more need be said on that score.
The Bad News
But, as the Adversary would have it, our joy over this historic event is mingled with trepidation. For the Pope’s decision will provoke furious attacks from the powers of a “modern world” whose social order has always been radically opposed to Catholic principles, powers that fear and loathe the Faith and the divine majesty of the ancient Mass, whose restoration they oppose with an instinctual hatred of the ultimate goodness, truth and beauty it presents to the enslaved inhabitants of the post-Enlightenment consumer cave in which we find ourselves.
And it must be said that our trepidation arises in large measure from the knowledge that the Pope’s attackers have been handed a club from within the Society itself in the form of indefensible statements by one of its bishops—statements which, ironically enough, have nothing to do with the traditional liturgy or the integrity of the Faith and thus nothing to do with the Society’s apostolic mission. Because of this development, a triumph for Tradition threatens to become a debacle.
The Pope’s lifting of the excommunication proceeded despite the eruption of a worldwide scandal provoked by the strategically timed release of an interview of Bishop Williamson by a Swedish television news reporter in Regensburg, Germany in November 2008. In a video of that interview (suspiciously released to the world via the Internet only days before the excommunication was revoked) the Bishop confirms his earlier infamous remark in Canada that “there was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers; it was all lies, lies, lies.” The Bishop further declares on camera that “I believe there were no gas chambers” and that “the historical evidence… is hugely against six million Jews having been gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler… I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews died in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them in gas chambers.”
Of course, no one claims that six million Jews were “gassed in gas chambers,” but rather that six million died from all causes in all places in the 25 European nations occupied by the Nazis (the same geographic area in which millions of Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox were exterminated by the Nazi regime, including Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). But this is only typical of the rhetorical carelessness with which the Bishop has spoken publicly on this and other subjects beyond his competence, including 9/11 conspiracy theories so flimsy they were debunked by a single article in Popular Mechanics magazine.[iii]
Recognizing the extreme crisis Bishop Williamson had provoked with his statements, on January 20, 2009 Father Franz Schmidberger, District Supeior of the SSPX in Germany, issued a press release in which he was careful to distance the Society from the Bishop’s opinions on the Holocaust: “It is clear that the only one responsible for the statements made by the Bishop, is the Bishop himself as well as that the statements do not reflect the views held by the Society of St. Pius X. In addition, Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge warned about the godless Nazi regime and its crimes.”
On January 21, in a letter to the Swedish television station, Bishop Fellay likewise distanced himself from Bishop Williamson’s remarks, declaring that “a bishop can speak only about questions of faith and morals with any ecclesiastical authority” and that “if he [i.e. Williamson] deals with secular issues, he is personally responsible for his own private opinions.” The phrase “personally responsible” was no doubt very carefully considered.
Five days later, in an interview with the French journal Le Temps, Bishop Fellay was even more explicit: “I deplore that a Bishop would want to give the impression of involving the Fraternity with a view that is absolutely not ours.”[iv]
Clearly, the Society is mortified and alarmed by what Bishop Williamson has said. And so must we be. Over the decades since Vatican II traditionalists have not refrained from critical observations concerning certain statements and actions of the conciliar popes. That criticism is in keeping with the due liberty of the members of the Mystical Body, and indeed their duty to speak out when they believe in conscience that the common good of the Church is being harmed, even should that harm involve acts or omissions of the Supreme Pontiff himself. It would a fortiori be a dereliction of duty for traditionalists not to exercise that same liberty with respect to statements from within our “movement” merely because they come from a fellow traditionalist, even if he were a bishop. For to remain silent in the face of what Bishop Williamson has said would be to endanger the entire cause to which we have dedicated ourselves by allowing it to be attached to his errors. Our silence would be all the more culpable given that even the Society feels compelled to declare that Bishop Williamson’s views are strictly his own and that he speaks without authority concerning secular subjects he insists upon addressing publicly.
With his most recent remarks the Bishop has compromised not only the Society’s position but also that of Roman Catholic traditionalists in general. He has provided the Church-hating media and their allied Christophobic pressure groups with a perfectly dishonest but perfectly effective argumentum ad hominem against traditionalists. And for what? For nothing other than the Bishop’s wish to expound his ill-considered views on subjects which have no bearing on faith and morals and which, under the circumstances, may very well redound to the detriment of both.
