The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. … And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.
The title “Mixed Greetings for Returned Lefebvrite Bishop” could be the understatement of the century by Zenit News in its report on Bishop Williamson’s recent return to England. Following his apology regarding his recent controversial statements made on the Holocaust, it was no surprise that, outside the Church, no forgiveness was forthcoming. To take advantage, to be unforgiving, to condemn, blame, reject, and isolate enemies, to make those below you grovel, is the natural human state, after all. These are the very things that are wrong with human beings and the very things that are put right by Christianity.
Yet the Vatican’s “Sorry-Isn’t-Good-Enough-We-Want-Blood” response is so Pharisaic that it appears that the leaders of God’s religion, after two thousand years, have come full circle. Christ’s death on the Cross occurred because people chose to ignore the fact that He showed no malice, no anger or hatred. They cornered, set up and hung an innocent man, something the people of the time openly admitted. Today, the Vatican appears as though it would have done just the same if it had the chance.
Zenit quotes Peter Vere, a canon lawyer:
“Bishop Williamson is not a Catholic bishop in that his episcopal consecration was carried out without papal mandate. […] However, the episcopal consecration was valid — that is, effective. So he is in fact a bishop with episcopal powers, meaning he can validly — but unlawfully — ordain, confirm, celebrate Mass, and validly — but unlawfully — perform any other episcopal function.”
How true it is that to a hammer every problem is a nail. And when you miss, you hit your finger. Bishop Williamson, like all the other bishops, priests, religious and laity of the Society of Saint Pius X, are Catholics as much as anyone else, insofar as they are baptized, have the sacraments and have beliefs are in keeping with Sacred Tradition. Everything else is politics.
Bishop Williamson is a Catholic Bishop. He has never been accused of heresy and was never validly excommunicated. In Christianity, the law is null if it is exercised without charity.
Those within the Catholic Church, whose job it is to love their enemies, forgive those who persecute them, and so forth, are showing how little of this they understand or follow.
Perhaps during this period of Lent, these people might take a moment to think about the Christian meaning of the Season and what happened at the Passover Festival. But they probably won’t, because no hypocrite likes to look in the mirror. Instead, it looks like we will be seeing an Easter play of sorts as plans are made to arrest and ultimately imprison a man who has already repented and shown his innocence, even to such an unjust law as is being used against him.
Nobody can be sure exactly how long human beings have been walking the Earth. Recorded history dates back not more than 8,000 years and the oldest cave paintings are dated as far back as 30,000 years. It’s said that the Australian Aborigines have a cultural heritage that is older still, but there are only estimates and little concrete evidence for determining an accurate time line. There is archeological evidence of the presence of human beings dating as far back as 200,000 years.
All of this casts doubt on the veracity of claims that the Old Testament contains a literal history of Mankind. Nobody is being burnt at the stake for this anymore, of course. Yet the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden is not to be shirked at. Important lessons can be learned from the ancient texts.
The tale of the Garden of Eden, of Man’s fall from grace, has been interpreted every which way. In essence it is the story of rebellion against God, yet in some respects it describes how God has set Man free, to go out into the world and make what he can of things, taking the good for himself and also the bad. The failure of Adam to resist temptation was no accident, as God knows the nature of all his creatures and could foresee it. The event was, in fact, inevitable. Although in the first instance it appears that God is cruel and unfair, all is revealed when Christ appears and completes the picture. The fall of Man was a necessary part of his friendship with his Creator.
Many similarly apparently unfortunate events are inevitable. For example, if we dig an inconspicuous hole in the ground and put a sign up in English warning of the hole’s existence, it is inevitable that someone will fall in, be it someone who can’t see, can’t read, can’t understand English or is stupid. Yet it may be simply someone who wants to find out if, indeed, the sign is telling the truth about the hole, or has doubts about the laws of physics and the limitations of human biomechanics. Whose fault is it? In Christian morality, the evildoer is he who dug the hole insofar as he knew it would be a trap for the unwitting. But outside of Christianity, a view is held that nobody is responsible except the one who fell in the hole, since a sign was put up and he must have disregarded it.
