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Bishop Richard Williamson in his own words
February 12, 2009 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of The Society of Saint Pius X, has been making news since his excommunication was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI in January. On January 21, 2009, in a nearly six minute interview Williamson told a television news program in Sweden that "I believe that history is strongly against, is hugely against, six million Jews having been gassed in gas chamber as a deliberate policy" during the Holocaust. In 2001, the bishop wrote "That girls should not be in universities flows from the nature of universities and from the nature of girls: true universities are for ideas, ideas are not for true girls, so true universities are not for true girls." The Vatican is now repudiating the Holocaust denials. And Bishop Williamson has claimed he will reconsider the issue of Nazi gas chambers by reading the book of a former Holocaust doubter.
posted by McGuillicuddy (89 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Chiroptera Feces Joaquin Phoenix?
posted by jckll at 6:31 PM on February 12, 2009


Pope Benedict's PR people have really, really dropped the ball on this. I don't know if the old guy is acting on his own or if he's getting bad advice, but this is a debacle.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:32 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's funny enough that the pope needs PR people. haha.. he should get endorsements and everything. What a fucking joke.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 6:36 PM on February 12, 2009


Catholicism Wow!
posted by jeffkramer at 6:39 PM on February 12, 2009


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Corduroy at 6:42 PM on February 12, 2009


Okay folks, lets keep in mind his excommunication was lifted but he isn't allowed to act as a bishop or a priest. That just means he can be a member of the Church again and is not any sort of validation of his whack-a-doodle beliefs on any subject.

I don't think Pope Benedict XVI necessarily dropped the ball in any sense other than getting blindsided by the spin others have put on the lifting of the excommunication.
posted by codswallop at 6:42 PM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pope Nazi McPalpatine has holocaust-denying friends? Say it ain't so!
posted by nightchrome at 6:43 PM on February 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


[Shrug]. The worse the Vatican looks, the more likely people are to realize that the whole Papal infallibility thing is bullshit, and that they can decide between right and wrong for themselves. So I welcome stuff like this.
posted by orange swan at 6:43 PM on February 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


I don't think a time-traveling Victorian could produce such pure separate-spheres sexist rhetoric. (The "lawyeress"? It's unprofessional to check your appearance before . . . oh, never mind.)

It's difficult to call attention to this when he's in the news for no less than denying the holocaust, but God damn, that is an old man who is preserved in amber. Maybe he could be exhibited at public expense? A permanent platform for his ideas, behind a wall of glass at the British Museum? He might be amenable.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:45 PM on February 12, 2009


They just wanted to keep the guy from starting his own branch of Catholicism. He sounds like another narrow minded, god loving, bigot.
posted by Flex1970 at 6:46 PM on February 12, 2009


What this incident has taught me is the multiple meanings of the word rehabilitate.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:50 PM on February 12, 2009


The more he talks, the less he counts for anything. And for that matter, the longer the church allows him to talk as if he were talking on their behalf, the less the church counts for anything.

So, like, two thumbs up! Rah, rah, Bishop Dick! The more you speak, the more people quit!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:54 PM on February 12, 2009


A joke that bears repeating:

It was 1944, nearly the end of WWII, and the Germans were losing. They were running so short of troops due to casualties and desertion that they were sending out boys from the Hitler Youth to make up their numbers. One such boy was assigned to an infantry unit on the Polish border, and one day he was told to take a rifle and sit on a hill overlooking a country road, and shoot anyone who came down the road.

It was a long, boring, tense day, and the boy had started to doze off, when he saw a young priest walking down the road towards the village. Carefully, his heart pounding, the boy took aim with his rifle and waited for the priest to walk into range.

"STOP!" He heard a voice booming in the heavens.

"Who's there?" the boy asked, looking around frantically.

"I AM THE LORD THY GOD! DO NOT SHOOT THAT PRIEST!"

"What? No, I am a German soldier, and I will do my duty!" The boy resumed his position and took aim again.

"DO NOT SHOOT THAT PRIEST! HE WILL BE POPE SOME DAY!"

The priest was nearly in range, and the boy hunched down over his rifle.

"ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT! IF YOU DON'T SHOOT HIM, I'LL MAKE YOU POPE NEXT!"
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:00 PM on February 12, 2009 [24 favorites]


This is really tame compared to the shit the church does without blush in places like Eastern Europe.
posted by troybob at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2009


So this guy denies the Holocaust and says women shouldn't go to school, and now this gets stirred up and he says he'll "reconsider"?
If he really believes that hateful bullshit, then he should stand by it, not pretend to change his mind.
Just think what other public figures believe and never say in public, because they're not as stupid as this guy.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:03 PM on February 12, 2009


This is confusing to me. So did the apparent elimination of Limbo (changing doctrine is understandable, but that seemed to be a change of cosmology).

This article helped me understand more about the SSPX and that those viewpoints are representative of the group as a whole, and not random views by these 'Bishops'.

Why would the pope want these people in his fold?

This isn't the first time these people have made the blue: from the WP article: "In February 2008, St. Mary's Academy, a school in Kansas affiliated with the SSPX, refused to allow a woman referee to officiate at a high-school basketball game in which St. Mary's was participating, reportedly on the grounds that it was not appropriate for a woman to be in a position of authority over male students."

There was a typical LOLXtian going on early in that thread, but the fact that this school was associated with the SSPX explains a lot.

Still, I'm confused - why would the church want this group?

Is the Pope supposed to talk directly to God (and no one else in the Catholic church)? Is this supposed to be the position of God?

Obviously (given my vast confusion), I'm not Catholic, but I really want to know how all of this is supposed to work.
posted by el io at 7:08 PM on February 12, 2009


They also reckon there's this really powerful sky-wizard guy who hates human suffering and yet doesn't do anything about it. So what? Timecube guy is more interesting.
posted by pompomtom at 7:14 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


exactly, orange. I want more, and more, and more, and more, and more, forever. As an theist, this kind of shit makes my day, although it's always a sad reminder that there will ALWAYS be people like this in the world.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 7:15 PM on February 12, 2009


I personally can't understand the appeal of Catholicism. Reading Andrew Sullivan's blog on this has been... interesting. He claims he could no longer stop being Catholic then he could stop being Gay. Which is Ironic, given the Churches stance on that. I mean he posts as much about Homophobia in the church as he did about Sarah Palin's vagina (and what may or may not have come out of it, according to him).

He's like a battered wife.

But going beyond that guy, I realize the Church says that your relationship with god needs to be intermediated, but why would anyone believe that Nazi Pope is the only guy in the whole world capable of doing that?

Also apparently the German government and lots of German Catholics are livid about this. First German pope ever and he's a holocaust denier!
posted by delmoi at 7:39 PM on February 12, 2009


From TFA:
the wrongness of women's trousers

In a realm of transubstantiation, virgin birth, infallibility, plenary indulgences, the undead, etc., etc., that's keeping it real.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 7:56 PM on February 12, 2009


codswallop's point bears repeating. Please read it again. Here is a good blog post on the subject, but I'll post some of it here since some folks' religious IQ is almost laughably low around here:
When his excommunication was lifted Bp. Williamson did not automatically become thereby a fully functioning and approved bishop of the Catholic Church.

He was validly consecrated in 1988, but he is forbidden, as are the other three bishops, to function as a bishop or as a priest in and for the Church. Forbidden. Still. That hasn’t changed.

Let’s try to keep this simple.

They can now go into a church and go to confession.

When the excommunication was lifted, those four men were from that moment permitted to confess their sins and receive absolution, receive Communion if they are in the state of grace, and receive Last Rites if they are about to die.

Get it now?
el io: the Church wants this group back the same reason it wants any sinners back, the same way Christ would go after the one lost sheep at the expense of the ninety-nine: they are lost. In their current, separatist, holier-than-thou state, talking to them is kind of hard. Think about it like this: your significant other leaves you in a tizzy because of something you've done that really, really pissed him/her off, and they're up on the roof threatening to jump. Step one is talking them down from the roof. After they're out of harm's way, then you can get into apologizing for whatever you've done wrong. This is sort of like that.