It is time, then, for traditionalists to repudiate the inadmissible opinions of Bishop Richard Williamson, with due respect for his dignity as a descendant of the Apostles. For the good of the Church we must make it clear that the Bishop’s opinions are not those of the worldwide “traditionalist movement” (if we must call it that). Above all, we must not allow the Society or the movement as a whole to be draped with the albatross of the Bishop’s opinion on how many Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis.
Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust Revisionism
I shook my head in sadness as I watched the Bishop, relying solely on the thoroughly discredited “Leuchter report,”[v] confidently declare to his Swedish interviewer that not a single Jew died in a Nazi gas chamber at Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor and elsewhere. I literally cringed in horror as the Bishop seriously proposed—on camera—that it is quite certain there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz because aerial photographs taken by the Allies showed no shadows from the very tall chimneys that gas chambers require. Shadows from chimneys?
The Bishop seems to be under the impression that nothing short of modern state-of-the-art gas chambers like those found in American prisons could have done the job at Auschwitz. But what, then, of the documentary evidence for the existence of Nazi gas chambers, or the numerous admissions concerning their existence by the perpetrators of the Holocaust at the Nuremberg Trials? And even if Jewish prisoners had not been killed by gas but rather by lethal injection (as was Saint Maximilian) and various other means, what moral difference would it make? Why run the risk of an international scandal by appearing to quibble over the means by which the Nazis exterminated their Jewish victims?
At any rate, there is a mountain of evidence that Jews were gassed at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other locations. For example, anyone who has done even cursory research on the matter will encounter the Nuremberg trial testimony and memoirs of the very Commandant of Auschwitz, the butcher Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess (not to be confused with Rudolf Walter Richard Hess, Hitler’s deputy), who designed and supervised the operation of the gas chambers at that infamous place. As he admitted in the affidavit testimony presented during his trial at Nuremberg:
Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chambers to accommodate 2,000 people at one time, whereas at Treblinka their 10 gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: we had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the Camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work.
Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.[vi]
Hoess later recalled that he had begun gassing Jews by using woolen filters soaked with sulfuric acid and thrown into the killing chambers, or by filling the chambers with carbon monoxide, but that he was able to increase “efficiency” immensely by using Zyklon B cyanide gas. He claimed that at their peak efficiency the killing chambers at Auschwitz could dispose of 10,000 Jewish men, women and children in only 24 hours.
Before he was tried in Poland and executed in 1947 outside the crematorium he had built at Auschwitz, Hoess was called as a defense witness at the Nuremberg Trials by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, head of the Austrian SS. In the course of his testimony he affirmed the following contents of his affidavit, wherein he estimated (based on numbers provided to him by Adolf Eichmann) that his factory-like killing operation had exterminated some 2.5 million Jews at Auschwitz alone, plus another half million claimed by disease and starvation at the camp:
I have been constantly associated with the administration of concentration camps since 1934, serving at Dachau until 1938; then as Adjutant in Sachsenhausen from 1938 to 1 May 1940, when I was appointed Commandant of Auschwitz. I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease making a total dead of about 3,000,000. This figure represents about 70 or 80 percent of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor in the concentration camp industries…[vii]
In his memoirs, penned during his imprisonment in Cracow, Hoess lowered his estimate of the number of Jews he had ordered gassed and burned at Auschwitz to around 1.1 million, citing a lack of accurate records. Recent demographic research does in fact fix the number at around 1.1 million, based on the total of 1.3 million Jewish deportees to Auschwitz minus the 200,000 documented survivors.[viii]
The Hoess memoirs further reveal that he was a moral schizophrenic of terrifying dimension, a true son of the post-Enlightenment age and its evil disjunction between “public” and “private” morality—the same disjunction that has made possible the present-day Holocaust of “legalized” abortion. Seemingly proud of the efficiency with which he carried out Der Führer’s order to exterminate the Jews, Hoess was also a devoted family man who, like the mass murderers employed by abortion mills, went home each night after a day of killing to dote on his wife and children. As this singular moral monster recalled:
When in the summer of 1941 he [Hitler] gave me the order to prepare installations at Auschwitz where mass exterminations could take place, and personally to carry out these exterminations, I did not have the slightest idea of their scale or consequences. It was certainly an extraordinary and monstrous order. Nevertheless the reasons behind the extermination programme seemed to me right. I did not reflect on it at the time: I had been given an order, and I had to carry it out. Whether this mass extermination of the Jews was necessary or not was something on which I could not allow myself to form an opinion, for I lacked the necessary breadth of view.[ix]
