Charles Lewis: An anti-Semite is an anti-Semite, and shouldn't be embraced by the Pope
Why would the Church want as one of its bishops someone who is a complete anathema to the gospel’s teachings about love and forgiveness? Why would the Church want someone so saturated with odious views to represent them on such an esteemed level?
Sister Maureen Sullivan, a Dominican who teaches theology at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, said many thinking Catholics are greatly disturbed by this decision.
“The Church in Vatican II opened the door for accepting Jews as our brothers and sisters, our ancestors, and yet we can accept as one of our bishops someone who is clearly an anti-Semite.”
Bishop Williamson is a Holocaust denier. When he tries to explain why the “evidence” proves there could have been no gas chambers, he quotes crackpots. He also thinks 9/11 was a hoax perpetrated by an international conspiracy, and again his "evidence" is based on crackpots.
Nothing I could write could compare with listening to his live interviews. But here’s a tiny sampling of what the Bishop has had to say:
* “In accordance with their false messianic vocation of Jewish world-domination, the Jews are preparing the Anti-Christ’s throne in Jerusalem.”
* “The police state is certainly closing in. The police state took a great leap forward with 9/11.”
* “I hope none of you believe what 9/11 was presented to be. Of course the two towers came down but it was absolutely for certain that is was not two airplanes that brought down those two towers. They were professionally demolished by a series of demolition charges from top to bottom. If you doubt that, look it up on 9/11mysteries.com”
He also does not think of himself as a bigot because he once invited a rabbi to speak at his seminary.
The best official explanation from the Vatican is that Bishop Williamson, and his colleagues, were excommunicated for being consecrated in an illegal ceremony 20 years ago. They were all members of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, a group that has always opposed the reforms of Vatican II. So bringing them back was a way of healing a rift in the Church that Pope Benedict wanted to see come to an end. In a sense, what Rome said was that for this particular act of reconciliation, Bishop Williamson’s views were beside the point.
The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reaffirmed this week that Pope Benedict XVI deplores all forms of anti-Semitism and that all Roman Catholics must do the same. A Vatican official told the Associated Press: “Saying a person is not excommunicated is not the same as saying one shares all his ideas or statements.”
Even the Superior of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, Bernard Fellay, issued a statement yesterday condemning Bishop Williamson and asking “for the forgiveness of the Supreme Pontiff, and of all people of good will.” Some will rightly say the apology come a bit late, but better late than never.
When the Vatican says that anti-Semitism has no place in the Church, I do not doubt for a second the sincerity of that statement. Pope Benedict’s opposition to the Nazis is well known and documented. And even as a theologian, Pope Benedict has shown great affection for his Jewish colleagues as a way to better understand Jesus and the New Testament. Just read his masterful Jesus of Nazareth and you will see what I mean.
So then why do this?
Some have said that what the Vatican has done will not hurt Catholic-Jewish relations on the ground, where ordinary people try to build bridges and open lines of the communication. There are enough people who will dismiss what goes on at the top, in the same way citizens of a country will dismiss an inexplicable act of their prime minister or president.
But the fallout is really not the point. It gets too easy to then explain a bad decision away by saying the impact in the long run will be minimal.
The point remains Richard Williamson, with vile views leaping merrily off his tongue, is now a bishop in the Church so many decent people love. Someone please make sense of that.