And no, popes don't have a direct line to God. There's no claim of "inspiration" for the pope's every action. So, is this just the pope's position or is this the position of God? Well, God gave us a few principles from which to operate for the brief period of public revelation he gave us, and one of those was "Be one as I and the Father are one," and another was going after the lost sheep. So no, God didn't phone up the pope and say "Go get 'em, Benny." The pope's just acting on those operating principles laid down back in the day.

delmoi: it's not the case that the Church teaches or has ever taught that there is any mediator between God and man than Jesus Christ himself. "No one comes to the father but by me," etc. That may just be a mischaracterization you've picked up somewhere. Also, please especially read that blog post I've linked above.
posted by resurrexit at 8:03 PM on February 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


Still, I'm confused - why would the church want this group?

Is the Pope supposed to talk directly to God (and no one else in the Catholic church)? Is this supposed to be the position of God?

Obviously (given my vast confusion), I'm not Catholic, but I really want to know how all of this is supposed to work.


(pulls up chair and sits down)

Okay. See -- there are liberal Catholics and conservative Catholics, just as there are liberal and conservative elements in every other group. One of the big, big sources of schism between liberal and conservative Catholics came in 1963, with Vatican II -- now, I don't know how much you know about what Vatican II was, but it was a MAJOR overhaul in a lot of church doctrine and practice. Most people know about some of the big things -- like what language a Mass could be said in -- but there were also some doctrinal changes.

Well, some people didn't like these changes, and there are a number of conservative, "we want to turn back the clock on Vatican II" groups, in varying degrees of conservativism. the Society of Saint Pius X is actually one of the milder ones -- there are traditionalist groups that are SO far right that they haven't acknowledged any of the popes since 1963. (By that same token, there are groups that are so far left that -- and I swear I am not making this up -- one of them made Sinead O'Connor a priest.)

Pope Benedict was actually on one of the councils that discussed and debated Vatican II, and was on the milder-conservative side in a few debates. He's actually trying to settle some of the differences between the two sides -- believe it or not. This particular instance is a mis-step on his part, I think, but he's done some things that actually aren't bad.

As for whether the Pope is infallible -- that only applies when he is speaking "ex cathedra", which means when he is making an official formal, "I am making this decree on formal doctrine, in a formal capacity, formally" statement, as opposed to being infallible 100% of the time. He is capable of doing and saying dumb things, but the belief is that when he is making a SERIOUSLY official formal statement, it's infallible. And I don't think that him revoking the excommunication was an "ex cathedra" statement, but instead just more of a routine "thing".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 PM on February 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Let's not forget he is still a bishop and he can continue ordaining other bishops and continue to lead the schismatic community that Benedict XVI fears.
posted by parmanparman at 8:05 PM on February 12, 2009


Maybe he bought his way back into the fold. Limit: one plenary indulgence per sinner per day. Order now while they last!
posted by terranova at 8:06 PM on February 12, 2009


el_io: Your concern about why the church wants SSPX back in is understandable, and I think being played out a lot in Catholic circles right now. Let me try to spell out the impression I have as an (admittedly, lay and relatively ignorant) Catholic.

The reforms of the Second Vatican Council, while they happened after at least a century's worth of clamoring among Catholic laity, still went through relatively fast for the church, over a couple of years. These are a group of people who thought the changes a little too hasty. They were excommunicated for ordaining a bishop without the pope's permission, which for better or worse is a big no-no. Benedict is extending an olive branch which, as codswallop rightly points out, only allows these four to go to mass and receive sacraments, not to minister them.

First of all, it's totally possible the pope and the curia had no idea what Williamson said about the Holocaust. Yes, I get it, all they had to do was Google it, but here's the rub: the Vatican just put a Google search on their website a month ago. They're not hip with the new (or even the old) technology. It's more likely this decision was made a long time ago, signed a few months ago, and released recently at the worst possible time.

Second, this is absolutely bad PR. It's not the first time, nor will it be the last. Cries are coming all over the place to completely overhaul Vatican PR, even from Father Lombardi, who runs the operation. The Vatican has done everything it could (admittedly, at its own speed) to restate over and over again its belief in the truth of, and repudiation of, the Holocaust.

Third, it's difficult to overestimate the extent to which the pope takes this personally. Imagine SSPX as an estranged family member: he says a lot of crazy things, and you'd never take him to a synagogue, but he's a member of your family, and it hurts a little to think you've let him completely out of your life. Add to it the belief that excommunication from the church means a straight ticket to Hell, and you have some idea of the pressure Benedict probably puts himself under to make amends.

in re: all the LOLPOPENAZI jokes: Joseph Ratzinger was conscripted into the Nazi youth, as was required of every 14 year old male in Germany in 1939. Ratzinger never attended meetings, had a handicapped cousin killed by the Nazis and was the son of a Nazi critic. Unless we're willing to say that every German alive in the 1930s is a Nazi, this one really has no traction.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:07 PM on February 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


On post, what resurrexit said.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:09 PM on February 12, 2009


I personally can't understand the appeal of Catholicism.

I do. Catholicism is much more attractive to me than crazy protestant fundamentalism or even moderate Baptists and the like; they're all factually wrong about virtually everything, but the Roman Catholic Church at least has history and gravitas that the others lack. If you can stand inside St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and not feel something you're probably dead inside.
posted by Justinian at 8:16 PM on February 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


From another blog: "The German press is still obsessing about the events that followed the removal of the excommunication of the four bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X. One could be more sympathetic if the Polish bishops, government, and media were this obsessed... As a perspicacious commentator wrote regarding the statement of the Polish Episcopal Conference (very supportive of Pope Benedict [and who issued a statement thanking the pope for this conciliatory gesture in lifting the excommunications]), and how it contrasted with the German, Austrian, and Swiss reactions: "Amazing what a guilty conscience will do."

And the best commentary on the entire event is found here.

//sorry, huge Catholic 'blog dork here//
posted by resurrexit at 8:26 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


As for whether the Pope is infallible -- that only applies when he is speaking "ex cathedra", which means when he is making an official formal, "I am making this decree on formal doctrine, in a formal capacity, formally" statement, as opposed to being infallible 100% of the time.

And the Pope has only spoken ex cathedra seven times in the entire history of the Catholic church. The last time a Pope did so was in 1950. The time before that was in 1854. Here is a list of all the instances of a Pope speaking ex cathedra. Also, he can only speak ex cathedra to define or clarify church dogma, he can't declare "the sky is red" ex cathedra and force Catholics to believe it's so.

This is a commonly held misconception. I'm an atheist, so I couldn't care less about defending the Catholic church, but there are plenty of actual facts to rip on religion for without going after stuff that isn't actually true.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:40 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


From this link, "What woman can be imagined taking part in Plato's Dialogues?"

Diotima, that's who. Sexism is unsurprising in an elderly celibate, but I expect a priest to be able to read.

Here's another guy who thought that Catholic priests should be able to read; it turns out that he also was not a big fan of people who broke with official Catholic doctrine. No one expects traditional Catholicism!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:45 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Justinian: The churches and cathedrals I saw while in France were probably the most persuasive argument for the existence of God I've ever been subject to.
posted by ODiV at 9:08 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Joseph Ratzinger was conscripted into the Nazi youth, as was required of every 14 year old male in Germany in 1939. Ratzinger never attended meetings, had a handicapped cousin killed by the Nazis and was the son of a Nazi critic. Unless we're willing to say that every German alive in the 1930s is a Nazi [...]