Holocaust revisionists, pursuing their obsession with minimizing the number of Jewish dead, take the absurd position that not only Hoess’ confession after his capture, but also his testimony on behalf of Kaltenbrunner and his memoirs were all the product of coercion and are all “worthless.” They also maintain that the testimony of all the surviving witnesses at Auschwitz concerning the gas chambers, both victims and perpetrators, is “unreliable.” But the Hoess memoirs provide an account of the gassing of multitudes of Jews “in substantive agreement with other testimony by victims and perpetrators at Auschwitz.”[x]
Furthermore, four days before he was hanged, Hoess, who could not possibly have been under any coercion at that point, sent this statement of repentance to the state prosecutor:
My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity. As Commandant of Auschwitz I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the “Third Reich” for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular. I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done. I ask the Polish people for forgiveness. In Polish prisons I experienced for the first time what human kindness is. Despite all that has happened I have experienced humane treatment which I could never have expected, and which has deeply shamed me. May the facts which are now coming out about the horrible crimes against humanity make the repetition of such cruel acts impossible for all time.[xi]
As for the Bishop’s on-camera contention (citing no particular evidence) that only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews died in the concentration camps, here too we confront what appears to be a lack of even cursory research. Adolf Eichman, the very head of the pan-European SS, admitted in a communiqué to Heinrich Himmler (and elsewhere) that under his supervision the SS was responsible for the killing of some six million Jews, a document that was used against him with devastating effect at his trial. Six million was not a number “invented by Zionists,” but rather the working estimate based not only on Eichmann’s admission but also on census figures, concentration camp registration documents, and the number of missing people never accounted for. It was an estimate accepted by Eichmann himself during his trial, which was televised to the world. For example:
In my opinion, to break an oath of loyalty is the worst crime and offence that a man can commit.
Q. A crime greater than the murder of six million Jews, amongst them one and a half million children, is that correct?
A. Not that, of course. But I was not occupied in extermination. Had I been occupied in exterminating, had I been ordered to deal with extermination—I believe that I would have committed suicide by shooting myself.[xii]
As the Judgment issued after the Eichmann trial observes of this testimony in its findings of fact: “That is, had he been ordered to throw the gas container amongst the victims, then his conscience would have woken up, but since it was his duty to hunt down the victims in the countries of Europe and transport them to the gas chambers, his conscience was at peace, and he obeyed orders without hesitation.”[xiii] Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the Eichmann trial knows that he did not contest the evidence against him. His defense team did not even cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses, but merely raised the sole defense that their client was “following orders.”
Eichmann’s estimate of six million aside, consider only the numbers from Poland, where some 3.3 million Jews resided when Hitler rose to power. Given the extermination of 91% of that population by the SS as commonly estimated (including 850,000 victims at Treblinka), in Poland alone roughly three million Jews were exterminated. It is easy to see how Eichmann arrived at the number six million and why that number is generally viewed as an accurate death toll.
I have no doubt that the Holocaust revisionist beehive on the Internet will be buzzing angrily over what I have written here. If these characters want to swing into action as the legal defense team for the Hitler regime, looking to poke holes in this article, then to put it colloquially they can knock themselves out. Even if I were wrong in some particular, so what? The issue here is why a Catholic bishop in the most sensitive of positions should be venturing into this vexed area, as if there were some moral imperative to set the number of Jewish victims of Hitler as low as possible.
Having said this, I hasten to add that I would be the first to agree that Catholics must speak out—and I do so here and now—against the despicable lying propaganda of the professional guilt-mongers who blame the Pope, the Church and Christians collectively, even down to the present day, for what the atheist Hitler and his godless regime did to the Jews. And Catholics have every right to observe that the Jews were not Hitler’s only victims. St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his own life for that of another prisoner at Auschwitz, is emblematic of the millions of Christians that Hitler murdered throughout the Third Reich, not to mention the tens of millions of Christian victims of the genocides by Hitler’s quondam ally, Josef Stalin. Moreover, it is an outrage that merely to question the number of Hitler’s Jewish victims is a criminal offense in certain countries, while everyone is free to question the number of his Christian victims or to deny entirely that Hitler or Stalin committed genocide of the Christian peoples of Europe.