And now, if we turn to Bishop Williamson, we have an example of someone who has fallen into just such a hole. Anyone else would have seen it coming. Anyone who reads the newspaper knows of others who have fallen down the same hole. From the sidelines, the hosts of angels in Heaven were probably screaming “No! Don’t do it!” and yet there he was, on television, in Europe, performing the totally unnecessary act of falling into a hole, with Lucifer, perched on the signpost, chuckling to himself. The hole was deliberately dug to catch those who practice the modern-day witchcraft of critical thinking, of asking forbidden questions. How ironic that this would occur on anniversaries of Galileo and Darwin, both heroes of dispassionate, systematic thought.
Of course, Galileo and Darwin are famous, not just for “thinking” but also for being right about something. Bishop Williamson may or may not be correct in his understanding of history (as he himself admits), but he is similar to Darwin, Galileo, Martin Luther, Ghandi and others, in that he dares to think and dares to speak. History has shown that many such heroes were mistaken, wrong, even sinful. None, of course, can compare to Jesus Christ who was, in fact, honest, open and right about everything, even about the metaphoric Hole which was dug by others to stop Him, but in all of these cases cases, these men were speakers of truth as they saw it, yet breakers of laws that prohibited them from speaking it. All else being equal, they were all martyrs for Truth.
No doubt, when Jesus was being tried before Pontius Pilate, many in the crowd thought of Him “Is he that stupid that he walks right into Jerusalem, into this den of wolves?”, and when He was crucified, they shook their heads and said “I told you so.”
It was only much later that everyone saw what Jesus was really saying, both in word and deed. He pointed out to us our blindness and our willingness to cling to our material goods, to our comforts and to our hypocrisy. He showed that Mankind had distorted the truth and justice to create an inverted society.
Nobody can pretend to know what is in Bishop Williamson’s heart of hearts, but you have to hand it to him, he knows where he stands in the grand scheme of things:
We just want to be Catholic, nothing else. We have not developed our own teachings, but are merely preserving the things that the Church has always taught and practiced. And in the sixties and seventies, when everything was changed in the name of this Council, it was suddenly a scandal. As a result, we were forced to the margins of the Church, and now that empty churches and an ageing clergy make it clear that these changes were a failure, we are returning to the center. That’s the way it is for us conservatives: we are proved right, as long as we wait long enough.
The prophets waited for the coming of the Christ and were finally proven right. In the days when Christ walked the Earth, it was the Pharisees who had changed the religion, taking the focus away from God and making themselves into idols. So it is today, that the Church has drifted from a religion that loves, faces, adores God to one that has its back turned to Him and now worships Man.
God doesn’t change. If you find yourself nolonger able to accept the Christianity of old, then it is you who has changed.
I wonder if the Pope realizes this.
The Independent ran an article a few days ago on the Pope, suggesting he made a mistake by “unexcommunicating” four living bishops who, it can well be argued, were never excommunicated. I’m picking on this article because it goes some way to show what passes as opinion these days.
Pope Benedict must have thought he knew exactly what he was doing when, on 21 January, he lifted the excommunication of four bishops, among them a Holocaust-denying Englishman, Richard Williamson. It turned out to be an enormous misjudgement as the unprecedented rebuke earlier this week by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, shows.
Firstly, if we separate Church and State here, we are left with a small amount of Church and a whole lot of State. Holocaust-denial, as deplorable as many see it, is not a Catholic issue, and is not a sin except that it breaks various state and social laws and, possibly, is a cause of scandal. Angela Merkel, lets be clear, is historically a socialist and was a member of the East German state youth movement. She is also not a Catholic. As such, her standing on the issue cannot be taken seriously except to say that she represents what is currently considered as political correctness in Germany.
A French Archbishop, Marcel-François Lefebvre, led the rebels, who included among their number, Mr Williamson. He had been illegally ordained as a priest by the Archbishop in 1976.
An archbishop does not need papal approval to ordain priests. Nothing illegal happened in 1976 in this regard. But of course the lay readers of the Independent will believe anything. An archbishop also cannot be prevented from appointing bishops, even if it is an act against Papal will. The Orthodox churches continue to exist and, by and large, continue to be valid precisely because of this fact.
Here, then, are the main characters. “Father” Williamson…
Again, he is a bishop, and the author clearly has no idea what he is on about.
Joseph Ratzinger, born in Bavaria, unwilling member of the Hitler Youth..