Not every German alive in the 1930s claims to be infallible on matters of faith and morals. The boy Josepf Ratzinger knew that Jews were being persecuted, rounded up, and deported for places unknown. He may not - I will be charitable here - have known of the death camps, but he knew quite enough. The reports you cite show him to have been an unenthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth. None the less, he chose to be a member. There were others who refused. Can you say that his choice was morally equivalent to theirs?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:19 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bullets, knives, poison and ropes for sale. Get your bullets, knives, poison and ropes right here...Contempt for free...
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:30 PM on February 12, 2009


Justinian, may I suggest Anglo-catholicism?

High Anglicans are more catholic than most Catholics when it comes to traditional art, music and liturgy, but with lots of extra perks. To name three: no pope, priests can marry, homosexuals can marry (where I am, at least).

Caution: they may try to drink you under the table.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:32 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Justinian: The churches and cathedrals I saw while in France were probably the most persuasive argument for the existence of God I've ever been subject to.

The Shoah and the concentration camps I saw through out Europe were probably the most persuasive argument for the non-existence of the God of the bible I've ever been subject to.
posted by tkchrist at 9:33 PM on February 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


If you can stand inside St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and not feel something you're probably dead inside.

Oh I agree. I feel awe at the sheer ingenuity and beauty of the structure. I am amazed and inspired by the genius of the men who designed and built it with their own sweat and blood. It sends chills down my spine that mere mortals can do such wonders with out the supernatural intervention of ancient astronauts or sky ghosts.
posted by tkchrist at 9:47 PM on February 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


...but the Roman Catholic Church at least has history and gravitas that the others lack. If you can stand inside St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and not feel something you're probably dead inside.

The catholic church has the benefit of historical continuity, often maintained by an exercise of power entirely inconsistent with its stated spiritual message. I accept that we are where we are, and religion and the catholic church have a lot to do with it. But its history and gravitas have a lot to do with its ability, for centuries, to suppress sciences and philosophies far more connected to reality and the human experience than what they were selling. I've not been to the Vatican; I imagine that what I would feel (even as a nonbeliever), in terms of reverence for the human story and (even as non-schooled) appreciation of art, would be tempered by the sense of what was sacrificed for the sake of its existence in that setting.

Were the church not still actively engaged in the reverence of its traditions at the expense of otherwise universally defined human dignity, I might better appreciate the more edifying aspects of what they have preserved; but at this point I can't put them above any other corporation that would sell its mother for market share. They've been around far too long not to know better.
posted by troybob at 9:47 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Shoah and the concentration camps I saw through out Europe were probably the most persuasive argument for the non-existence of the God of the bible I've ever been subject to.

Really? I tend to go for arguments rooted in metaphysics, myself.
posted by ODiV at 9:51 PM on February 12, 2009


Aussie Joe, I think you're confusing impeccability with infallibility, the former of which is not possessed by any pope (at least certainly not by virtue of his office) and the latter, which is.

Whatever his sins as an adolescent might have been, they are his own. But I fail to see how they preclude him from exercising his office almost 70 years later.

Lest anyone think the lifting of the SSPX excommunications is overly influenced by politics, just look at the current (as well as JPII's) pope's efforts at reconciling schismatic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo to the fold. No right-wing nutjob, he. (Well, okay, pretty nutty.)
posted by resurrexit at 9:53 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Bishop Williamson has claimed he will reconsider the issue of Nazi gas chambers by reading the book of a former Holocaust doubter"

What a fucking saint.
posted by bardic at 10:12 PM on February 12, 2009



Bishop Williamson's Letters

Girls at University

FIRST REASON

Now what does a university call for? Whereas in modem "universities" the males all believe in "if it feels good, do it," which is why they are, as they wish, overrun by feeling females, on the contrary in a true university one thinks about universal reality, which is the prerogative of men. A woman can think in this way, or do a good imitation of handling ideas, but then she will not be properly thinking as woman. The dilemma is inescapable: she cannot do what is properly men's thinking or work without cutting across her deepest nature. Did this lawyeress check her hair-do just before coming into court? If she did, she is one distracted lawyer. If she did not, she is one distorted woman.


Oh, boy. This is the problem with Catholics, mullahs, etc. WTF? All males believe in "if it feels good, do it?" PROJECTION, anyone? Jeez.

And male lawyers don't check their hair in the mirror before coming into the courtroom?

And it is only the prerogative of men to think about universal reality?

Apart from the ignorant evil of holocaust denial, this guy is the worst advertisement for Roman Catholicism I've seen. This is not the 13th century any longer, dude.

And yes, Justinian, it is hard to not feel a sense of awe in the Vatican's jewel cathedral. It is also hard not to feel a sense of awe in Native American holy places, in ancient Orthodox Greek churches, and in Japanese Buddhist temples, in the ancient redwood forests, and in art museums and jazz clubs and symphony halls everywhere (just to pick a few personal favorite awe-full sites). This hardly endears me to the repulsive thinking of "Bishop Williamson." Those who claim to have been abducted by aliens make more sense than this dangerously deluded individual.
posted by kozad at 10:13 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The churches and cathedrals I saw while in France were probably the most persuasive argument for the existence of God I've ever been subject to."
ODiV at 5:08 AM on February 13

You may be unaware of this, but those churches and cathedrals were made by human beings, not by supernatural creatures.

As such, they are spectacularly poor arguments for the existence of God.

They are rather good arguments for the existence of a belief in God by the architects, but that's about it.

By your logic, the actions of any group of believers in a supernatural figure are, if sufficiently long lived or well-organized, argument for the actuality of the supernatural figure in which they believe. For example, the wholesale slaughter of children by sacrifice to Moloch via use of the large metal effigy over a furnace would be argument for the existence of Moloch. Clearly, this is stupid.

Or perhaps you are saying that the beauty of these buildings is argument for the existence of God? In which case I would say that beauty is a subjective value.

If you are going about looking at old buildings and thinking that they are proof of the existence of a God, then you may be mentally ill, or just rather dim. At the very least, it's a pretty irrational thing to say.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:14 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, Mr. Mabuse, are you going to jump all over tkchrist for his endorsement of the disproof or denied existence of God by 20th century mis-manipulations of men at the hands of men? Or have you made a practice of only attacking those with whom you disagree?
posted by resurrexit at 10:23 PM on February 12, 2009


in re: all the LOLPOPENAZI jokes

I read a lot about a man who was "forced" to get along with the Nazis, because saying no was "impossible". I find it difficult to understand, therefore, why such a man is placed into such a position of overarching power over millions of human beings. When I see a major organized religion lend credence to the ideas of someone despicable like Williamson, by virtue of bringing him back into the organization, I have to wonder who is really in charge, and what their agendas really are. Because either Ratzinger is in charge, or he's not.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:23 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So did the apparent elimination of Limbo

That dancing baby in Ally McBeal? I always assumed that he was an escapee from Limbo.

Presumably, the unbabtized little munchkins go straight to hell now, condemned by the stain of original sin on their souls?

Ooga chaka, ooga chaka, ooga chaka, ooga chaka...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:25 PM on February 12, 2009



Really? I tend to go for arguments rooted in metaphysics, myself.

Really? Really?



Man, those French churches must only be able to talk metaphysics with you. All I heard them talk about was baguettes. And that was in Latin.
posted by tkchrist at 10:26 PM on February 12, 2009


resurrexit, you're right that this isn't that big a deal, but since it's obvious that everyone will make heavy weather of it, I wonder if there were some ulterior motives above and beyond merely bringing these ultra-conservatives back into the fold. The fact is that lots of people already grappling with aspects of the faith are going to hear about this and get skeeved out by it. So I'm not thinking that this was done because Ratzinger agrees with these insane holocaust deniers, but there must have been some reason, something more at work here.

Also, I would add that you may have been making some historical assertions about the Church that don't line up with historical records. In the early 1600s, when England was starting to be up-for-grabs in the Catholic v. Protestant debates, the Church tried to use skeptical arguments against the Protestants to show that the Catholic traditions and dogmas were the only sure way into heaven. The reason the Catholics were purported to be immune to skeptical worries was just this: the pope is infallible with respect to determining the correct way to live. But of course this could itself be doubted, and to render this latter claim certain, these Catholic theologians appealed to the fact that the pope has a "direct line to God," as you put it, and God obviously can't be wrong. This was the major argument on the Catholic side in what came to be known as the Rule of Faith controversy.*

All of which is to say that the justification for papal infallibility, contrary to your earlier claim, has historically been that the pope has a direct line to God, at least with respect to theological and moral matters.


