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Comment Dated Feb 9, 2009
In the last few years, I've posted a number of pieces deploring the so-called "Holocaust denial" laws that certain European countries have enacted, making it a criminal offense to question the version of historical facts that those who instruct governments demand be accepted. As a consequence, historians, scholars, journalists, writers, and others have been imprisoned, fined, expelled from their jobs, or otherwise harrassed, simply for stating their beliefs, while their reasons for arriving at them are censored and banned from public discussion.
Toward the end of January, Pope Benedict XVI decided to cancel the excommunication of four bishops consecrated in defiance of the Vatican's authority in 1988 by the conservative French bishop Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre, who died in 1991, had instigated the breakaway from the Church of a traditionalist Catholic group who objected to the reforms decreed under the Second Vatican Council, known as Vatican II. (Background summary by Kevin MacDonald here) The four bishops included British-born Richard Williamson, who in a January 21 interview with Swedish TV that touched upon the subject, on the strength of the evidence he had seen, defended the position of the historical Revisionists. ("Denier" is a term that much of the world has been conditioned to respond to, Pavolvian fashion, with an emotional reflex that precludes rational debate.) Video clip available here
The result was a furore of protest and demands for Williamson's rehabilitation to be dropped. A spokesman for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Paris said that Benedict could have excluded Williamson, whose return to the church would "cost the Vatican politically." (Guardian, January 25, 2009) But Benedict refused to comply; instead, a Vatican spokesman stated that Williamson's statements, while not agreed with, were "open to criticism, and they have nothing to do with the lifting of the excommunication. One is not connected to the other." (The Observer, January 25, 2009) "Open to criticism" means "open to debate." The position which, on secular matters, historical Revisionists have stood for all along. The story up to that point was presented fairly and comprehensively in a News Section piece of the LA Times entitled, "Vatican resolute on Holocaust denier," January 28, 2009, p.5.
On January 28, Michael A. Hoffman II, who has written widely on the topic, defended Williamson in his blog and commented that the item "has garnered perhaps the biggest response of any column I have penned in recent memory." For another supportive view, see http://truthis beauty
January 29: Israel's chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican.
January 30. Associated Press reported that Williamson had "expressed regret" for the "distress and problems" that his remarks had caused. The letter was posted on Williamson's personal blog, addressed to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who had been dealing with the rehabilitation of Williamson and other renegade bishops.
February 4, BBC News. "German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the Vatican's clarifications over the readmission of a bishop who queries the Holocaust do not go far enough."
NY Times Vatican Orders Bishop Williamson to Recant.
And, CNN & wire services, February 4, "The Vatican says it has ordered a controversial bishop to "distance himself" from his views "in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner."
Quite a turnaround from late January. So who has been got at, by whom, and why? Church authority has never been seen as applying to matters of secular historical fact. All of which tends to underline the point Revisionists make that the subject has in effect become an article of imposed religious dogma, to which facts and evidence are irrelevant.
It seems that little has been learned since the time of Galileo.