Many priests and laity refused to join the Hitler Youth and lived to tell the tale. I am not saying that membership of an organization means that one is guilty of anything (although many would), but here we have Angela Merkel, ex-member of the equivalent of the Communist Youth and Joseph Ratzinger, ex-member of the Hitler Youth. Pots and kettles.
In any case, the article, as you may have read by now, continues to misrepresent facts to such a degree that one is left with a very skewed version of the truth. The author shows a depth of understanding approximately as deep as one would have obtained from a lay parishioner in the tearoom of a Uniting Church hall, perhaps. Very basic at best, and not worthy of publication. He shows his utter lack of insight at the end:
Suppose the Pope had known. His first instinct, surely, would have been to say that it was irrelevant. Lifting the excommunication was about doctrinal matters not about historical events. And then, in the next breath, he would have seen the absurdity of holding to that line. He would have been in a quandary. So his advisers must have thought it better to keep him in a state of ignorance. The Pope didn’t after all know what he was doing. Naturally enough, disaster followed.
Excommunication is normally about doctrinal matters. There were no doctrinal matters on which the original excommunication was based, nor was proper process followed, which is what was so wrong with it in the first place. The Pope did not see the absurdity of anything he did at any time, because there was nothing absurd about his actions. He clearly understood matters better than Andreas Wittham Smith, “Commentator”, who has come to the subject with nothing but bias.
Let’s make no mistake. The Society of Saint Pius X is an organization that has clearly been pushed to the fringe over the years and has a pretty conservative membership by contemporary standards. On the other hand, if we wound the clock back half a century then the Society would have not appeared at all conspicuous. It’s the world that has changed, so much so, that what was once standard up-and-down, orthodox Catholicism is now considered to be “ultra-conservatism”. If you find that hard to believe, then just go and read some statements of pre-Vatican II popes and bishops.
What has occurred is that the actions of a Pope, which appear to have been aimed at aiding dialogue with the Society of Saint Pius X, have been undermined by the world media, the diplomatic community and many of his own bishops and cardinals. The Pope may have been embarrassed, but the future of the Society in the Western World has been placed in considerable danger. If we were to assume that the Pope really knew what he was doing, then we could toy with the possibility that he intended to damage the Society by drawing it closer to himself and then cutting its legs off.
It’s been all over the news lately how the Pope has “unexcommunicated” some Society of Saint Pius X bishops. Soon afterwards, we heard that Bishop Williamson made some poorly worded and poorly timed comments about the Holocaust. Then came the uproar of the world’s Jewish community about the issue, notwithstanding how embarrassing it must be to have supported a nation that itself is committing war crimes of no less gravity in Gaza.
But now the Pope has turned around and declared that Williamson’s rehabilitation into the Catholic Church’s social life is dependent on his rejection of his comments surrounding the Holocaust (questioning numbers and the usage of gas chambers) and embracing the Pope’s historical opinion on the matter.
Some have called this papal behavior tantamount to declaring a dogma, similar to that of the Immaculate Conception. Of course the humorless trolls that go around making stupid comments on people’s blogs wasted no time in pointing out that the Pope cannot define a dogma on an historical event that has nothing to do with Christianity or Catholicism more specifically. But the fact remains that the Pope as made it a condition of communion with the current papacy, that one make no comments which may offend the memory of the Holocaust and that one must undo any statements which were deemed to have done so.
I’m sorry to have to say this, but the Pope has just made himself look even more stupid than the one much maligned for making a statement of opinion on World War II history. It is also becoming clear that the Pope is not genuinely interested in righting the wrongs of his predecessor but is just playing politics. All this may well be God’s doing, since, arguably, the Catholic Church is not yet ready to go back to orthodoxy and orthopraxis as is maintained in the Society of Saint Pius X and other traditional communities. We have all been educated by the Pope’s bizarre behavior.
It is worth reiterating that this debate actually has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the Holocaust is “true”. It matters not whether all the events, as described, are historically correct and are the indisputable truth. What is the real scandal here is that someone is allowed to become a Pope who is so easily influenced by outsiders to have made such imprudent a decision as to reject a bishop on the grounds of such statements as those of Bishop Williamson’s.
Will Catholics go along with the Pope, admiring his new found friendship with the world and the cognitive dissonance of placing external affairs more highly than those his own flock? How long will it be before a little boy in the crowd points the finger and points out the obvious?
Perhaps it has already happened.