*See Henry G. van Leeuwen's excellent book, The Problem of Certainty in English Thought, 1630-1690, for a great discussion of the Rule of Faith Controversy. Can't recommend it enough.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:34 PM on February 12, 2009



Well, Mr. Mabuse, are you going to jump all over tkchrist for his endorsement of the disproof or denied existence of God by 20th century mis-manipulations of men at the hands of men? Or have you made a practice of only attacking those with whom you disagree?

Uh. Wow. You missed the entire point. I guess next time I shouldn't be so subtle or sarcastic.

Trust me. Henry and I are on the same page.
posted by tkchrist at 10:36 PM on February 12, 2009


So I'm not thinking that this was done because Ratzinger agrees with these insane holocaust deniers, but there must have been some reason, something more at work here.


Ratzinger is a conservative.

And this precisely what he is signaling. He's saying "The liberals are killing this here religion and I'm I'm on board with you crazy-ass right wingers, but I gotta play politics with all these liberal pansies and speak in code."

Look the branches of all major religions with fastest growth rates are all conservative and regressive, culturally speaking. Catholicism is experiencing it's highest growth outside of Europe and in the developing world. Which means poor people - with very traditional and, yes, conservative peoples. In the wealthier western nations all the fastest growth is happening in the Evangelical protestant churches and they are soaking up all the bandwidth that used to be occupied by Catholics who are mired in scandals. Scandals that the church has worked very very hard to color as products of the liberal culture. Hence why they conflate homosexuality with pedophilia. The catholic church thinks that the only way it can survive in the west is by taking a right turn. Religion in general trends towards conservatism over all historically. Recent "enlightened" history is only a blip.

A liberal catholic church ain't gonna happen until this current crop of kooks finally die out. And in their death throws your gonna see some nasty shit. Trust me. You ain't seen nothing yet.
posted by tkchrist at 10:52 PM on February 12, 2009


"...Or have you made a practice of only attacking those with whom you disagree?"
resurrexit at 6:23 AM on February 13

I tend to point out the irrationality of peoples' arguments when they are clearly so, irrespective of my feelings about the person responsible for them. This can cause friction when those people cannot differentiate their line of argument with their own ego or emotions.

I also tend to muse on what kind of mind would produce such irrational arguments, since I am interested in cognitive function and mental illness.

It seems to me perfectly reasonable to propose that a person who thinks the churches and cathedrals in France are arguments for the existence of God might be either mentally ill, or rather on the dim side, because I can see very little other cause for such obvious and profound failure of critical thinking. Oh, I suppose it could be a typo, but that seems rather unlikely.

This has the side effect of being perceived as a personal attack, but I see very little way out of the issue, because if a person says something profoundly stupid, it does tend to imply that the cognitive organ responsible for such stupidity is not functioning at full efficiency.

The reaction that many people of faith have to logical or critical analysis of their beliefs and statements thereof is often one of personal offense. They complain that they are 'being attacked'.

Basically, at this stage, here at the beginning of the 21st Century, if you still believe things that are unsupported by fact, or that are at odds with readily perceivable reality, you are gonna get called on it.

If you take that as a personal attack, that's a regrettable result of holding foolish and readily disprovable beliefs and not being objective. This is evidence that cognitive bias leads to a lower quality of life.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:57 PM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


tkchrist: See, I get that Ratzinger is all kinds of conservative, but I didn't think that he would act that way. Silly, I know. The reason, though, is that it seems that the conservative movement is running out of steam hereabouts. Doing something this crazy conservative is going to cost the Church a lot of American souls, so to speak. But I guess what you're pointing out is that the Catholics just aren't as interested in expanding their territory in the US when they can do better with fewer obstacles elsewhere. That makes a kind of sense.


Henry: It seems to me perfectly reasonable to propose that a person who thinks the churches and cathedrals in France are arguments for the existence of God might be either mentally ill, or rather on the dim side, because I can see very little other cause for such obvious and profound failure of critical thinking.

You seriously think that critical thinking and logical argument are the norm? I take it you've never had to teach them to a class. Interesting fact: The overwhelming majority of college students qualify as mentally ill, by your lights.

(By the way, outsider's perspective: It was a personal attack, it is continuing to be so. You aren't going to change his mind, he's not going to change yours, so now you just look sort of foolish. I'd give it up.)
posted by voltairemodern at 11:19 PM on February 12, 2009


I knew Richard Williamson personally. When I was 18, I spent a month at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary while he was the rector. We played a few games of chess. Hell of a chess player.

Anyhow. To non-SSPX folks I suppose his views sound fairly nuts. He's something of a pariah even within this group, primarily because he has no idea how to not come off as batshit to the rest of the world. Also, he's never been very good at that whole humility thing. That said, I have to to say that he's not quite as crazy as he sounds. He's just kind of gullible. I think he'll change his mind regarding the Holocaust, presented with convincing enough evidence. I'm sure that quite a few people are wishing that he wasn't quite so outspoken, but coming from the place that they're at within the Catholic Church, that sort of mistrust of authority and conspiracy-theory mongering is kind of understandable. I mean, they kind of went from being completely mainstream within the Church to oppressed minority group just by maintaining a consistency of theology and tradition during the whirlwind that was Vatican II. You have to understand that the Church doesn't normally just shift gears like that. There's this entire world of doctrine and theology and other intellectual baggage that needs to be reconciled with the secular world and sometimes people get left behind.

I guess it's kind of hard to see the weird little world in which I grew up under the microscope. But seriously, guys. At least they're intellectually consistent, which is better than I can say for most Christians. The Spiegel interview is completely ridiculous. It's not a dialog at all, they're just scolding him like a schoolboy.

I'm not espousing his views or even the views of the Society, it's just kind of sad to see the kind of vitriol being spouted at everyone peripherally involved for what amounts to an marginalized, misguided old man with weird opinions speaking his mind on subjects that are largely irrelevant to his now former job as a seminary rector. I mean, sure. Hating on Williamson I understand, but if you've got a problem with the greater Catholic Church because the nuns were mean to you or something, then take issue with the actual positions of the Church, don't mischaracterize this one guy's opinions as those of a billion other people, most of whom have never heard of him.
posted by signalnine at 11:52 PM on February 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


One of the pleasures of this affair has been watching conservative Catholic bloggers desperately trying to spin the story. First it was a big risk (but at least the Pope knew exactly what he was getting into -- 'of one thing we can be sure: Joseph Ratzinger has already factored the hostile reaction into the equation'). Then it was a huge success (and a personal triumph for the Pope -- 'Pope Benedict XVI's grand design for the reunion of orthodox Catholic Christianity is going according to plan'). Then all of a sudden it was a plot by the liberal media. Then it was a PR disaster (not the Pope's fault, of course -- how could he have predicted it? -- he was just 'badly advised'). Now it's the fault of the Jews for over-reacting. Ah yes, those pesky Jews -- we all know how quick they are to take offence.

a marginalized, misguided old man with weird opinions speaking his mind on subjects that are largely irrelevant to his now former job as a seminar rector

With respect, signalnine, it's not just about one crazy old man. Granted, Williamson is as mad as a hatter. But he is, unfortunately, representative of one particular strand in the warped, twisted subculture of right-wing Latin Mass Catholicism, where there are a great many angry and unhappy people who are in denial about pretty much everything that has happened since the 1960s, and for whom Vatican II is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the world. Lift the stone, and a lot of strange slimy creatures crawl out from underneath. It's not a pretty sight. Personally I am much in favour of the revival of the Latin Mass, but the SSPX are an appalling bunch of cranks and nutters.