At any rate, it is utterly astounding that a Catholic bishop has persisted in publicly promoting Holocaust revisionism in the midst of historic negotiations with the Vatican to regularize the canonical status of his Society, with the good of the whole Church and the course of her history at stake.
The Resulting Crisis
The first one to suffer on account of Bishop Williamson’s remarks will be the very Pope who has extended himself so courageously to regularize the Society’s canonical situation. The mass media are already savaging Pope Benedict—as any prudent person could have foreseen they would—for “embracing” a “Holocaust denier.” Within hours of the announcement of the decree lifting the excommunication, Time.com posted an article on its website featuring a photo of the Pope carefully selected (perhaps even “Photoshopped”) to make him look evil, under the headline: “By Forgiving Traditionalists, the Pope Offends Jews.”[xiv] There is no need for even an attempt at subtlety, given the size of the club Bishop Williamson has unwittingly handed his adversaries in the media.
The article declares—but of course it does—that “British-born Bishop Richard Williamson, one of those Benedict is bringing back into the fold, denies that the Nazi Holocaust ever happened.” That is not quite what the Bishop said, but no one will notice the distinction inasmuch as the Bishop is accurately quoted on camera as having said “there was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers; it was all lies, lies, lies.”
Sounding the alarm, Time declares that while “Some will hail Benedict as a bold defender of the rights of traditionalist Catholics and a man of conviction unbent by the winds of controversy,” others “both inside and outside the Church, will take his embrace of the Lefebvre followers as the final proof that Benedict, deep down, is determined to make the Church far more traditional than it is today.” Yes, we have a Pope who threatens to make the Church more traditional. That the mass media consider this an alarming new development, after 40 happy years of novelty during the reigns of Paul VI and John Paul “the Great,” is a dramatic confirmation of the unprecedented magnitude of the post-conciliar crisis. And now, owing to the Williamson interview, the media will be able facilely to equate “more traditional” with “there was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers...” Yes, this is a cheap and dishonest tactic, the lowest of low blows. But the Bishop himself has invited it.
The article in Time reports that “Inside the Vatican, mainstream conservative voices have expressed consternation” at the Pope’s regularization of the Society. So according to Time, and apparently some backstabbing Vatican functionaries, the Pope himself is now to be considered outside the “conservative mainstream” of the Church! The Pope, in other words, has failed to do what the world has come to expect of Popes in the “spirit of Vatican II”; he has declined to preside over the interment of traditional Roman Catholicism, but rather seems intent on trying to pull the comatose body out of a still-open coffin.
The day after Time bashed Pope Benedict with the club labeled “Bishop Williamson,” no less than the international newspaper of record, The New York Times, ran a front page, above-the-fold story on the affair in its Sunday edition, headlined: “Pope Embraces Four Rebel Bishops: One Denies Holocaust and has 9/11 Doubts.” Ringing the same alarm bell as Time, the article warns that the Pope’s decision has “provided fresh ammunition that Benedict’s four-year-old papacy has increasingly moved in line with traditionalists who are hostile to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that sought to create a more modern and open church.”[xv] The writer chastises the Pope for having regularized the Society even though Bishop Fellay’s letter requesting a lifting of the excommunications “appeared to stop short of saying that the society would embrace, or even accept, the reforms of Vatican II.” Here we have yet another confirmation that the “spirit of Vatican II”—not to be confused with the literal texts of Council read consistently with Tradition—serves the interests of the world rather than the cause of the Gospel.
In addition to reporting Bishop Williamson’s remarks on the Holocaust in the November interview, The Times notes that the Bishop has “given interviews saying that the United States government staged the September 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan”—another subject on which the Bishop seems unable to contain himself.
Naturally, The Times quotes such inveterate Christophobes as Abe Foxman of the ADL and Rabbi David Rosen of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, both of whom denounce the Pope’s decision, with Foxman declaring: “Given the centuries-long history of anti-Semitism in the Church, this is a most troubling setback.”
Ramping up its attack on the Pope, on January 26 The Times ran a third article on the revocation of the excommunication in which it quotes assorted liberals who suggest that perhaps the Pope has lost touch with reality and may even be losing his mind. Alberto Melloni, a theology professor in Bologna, observes that the Pope’s decision is “inexplicable” and “abnormal,” while Hans Kung declares that the Pope “does not see that he is alienating himself from the larger part of the Catholic Church” and “doesn’t see the real world.” The Pope himself will now be depicted as an aged and isolated crackpot.
