Cardinal Ratzinger's Humdinger

The decision of Pope Benedict XVI to lift the excommunication of the British bishop Richard Williamson, allowing him to the full communion with the Catholic Church, appears remarkably surprising, and sinister.

Bishop Williamson is a member of the Society of St. Pius X, an ultra-conservative Catholic group which does not recognise the changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and has therefore been excommunicated by Pope John Paul II. One month ago, the bishop publicly declared that he does not believe in the existence of the gas chambers used by the Nazi regime to exterminate European Jews.

According to the bishop, “just” 300.000 Jews died in the concentration camps. Moreover, Williamson, who maintains that Jews are preparing the Anti-Christ throne in Jerusalem, endorsed officially the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, book popular in neo-Nazi circles. The “Protocols”, considered authentic by the bishop, are a notorious forgery, that allegedly reveal the plot of the Jewry to take control of the world. This book, as Norman Cohn has abundantly demonstrated in his classic study “Warrant for a genocide. The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, was made up by the Czarist police in order to blame the Jews for imaginary conspiracies and justify discriminations against them. Nevertheless, the “Protocols” had an astonishing diffusion throughout Europe, selling millions of copies in the first half of the XX century, and had been widely used to justify pogroms, persecutions and the “final solution” in the concentration camps.

Although this book has (luckily) almost been forgotten in Europe, in some parts of the world it still enjoys wide circulation. For instance, the Hamas Charter affirms explicitly, in its Article 32, that the plans of the “Zionists” are embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. The same document states that the “Zionists” amassed huge wealth to fulfil their dreams, taking control of the “world media, agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others.” Moreover, with their power they allegedly promoted several revolutions, among them the French in 1789 and the Russian in 1917. Furthermore, they were behind the colonial expansion of the Western powers, with the aim of spreading “corruption” worldwide. They promoted the First World War to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, and the Second World War to make profit from the trade of armaments.

Both the League of Nations and the United Nations are considered by Hamas creations of the “Zionists”. About the Holocaust, an official representative of Hamas affirmed explicitly that the Holocaust never happened, a position shared by the President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, and by the leader of Hezbollah, Nasrallah. In contradiction with such a stance, a document released by Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV Station in 2008 affirmed that the Holocaust has actually been planned by David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, in order to eliminate disabled and handicapped Jews.

In such a context of global rise of anti-Semitism, the decision of the Pope seems even more incomprehensible. The Vatican has been strongly criticised by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy labelled bishop Williamson’s Holocaust denial as “shocking”. Following the worldwide wave of criticism, the Vatican asked the British bishop to recant his positions if he wants to be fully rehabilitated.

However, the Church should be much more concerned about the wave of anti-Semitism spreading in several countries, including the Catholic ones. The tragic events of Gaza have been used to justify attacks against Jewish religious sites all over the world, and Europe is not an exception. Several episodes of anti-Semitism, mainly directed against synagogues, have indeed been reported, just in January 2009, in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The situation in Venezuela seems even more alarming. On the 31st of January, a synagogue in Caracas has been assaulted by 15 armed men, who damaged the Torah scrolls and scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls. The Catholic Church has always been accused of not standing up against the persecutions carried out before and during the Second World Was by Nazis and Fascists against the Jews. Moreover, the Church justified for centuries various discriminations against what was considered the “deicide” people. This stance seemed to be definitively over after the Second Vatican Council: indeed, after that, the relationships between the Catholic Church and the Jews improved considerably. In particular, John Paul II is remembered for his dialogue with the Jews. And it is not a coincidence that the only person explicitly mentioned in the testament of Pope John Paul II is Elio Toaff, then Rabbi of Rome.

Now more than ever, the great religions should fight against prejudice and ignorance, and promote dialogue and understanding. The mounting tide of anti-Semitism, but also of Islamophobia and all the other forms of discrimination, represent indeed serious threats to the fundamental values our societies are based upon.

One thought on “Cardinal Ratzinger's Humdinger

  • Richard Williamson was automatically excommunicated for being ordained a bishop against the will of the Pope. Holocaust denial, however unpleasant, is not grounds for excommunication. The whole thing is a PR blunder, nothing more.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.