To non-SSPX folks I suppose his views sound fairly nuts

Yup. You know his views on The Sound of Music, I suppose? 'All the elements of pornography are there, just waiting to break out.' 'The Sound of Music puts selfishness in the place of selflessness between husband and wife, and by putting friendliness and fun in the place of authority and rules, it invites disorder between parents and children.' 'If someone can see no problem with The Sound of Music (1965), how can he see a problem with Vatican II (1962-1965)? The simultaneity in time is no coincidence.'
posted by verstegan at 2:38 AM on February 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Not a fully functioning priest, then. Well here's a fully-functioning priest bishop; elevated shortly after the storm around Williamson peaked.
Pope Benedict XVI has appointed as auxiliary Bishop of Linz in Austria another ultra-conservative prelate who described Hurricane Katrina as God's punishment for sin and sexual excess in New Orleans.
. . .
Vatican sources said despite the row over Holocaust denial, the Pope remained determined to "bring back into the fold" not only the four bishops from the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) who whose excommunications were lifted a week ago but also the 500 priests of the fraternity, founded by the late renegade French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The main obstacle however remains the Lefebvrists' continuing refusal to accept the modernising reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, including Nostra Aetate, the statement on relations with other faiths which stressed the bond between Christians and Jews ("Abraham's stock"), cleared the Jews of blame for the death of Christ and condemned all forms of anti-Semitism.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:32 AM on February 13, 2009


If you can stand inside St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and not feel something you're probably dead inside.

Been there, done that. But what I felt was sick. Sick that that guilded monstrosity had been put up to worship someone who preached giving all worldly goods to the poor. Sick that someone would want a building like that. If ever there was a building I could consider blasphemous, that is it.

Standing there I could see more clearly than ever before why the Reformation was necessary. And the memory of it makes me snicker whenever Benedict XVI (or any other pope) decries materialism. The aesthetic underlying the Vatican isn't even the useful materialism of gadgets and comfort. It's the purely crass materialism of the nouveau rich flaunting their money on pointless things.

As for re-communicating Richard Williamson, Christ (under any decent theology) didn't come for the saved but the sinners. (As he said several times). And Richard Williamson needs the help (as long as he isn't given a congregation). So I have no theological problem letting him in and there marginalising him. (Something which should have been done to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger). "Hi. You're a fuckwit and in obvious need of God's grace, and we are going to allow you the sacraments so you have a better chance of receiving it. But we aren't going to give any weight at all to what comes out of your mouth" is not to me at all wrong.
posted by Francis at 3:57 AM on February 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


This entire story is interesting to me not because of a small group of people that have been brought back into the Catholic flock, but because of what it signifies will be the future of the Catholic flock. Anyone that thinks the Vatican didn't perform due diligence because they can't work The Googles is stretching for excuses, one would apparently only have had to interview Williamson concerning his beliefs to know where he stands. And while Williamson may not be able to minister in the way of most priests, even The Vatican press releases still refer to him by the exalted title of bishop. Why was lifting his excommunication and simultaneously defrocking him not an option? As a recognized bishop, is he not in some respect still a mouthpiece of the church?

Those of us that hoped that the Catholic church would elect a moderate pope, perhaps from an African or South American country, are being told that the old guard will never surrender. Rather than embrace the modern world, the church has decided to embrace those that would turn back the clock at least fifty years. The Vatican now demands The Society of St. Pius X embrace Vatican II, but will they also denounce their views on the role of women?
posted by McGuillicuddy at 4:25 AM on February 13, 2009


McGuillicuddy, if you're still confused PLEASE read this article, which I'm posting for like . . . the eighth time in this thread. And yes, the Vatican fails completely at teh internets. COMPLETELY.

Also please consider reading about the nature of ordination and its inability ever to be lifted/taken away. Once a priest, always a priest, etc. That's why even "defrocked" priests can, in emergencies, offer the sacraments (such as confession/absolution to a dying man). It's the same with marriage: you were either married or you weren't, and if you were, then it's forever. Unless you weren't. Here, if the guy was validly consecrated as a bishop, well, then he is.

I would argue that Benedict is a moderate.
posted by resurrexit at 6:08 AM on February 13, 2009


I believe that history is strongly against, is hugely against, six million Jews having been gassed in gas chamber as a deliberate policy

And I believe that history is strongly against, hugely against, a human child having been born as the result of immaculate conception. So I guess we're even.
posted by kcds at 6:09 AM on February 13, 2009


Beat me to the punch, kcds. Considering what religious people already believe, does it surprise anyone that "The Jewish Holocaust never happened" is on the list?
posted by Rykey at 7:10 AM on February 13, 2009


None the less, he chose to be a member.

So now we are holding 14 year old boys up to the standard of full adults? Let's examine every decision you made as a 14 year old and see how you stand up. Actually, let's first throw your 14 year old self into a hugely scary, oppressive, fundamentally fucked up time both economically and politically and then hold your decisions up the standards and beliefs of a generation 70 years down the road. That should be fun for you.
posted by spicynuts at 8:03 AM on February 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


"This has the side effect of being perceived as a personal attack, but I see very little way out of the issue, because if a person says something profoundly stupid, it does tend to imply that the cognitive organ responsible for such stupidity is not functioning at full efficiency."

Ah, and if someone advanced arguments as simplistic as yours? Back to pulling your plow, Henry, you've no place in a conversation.
posted by klangklangston at 8:12 AM on February 13, 2009


But he is, unfortunately, representative of one particular strand in the warped, twisted subculture of right-wing Latin Mass Catholicism, where there are a great many angry and unhappy people who are in denial about pretty much everything that has happened since the 1960s, and for whom Vatican II is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the world. Lift the stone, and a lot of strange slimy creatures crawl out from underneath. It's not a pretty sight. Personally I am much in favour of the revival of the Latin Mass, but the SSPX are an appalling bunch of cranks and nutters.

There are an awful lot of self-delusional folks within the movement that seem to think that absolutely everything in the world was pure and good and pretty much exactly like Leave It To Beaver only with more kneeling and crucfixes pre-Vatican II, but I'd say that the vast majority of SSPXers don't think The Sound of Music is proto-pornography, nor are they Holocaust deniers. I think the sedevacantists tend to attract the real nutcases.
posted by signalnine at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


resurrexit, I'm not confused about the justifications folks willingly accept to feel better about their participation in the Catholic church. I just dismiss bullshit justifications and look for the realpolitik that drives one of the oldest political players in the world. I suspect the lifting of excommunication has much more to do normalizing relations with a schismatic sect (which happens to believe women should remain uneducated and submissive, among other intolerable beliefs for the majority of Catholics) for the benefit of the Church than saving the souls of four wayward bishops. Benedict XVI may be moderate compared to Opus Dei and Holocaust deniers, but that doesn't make him a moderate.

Concerning defrocking of members of the clergy, your argument seems to be that, in addition to being a bishop, Williamson can not really be prohibited from providing the sacraments of the church. Which is true. But defrocking a priest or bishop removes their standing as a member of the clergy. Priests have been defrocked recently for child-abuse and ordaining women, so both doctrinal disobedience and sinful behavior can lead to dismissal. You might argue Williamson's actions and words do not reach the same level, but I'm convinced the failure to defrock him was intended to demonstrate tacit approval for at least some of his beliefs.

And even if the Vatican can't use the internet, they can write the guy a letter and request a statement on his very public views. Or is that too high tech too?
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:53 AM on February 13, 2009


I wish I was Catholic, so I could break from the fold and found my own renegade branch of Catholicism. With the droves of believers leaving the church right now, it shouldn't be difficult to find some followers.

We would not only denounce the tenets of the second Vatican council, but primarily those of the first Vatican council (ha! in your face, Ratzinger!).