Counting the Cost
What Bishop Williamson has said will not simply blow over. Unless remedial action is taken, the consequences of his utterances will be immense. Consider just a few of the more obvious consequences:
· The Pope is already being attacked as an aider and
abettor of “Holocaust denial” and “anti-Semitism” as part of an
ongoing campaign to browbeat, isolate and neutralize the Roman
Pontiff because of the threat he poses to the worldwide hegemony of
Liberalism and Secularism.
· The media, Christophobic pressure groups and
liberals in the Vatican apparatus and the hierarchy will use
l’affaire Williamson as leverage to attempt to overturn any plan
for establishing the Society as a worldwide personal prelature
independent of the local bishops or to extend other ecclesiastical
privileges to the Society.
· Bishop Williamson has eliminated himself
—and for no good reason—as a credible public spokesman for the
Society in the Catholic or secular communications media, or in any
other significant public forums open to other traditional clergy.
· On January 23 the state prosecutor in Regensburg
announced that he has commenced an investigation of the Bishop for
“allegations of race hatred.” The prosecution of “thought crimes” is
liberal tyranny, but there was absolutely no reason for the Bishop
to expose himself and the Society to such a legal risk for the sake of
gratuitous opinions he had no competence to propound and no moral
duty to defend for the sake of the Faith. (On the contrary,
given the suffering of the Jews under Hitler and the memory of the
survivors, he had a moral duty to keep his opinions to himself,
knowing full well the scandal they could cause even if he should be
allowed the freedom to express them.)
· Parents affiliated with the Society who homeschool
their children or send them to one of the Society’s schools must now
be concerned about the effects of a bogus and cynically exploited
“connection” to “race hatred” in the eyes of increasingly hostile
· The bishops and priests of the Society will be dogged by Williamson’s statements wherever they go, and will find themselves on the moral defensive; whereas, if not for what Williamson has said, they would have been on unassailable moral high ground blessed by the Pope himself, perfectly positioned to advance Tradition throughout the world, alongside other traditional societies.
In sum, owing entirely to Bishop Williamson’s needless utterances, what should have been an unalloyed triumph for Tradition could be turned into a major tactical advantage against it by the Church’s harshest critics. Just as the movement to reverse the ecclesial self-demolition of the past forty years has achieved another decisive victory thanks to the courage of this Pope, the remarks of a lone traditionalist bishop on subjects far beyond his purview have given the Church’s opponents a major opening for demagogic coercion of the Pope and the Vatican in order to stall the movement and prevent further restorative action. The mind reels at this bizarre, almost diabolical turn of events. Our movement’s enemies could hardly have achieved a better result had they infiltrated the Society with a double agent.
What Should Happen Now
The Catholic Church will be restored because the Holy Ghost will have it so, and nothing the forces of the world can do will prevent that ultimate outcome. That the Holy Ghost is at work in our Pope is seen in his decision, contrary to all worldly wisdom, to regularize the Society despite the worldwide scandal caused by one of its bishops. Nevertheless, what the Holy Ghost wills can be impeded greatly and at length by the folly of the members of the Church in the exercise of their free will. What this affair has taught us is that human folly is not confined to the party of “reform” and liberalization in the Church, but can also emanate from the party of Tradition.
We cannot allow folly to jeopardize the ever-more-urgent task of ecclesial restoration in a world gone mad. Therefore, not only this newspaper, but every journal of traditional Catholic opinion, and above all the Society itself, must clearly and unequivocally declare—as I do here and now—that Holocaust revisionism, wacky conspiracy theories, and other such nonsense will have no part in the traditionalist movement.
We must also implore Bishop Williamson to reconsider and personally repudiate the outrageous statements he has published to the world despite the many entreaties that he cease and desist. This is not a question of the Bishop’s freedom of opinion, but rather of the consequences to countless innocent bystanders from a heedless exercise of that freedom. Yes, the Bishop has spoken only for himself; but others, however unjustly, will be made to pay the price for what he has said, and they will go on paying it for a long time to come. The Bishop should have foreseen this, but now it is too late to prevent the damage. All he can do is make amends. If he cares about the Church and the traditionalist faithful, as he surely does, then he will not allow himself to become a stumbling block on the road ahead.
