February 5, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI has done it again. In September 2006, in the course of an arcane speech about the de-Hellenisation of Christianity, he managed to enrage Muslims by throwing in a quote from a Byzantine emperor on Islam being violent, evil and inhuman. We all missed the point, the Vatican said. His Holiness was talking about the relationship between faith and reason.
Last month, Pope Benedict received back into the Catholic Church four clerics excommunicated in 1988, including an English-born bishop, Richard Williamson, who had just told Swedish television “not a single Jew died in a gas chamber”. Despite widespread outrage, apparently we all missed the point again. The Pope was trying to heal a schism in the Church, the Vatican said, and Benedict was not even aware of the bishop’s views.
As the furore grew, the Vatican ordered the renegade bishop to recant. But this simply won’t wash.
Mr Williamson and his colleagues belong to the Society of Saint Pius X and were ordained bishops – illicitly under canon law – by its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who led a rebellion against the opening up of the Church started by the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. That is why they were chucked out, despite the best efforts of the Pope – then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – to keep them in. Mr Williamson has long been openly anti-Semitic, from a fundamentalist group that has flirted with fascism in its defence of causes from Vichy France to Francoist Spain.
There is also the excellent film by Costa-Gavras on the collusion between the Church and Nazis - "Amen"