Maybe New Catholic Church would be a good name...
posted by sour cream at 9:11 AM on February 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think people don't understand that excommunication basically means that the Pope is damning the person to hell. Lifting excommunication doesn't validate them, it just acknowledges the possibility that they could be saved by God. It doesn't mean he's a part of the Catholic leadership.
posted by brenton at 9:39 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The great pyramid at Giza is the probably the most persuasive argument for the existence of Ra I've ever been subject to.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2009


I see what you did there, sour cream. :)
posted by resurrexit at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


We would ... denounce ... primarily those [tenets] of the first Vatican council.... Maybe New Catholic Church would be a good name...

As opposed to the Old Catholic Church, which also disagrees with key tenets of the First Vatican Council?
posted by jock@law at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2009


codswallop, your name is a perfect answer to your post.

There isn't really a lot of need for outside "spin" when the Pope chooses to spend his time singling out a Holocaust denier who says things like "ideas are not for true girls," for any kind of positive attention.

It's not that pleasant a thought that a person who holds those views rose to a leadership role in any religion in the first place.
posted by namasaya at 9:51 AM on February 13, 2009


From what little I understand of Papal Infallibility, church historians argue that there have only been two definitive instances where it was invoked.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:08 AM on February 13, 2009


But McG, the article answers your unallayed suspicions: it was both reasons, the feel-good pastoral ones as well as the bigger, Marshall-Plan-for-the-Catholic-Church one that you suspect exists but cannot settle upon. That's why I linked to that article several times in hopes all would read it. Here's the relevant part about the pope's Marshall Plan and why he needs this rag-tag group:
Every sociologist knows what quickly becomes of small oppositional groups cut off from interaction with reality. That this group [SSPX] was endangered would have been sufficient for a responsible priest to care for it [the pastoral reasons]. But more was at stake here: as misfortune would have it, exactly this group had made its mission the preservation of the greatest treasure of the Church.

Even today it is a difficult undertaking to speak of the importance of the liturgy for the Church. Twenty years ago it was almost hopeless finding a sympathetic ear. It was a foregone conclusion for many clerics that the traditional, over 1500-year old liturgy of the Church was decorative mumbo-jumbo for the nostalgic and for aesthetes. It had the same importance for “emancipated Christians” as the string quartets played on occasions of state have for politics. What had been true throughout the entire history of the Latin Church had been forgotten: that liturgy is the visible body of the Church; that Church and liturgy are identical. It is the mystic depiction of the whole plenitude of revealed truths. It is the locus of faith, where subjective conviction and feeling become objective contemplation and encounter. It is this liturgy which carried the Christian faith through the centuries. The success of the mission in the entire world was owed to its sacrality in liturgical language and chant.

The liturgy had soared above the deep divides of European history because it was equally removed from every epoch into which it entered. It is always unseasonable and therefore always an image of the other reality which awaits man. This great form of the liturgy had been softened up by Paul VI’s radical reform of the mass [after Vatican II] – an intervention unheard of in the entire history of the Church. It splintered into a thousand improvisations.

But why was Archbishop Lefebvre the only bishop in the entire world who uncompromisingly rejected this attack against the liturgy and thus against the Church? With this no to a process of decomposition so highly dangerous to the Church, Lefebvre entered ecclesiastical history. What gave him the strength was the milieu, only found in France, of a Catholic laity which had acquired its world view in the struggle against aggressive republican secularism. This was the tragedy of Lefebvre and his movement: they rescued the ancient liturgy but linked it to the struggle of political parties in recent French history. The only refuge that the traditional liturgy had found threatened to become its prison. Pope Benedict had already freed it from this prison with his Motu Proprio [Summorum Pontificum in 2007] and had given it back with its universal claim to the entire Church.

Must he not, however, have felt a sense obligation to the SSPX; that, for all its faults, it had become an instrument for preserving the Holy of Holies of the Church in a time of crisis? Whether the SSPX succeeds in finding a place in the multiplicity of the present day Church remains to be seen. Its historic mission, in any case, has been concluded.
Hope this helps.

Regarding Williamson, he's already been forbidden to speak about anything other than faith or morals AND sacked from his position as seminary rector. He's about as "done" ecclesiastically as it gets. But he's a nice stick with which to beat the pope or the Church for those so inclined, and he is ever to hand.
posted by resurrexit at 10:23 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Given Benedict XVI's Nazi past and obvious affinity for Holocaust deniers, I think of it more like a Final Solution for the Catholic church. Only the doctrinally pure master race will remain.

The article you like is simply bullshit justification without evidence to back up the grandiose claims. To start at the beginning, the pope didn't have to do what he did. The rest of the article is based on accepting that as fact.

And defrocking Williamson would leave him as ecclesiastically done as it gets.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 10:36 AM on February 13, 2009


Henry C. Mabuse, tkchrist: Jesus Christ, you two, I'm an atheist.

tkchrist: As far pro-Judeo-Christian God arguments go, those churches and cathedrals were the only things that ever got me close to thinking "Well, maybe there's something to this.". As far as arguments for the non-existence of such a being, I tend to prefer the metaphysical side of things (instead of holocaust sites and buildings).

I strongly doubt that you honestly think that "The Shoah and the concentration camps I saw through out Europe were probably the most persuasive argument for the non-existence of the God of the bible I've ever been subject to." I think that you were trying to ridicule what I was saying without understanding it.

Since at least two of you have misunderstood, I'll accept the blame and say that I probably could have phrased it better.

Henry:
You may be unaware of this, but those churches and cathedrals were made by human beings, not by supernatural creatures.

As such, they are spectacularly poor arguments for the existence of God.


I am aware of this and I agree completely. They are spectacularly poor arguments for the existence of God and yet they are the most persuasive ones I have come across. I don't see a contradiction here. Do you?

They are rather good arguments for the existence of a belief in God by the architects, but that's about it.

By your logic, the actions of any group of believers in a supernatural figure are, if sufficiently long lived or well-organized, argument for the actuality of the supernatural figure in which they believe. For example, the wholesale slaughter of children by sacrifice to Moloch via use of the large metal effigy over a furnace would be argument for the existence of Moloch. Clearly, this is stupid.


My logic? What do arguments rooted in what is essentially appeal to authority have to do with logic?

Also, you seem to be confusing "persuasive" with "logically consistent" or even "correct". It seems to me that the popularity and inertia of a religion become at least part of the reason for the continuing success of said religion.

I hope I've cleared things up at least a little bit. I certainly didn't mean for my one little sentence to spiral out of control like that.
posted by ODiV at 10:45 AM on February 13, 2009


"If I ever join a religion," my grampa liked to say, "it'd be the Catholics."

When asked why, he used to say, "They've got all the stuff."
posted by klangklangston at 10:58 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


ell oh ell ecks eye ay enn ess
posted by oncogenesis at 11:02 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Given Benedict XVI's Nazi past and obvious affinity for Holocaust deniers, I think of it more like a Final Solution for the Catholic church. Only the doctrinally pure master race will remain.

you're an ignorant idiot
posted by pyramid termite at 12:15 PM on February 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


He may not - I will be charitable here - have known of the death camps, but he knew quite enough. The reports you cite show him to have been an unenthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth. None the less, he chose to be a member. There were others who refused. Can you say that his choice was morally equivalent to theirs?

"Quite enough" for what? What would you have had him do? What would you have done? Be careful, because that last one is a trick question.

As to the Hitler Youth, one did not choose to be a member. Membership was required by law. Those who failed to join were at risk of being taken from parents, or even of being arrested. There were camps for that kind of troublemaker (along with those damn swing dancers).

So his question is- do I go to the stupid meetings, or refuse to join and thereby destroy my family- an ancient institution that many catholics still feel is the bedrock of their lives.