We cannot read the designs of the Holy Ghost like the pages of a book. We can only pray for divine assistance as we exercise our human faculties in the realm of the temporal and the contingent. The forces that would destroy the Church by making her a “more modern and open church” forever would dearly like to see the Society of Saint Pius X permanently discredited, and with it the whole traditionalist cause and the Pope who has done so much to foster it. Humanly speaking, a few statements before a television camera could well have placed us at a turning point in the history of the Church and the world. It would not be the first time that a turn of history has been found at the locus of a seemingly small event.
defining moment we are being asked to define ourselves by declaring
what we stand for, and what we will not stand for. To answer
that question by rejecting what the Bishop has said is not to show
weakness before the Church’s foes. Quite the contrary, it is boldly
to snatch from their hands a weapon that one of the Church’s own has
so thoughtlessly given them. We must not allow that weapon to be
wielded against the cause of Catholic restoration even one day
[i]Andrew Rabel, “Excommunications Lifted for Society of St Pius X Bishops,” Inside the Vatican online version, January 24, 3009, http://uvcarmel.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/inside-the-vatican-on-the-lifting-of-the-excommunication/.
[ii]New York Times, January 26, 2009, p. A6.
[iii]See “Debunking the 9/11 Myths: Special Report” @ www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/1227842.html.
[v] One can only be mortified by the Bishop’s reliance on this document. The “Leuchter report” was prepared by one Fred A. Leuchter, hired as a defense expert for the 1988 Canadian trial of Ernst Zündel. Zündel was convicted of “reporting false news” by denying the Holocaust, but his conviction (quite rightly) was overturned by Canada’s highest court on grounds that the statute under which he had been prosecuted was unconstitutional. (Zündel was ultimately deported to Germany in 2003, where he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for the crime of “inciting racial hatred.”) Leuchter, who claims to be an expert in the construction of gas chambers, has no technical or scientific qualifications, but only a B.A. in history from Boston College earned in 1964. Any semblance of research would reveal that his “expert opinion” has no weight. First of all, the samples of brick he obtained at Auschwitz, taken more than fifty years after the fact, came from partially reconstructed walls of gas chambers and crematoria the Nazis had demolished before fleeing the Allied advance. The samples were further compromised when the chemist Leuchter retained pulverized them (not knowing the purpose of the examination) instead of looking for the presence of cyanide traces on the surface of the brick, where such residue would be found. Nevertheless, the analysis revealed trace amounts of cyanide which Leuchter dismissed as inconsequential. Leuchtner was caught by surprise when presented with Nazi documents confirming the existence of the gas chambers and their daily killing capacity. The Internet contains numerous scientific and factual debunkations of the “Leuchter report,” including a full-length documentary film on the “rise and fall” of this dubious “expert,” who was later criminally prosecuted in Massachusetts for falsely holding himself out as an engineer. No matter what one thinks of Leuchter’s credibility, however, to make any sort of public argument on this supremely sensitive issue based on his report would be the height of imprudence.
[vi]Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess, Affidavit, 5 April 1946; Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 19451; October 1946 (Nuremberg: Secretariat of the International Military Tribunal, 1949), Doc. 3868PS, vol. 33, 27579, quoted in “Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz: Testimony at Nuremburg, 1946, in Modern History Sourcebook,” http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1946Hoess.html, accessed on January 23, 2009.
[vii]Testimony at Morning Session, April 15, 1946; transcript of testimony archived at University of Missouri-Kansas City, School of Law website: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/nuremberg/hoesstest.html, accessed on January 24, 2009.
[viii]Piper, “Estimating the Number of Victims”, pp. 53, 54, 58, 59. Text of USSR-008 in German appears in International Military Tribunal, Trials of Major War Criminals (Washington D.C., 1947), Vol. 39, pp. 241-261.
[ix]Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess (New York: Sterling Publishing Company, 2000), 144.
[x]See John C. Zimmerman, “How Reliable are the Memoirs?” http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/hoess-memoirs. Zimmerman is an associate professor of history at the University of Nevada.
[xi]Quoted in John Jay Hughes, “MASS MURDERER REPENTS: The Case of Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz,” Archbishop Gerety Lecture at Seton Hall University, March 25, 1998, http://theology.shu.edu/lectures/massmurder.htm, accessed January 25, 2009.
[xii]See, Judgment in the Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Part 24, ¶ 225, http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/Eichmanny.htm.
[xiv]January 24, 2009; accessed at www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1873855,00.html.
[xv]New York Times, January 25, 2009, p. 1.