One more time, because it's clearly not sinking in: Not all Wehrmacht were Nazis.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:45 PM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me preface my “this guy is a knucklehead” comment by saying the Holocaust is a deeply emotional issue, still, and it’s very easy to have misunderstandings on the subject. I myself have gotten into arguments inadvertantly over minor details such as the fact that Jews were not shot as a matter of the mechanism of the final solution policy (they were gassed and other methods used - quite in contrast to this stupid bastard’s ideas - but I digress). And folks wanted to take me on, as though I were denying the holocaust rather than having a different viewpoint from them (as derived from films where the Nazis shoot everyone apparently).
It’s quite easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything can be stage managed once one sees evidence for it.
He is, for example, right about the Maine. He’s right about the Lusitania (we were shipping weapons and it may well have been a valid target - meh) and it was used for propaganda, etc.
There are elements of truth in the other conspiracies/theories he mentions, but - and this may be a problem in his chosen profession, that is ‘faith’ as opposed to critical thought - the practical upshot is that those dice have been cast.
I mean, Caesar could have crossed the Rubicon and then crossed back. At that point it was just conceptual (even though he said the die was cast). Once he took over Rome though - done deal. Doesn’t much matter how he did it.
Same thing with the holocaust.
It doesn’t matter whether it happened or not (in the fait accompli sense) since we didn’t go to war over that. Hell, Roosevelt and Chamberlain were ignoring the plight of the Jews to a large degree (don’t get me started on the White Paper).

That said - the fact of the matter past - this is a battle over symbol.
Williamson, whatever his views, is an agent of chaos and an accomplice to the genocide in those terms
As Baudrillard says "Forgetting the extermination is part of the extermination itself.

Williamson may well recant. But that’s irrelevent, because it’s not simply a matter of the group involved or the people - it matters who died sure, but as a matter of the past. A fait accompli.
What is crucial to remember is why it happened and the mechanisms by which it happened so we can safeguard against it. (Which is why I’m such a dick to people who can be very emotional about this - as, actually, I can be).

Really, that’s probably why they’re having him read a ‘mechanism’ type book. If you understand the ‘how’ of a thing, you can see how it could have happened. If it could have happened as a matter of practical reality - the evidence for it then has a context.
If one can pry this out of the realm of symbol, focus on the practical matters, one can stop the march to dehumanization (et.al)

And I think that runs both ways. I think it’s fruitless to battle over the symbol(s) and its (their) meaning(s) because that just polarizes it into a “us” and “them” thing again - albiet with one group believing something means one thing and another believing it means another. (So I often go tangential to the argument (which confuses the hell out of people some times) into this “let’s not fight over symbol” thing.)
You still have the same beef, just on the metalevel. Doesn’t matter how sophisticated the argument or the critical thought, the contention is there and so is the separation.
And so a solution will elude all parties.

As a ‘Catholic’ move - this is a pretty good one. Forgiveness of any kind is an excellent start to finding common terms (human or otherwise) and solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

Anyway - all that said - this guy is a fuckin’ knucklehead.

“It seems to me perfectly reasonable to propose that a person who thinks the churches and cathedrals in France are arguments for the existence of God might be either mentally ill, or rather on the dim side, because I can see very little other cause for such obvious and profound failure of critical thinking.”

There are some people who propose that collections of words created to form - purely fictional - ideas for readers are ‘beautiful’ or ‘poetic’ or ‘majestic’ instead of being a slight alteration in the firing of the neurons in their brains. Clearly they’re mentally ill since truth and beauty are abstract concepts and couldn’t equate mathematically.

Also some people actually perform the act of procreation with internal feelings and external expressions beyond that of base passion. Perhaps they’re overwhelmed by sensation, but obviously they haven’t thought critically about how mentally ill (or dim) they look and sound.

C’mon, we all know he meant because the archetecture is so beautiful and inspiring and that it’s often beyond words, it’s an argument for the existance of God.
One doesn’t have to agree with such a thing, but one doesn’t have to characterize such a profound depth of feeling for and meaning in something that it overwhelms one’s ability to form the words for it as mentally ill.

And clearly the reverse - the depth of human depravity and ugliness being an argument for the meaninglessness and hoplessness of a world without benevolent beings (or a God if you will) is a metaphorical one as well.
As rational argument, no, they’re meaningless, as he himself suggests.
As expression of how beautiful they are - sure, I’m happy to allow ‘God’ into the equation as an expression in language.
I’ve listened to Mozart and thought it was the ‘voice of God’ without slaughtering some animal to Ahura Mazda.

Or do we censor all metaphysical expression in the interest of promoting only expression derived critical thought on this fine Pluviose day?
The world would be a darker place without Ra as well (heh, ‘darker’).

Ah, hell, is it even worth really understanding anyway? Seems to me most people are like Williamson - they’re only different in style. It’s all ‘us’ and ‘them’ and ‘they’ are always crazy or evil or greedy or some such thing. And it’s always over meaning of some sort of thing other than humanity.
And hell, were it not for guys like Fred Rogers (et.al) I’d probably not have faith in humanity.
(He must’ve been mentally ill, yeah? He believed in God.)
But really that’s the only faith that matters - that it’s that which brings us together being stronger than that which separates us. And yet most of us sin against that every day.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:35 PM on February 13, 2009


>> Given Benedict XVI's Nazi past and obvious affinity for Holocaust deniers, I think of it more like a Final Solution for the Catholic church.

> you're an ignorant idiot

Now, now, pyramid. What makes a person an idiot is being stupid -- having a deficiency in thought. McGuillicuddy has a deficiency in fact.

McGuillicuddy isn't an idiot.

He's just a bigoted, intentionally ignorant illiterate jerkoff with an axe to grind, talking out his ass, and insulting the memory of six million Jews and countless others in the process.
posted by jock@law at 8:12 PM on February 13, 2009


Ratzinger was a member of both Hitler Youth and the Nazi led military. While he may not have been in the National Socialist party, plenty of Germans actively resisted the Nazi government and Ratzinger did not have the good sense or the courage of his supposed convictions. Those are the facts, everything else is justification for his moral failures. Estimates range from 10% to 20% of eligible boys avoided the Hitler Youth and there was a considerable amount of active resistance to Nazism that went far beyond Ratzinger's absenteeism. I don't condemn all Germans that merely followed orders, but it is a sick joke to set them up as pillars of moral purity as has happened with Ratzinger.

Concerning the changing demographics of Catholicism, I'm well aware of the trends. Just as Hilter wasn't an Aryan but likely considered himself part of the master race of man, the future of the Catholic church will base their master race on doctrinal purity not genetics.

The church's stubborn advocacy of abstinence and prohibition on condoms in regions where casual sex is a longstanding cultural reality and HIV is endemic is bad enough. But their successful lobbying for that agenda in the US and EU makes it seem like they have a plan. If Catholics want to avoid casual sex and condoms, good for them, but the realities on the ground require international aid to include realistic sexual education and availability of condoms. Catholics need not provide these things, but the church's use of religious threats in their lobbying to prevent realistic solutions for the AIDS crisis is abhorrent. While you may take offense to terming it the Catholic church's Final Solution to the AIDS Question (let the sinners die), I don't find it offensive at all and likewise don't find the term African Holocaust offensive.

Regardless of our opinions of the propriety of terming the church's policy a Final Solution, no internet wisecrack can dishonor the memory of the victims of Nazi crimes nearly as much as reinstating a Holocaust denying bishop who used his new-found fame and good-standing as a member of the clergy to actively spreads his lies in countries with growing neo-Nazi movements.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 3:00 AM on February 14, 2009


Resurrexit thought that I might be confusing impeccability (perfect avoidance of sin) with infallibility. I'm not. And spicynuts asked if I meant that we should hold 14 year old boys up to the standard of full adults. I don't.

It is very easy to be a moral coward. I am one myself. There are many occasions when I have been too afraid or too indolent to speak out against things which I knew were wrong. There have been occasions (fewer of these, I hope) when I have even joined in to a greater or lesser extent. I can totally understand the young Joseph Ratzinger joining the Hitler Youth and moving from there into the German military. It's very likely that his actions in themselves were no worse than singing a few racist songs and giving the impression that he supported the ideology that lay behind them.

My problem with the actions of Pope Benedict XVI (as he is now styled) is that the way he treats his past is in itself a moral teaching - albeit one that is not ex cathedra and therefore technically fallible. I'd be satisfied if the Pope had said something like Yes, I joined the Hitler Youth. Yes, I turned my head when I saw Jews being persecuted. Yes, I joined in when people around me were singing songs like When Jewish blood spurts from the knife .... I was wrong to do this and I counsel anyone in a similar position to stand up and declare that they will have no part in the evil deeds of their neighbours.

To my knowledge he has made no such public statement and the matter is now left as spicynuts would have it - he was fourteen, it was a scary time, and there's no reason to think that he was actually persecuting Jews or Gypsies himself. I think that's inadequate. No, I think it's wrong. The greatest popular Christian theologian of recent times delivered an address on a related subject called The Inner Ring. In it he says
To nine out of ten of you the choice which could lead to scoundrelism will come, when it does come, in no very dramatic colors. Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear. [...] It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude: it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel."
The fourteen year-old Joseph Ratzinger was threatened by bad men, at least implicitly, but that made the choice very much clearer. He chose to be relatively safe and comfortable rather than to be virtuous. I'm not calling for him to apologize. That's not an exercise of moral authority. I believe that he ought to replace the morally weak position he advocates by implication ("I was fourteen, it was a scary time ...") with a statement that encourages people to oppose the schemes of bad people. The statement would necessarily need to refer to his own moral failure but I can't see a practical or theological problem with that: he made a mistake and has repented of it. The problem lies in allowing his past errors to cripple his authority on a matter that is - with respect - far more fundamental than most issues the Catholic Church presently addresses.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:11 AM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Estimates range from 10% to 20% of eligible boys avoided the Hitler Youth and there was a considerable amount of active resistance to Nazism that went far beyond Ratzinger's absenteeism."

For a non-retarded view of Ratzinger's context and actions.

Just as Hilter wasn't an Aryan but likely considered himself part of the master race of man, the future of the Catholic church will base their master race on doctrinal purity not genetics."

what
posted by klangklangston at 1:22 PM on February 14, 2009


The church's stubborn advocacy of abstinence and prohibition on condoms in regions where casual sex is a longstanding cultural reality and HIV is endemic is bad enough. But their successful lobbying for that agenda in the US and EU makes it seem like they have a plan.

And seeing the falling birth rates and depleted retirement funds in the US and EU, they actually might be onto something.
posted by sour cream at 1:52 PM on February 14, 2009


Estimates range from 10% to 20% of eligible boys avoided the Hitler Youth and there was a considerable amount of active resistance to Nazism that went far beyond Ratzinger's absenteeism.

Not to be snarky, but really, footnotes appreciated.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:18 PM on February 14, 2009


I'm not sure whether klangstonklangston comprehended that his "non-retarded view" includes the following sentence concerning the mandatory membership in the Hitler Youth:
Some 80 to 90 percent of Germans joined the Hitler Youth and refusing to sign up could mean being sent to a youth ''reeducation camp,'' akin to a concentration camp, said Volker Dahm, director of Nazi-era research for Munich's Institute for Contemporary History.1

1. Rising, David and Surman, Matt . "New Pope Defied Nazis As Teen During WWII." The New York Times (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS) 23 Apr 2005, accessed 14 Feb 2009 <http://bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/cjrelations/topics/new_pope_defied_nazis.htm>
Assuming that fulfills the request for footnotes, folks may also want to peruse encyclopedia articles on the German Resistance or the research on the German resistance by scholars such as Joachim Fest. There is a considerable body of writing on the subject of German resistance, including the active Catholic resistance to Nazi policies, which included but went well beyond the passive defiance of malingering and absenteeism.

To be clear, my point is not to condemn Ratzinger for his understandable moral failings of that era but to say that when faced with evil, absenteeism is not the moral equivalent of active resistance. To raise someone of such weak moral character as a young man to a position of moral authority as an old man, a position in which his words can be claimed infallible, without overwhelming proof of his moral enlightenment suggests morality is not the coin of the Catholic realm.

Show me Ratzinger's good works. Show me when he gave his golden chalice and ornate robes to the poor and truly followed Jesus. Explain why as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger supported church secrecy concerning the sexual abuse by clergy of rank-and-file Catholics which most dispassionate observers believe led to a greater degree of church cover-up. This is to say nothing of reinstating Holocaust denying bishops who's doctrine appears to hold all Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. Rather than responding to those with whom you disagree with slurs against the mentally challenged and ironic cries of "bigot", shed some light on how Ratzinger's actions or lack thereof are true implementations of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and I'll reconsider his suitability for his current role. Arguments based on appeals to authority, especially such anti-Augustinian notions as "The pope could not have done otherwise", are asinine and unworthy of consideration or further response.

Concerning an earlier point, anyone that argues that papal decrees are seldom proclaimed infallible misses the point that man has never been infallible on any subject at any time. Nothing about the pope's fancy hats changes that.

Finally, on a happier note, the last of Anne Frank's Helpers turned 100 years old today. While they lived in the occupied Netherlands, not Germany, Miep Gies' words about the many honorable souls that possessed the courage of their convictions are worth quoting:
"I would like to name one, my husband, Jan. He was a resistance man who said nothing but did a lot. During the war he refused to say anything about his work, only that he might not come back one night. People like him existed in thousands but were never heard," she said.
Of course, there were also dissenting voices throughout Europe, but the most active resistance came from action not words.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 7:54 AM on February 15, 2009


Well, see, if you'd read that article, you'd have noted that the 10 to 20 percent refusenik population came almost exclusively from urban areas, and that Ratzinger's family was resistant (including making sure that young Ratzinger listened to Allied broadcasts), and that resistance wasn't binary, but rather a long-term choice with many gradations. To then argue that this constitutes vidence of weak moral character is bullshit, and since you again confuse rescinding excommunication with reinstating Williamson to his position, shows that you're just not very interested in making a factual argument, but are really more interested in grinding your anti-Catholic axe.
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Despite his seminary having the good sense to fire him, in the latest update I've seen Williamson was still referred to by the Vatican as a bishop and a member of the clergy. Those are the facts which you seem to be ignoring, so it is impossible to take seriously your claim that I'm not making a factual argument. Especially after first implying that a "non-retarded view" differed from my contention that 10 to 20 percent of eligible boys avoided the Hitler Youth, and after being corrected by citing your own source, adding the caveat of where (some but certainly not all) those courageous youth lived.

So, see, if you comprehended the article and basic arithmetic, you wouldn't have popped off with a pointless slur against mentally challenged people, trying to dismiss my point by citing a source that corroborated my point. But clearly your reading comprehension is terrible because you continue to ascribe to me arguments I have not made.

I'm neither confused about nor have I claimed Williamson was reinstated to any position, simply that excommunication was lifted and he was not stripped of his standing as a bishop and a member of the clergy. Feel free to address the Holocaust-denying very reverend priest as "Father", I would choose to address him as Dick.

Also, I haven't claimed that Ratzinger wasn't passively resistant while serving in the Nazi machine. I do claim that halfhearted passive resistance, such Ratzinger's absenteeism and malingering while in the Nazi-led army, in the face of great evil displays a weakness of moral character. That is not anti-Catholic or anti-papist or anti-German. Most of the world has weak moral character. Of course, most of the world doesn't sit at the head of a multi-billion dollar enterprise claiming a doctrinal infallibility and direct descent from Jesus while millions of folks that believe in that enterprise live hand-to-mouth.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 6:32 AM on February 16, 2009


So, see, if you comprehended the article and basic arithmetic, you wouldn't have popped off with a pointless slur against mentally challenged people...

Are you a betting man?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:40 AM on February 16, 2009


This religious sect is steeped in racism and hatred. Archbishop Lefebvre's followers should have no place in the Catholic church.
posted by adamvasco at 3:27 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


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