A loathsome Catholic — but still a Catholic


According to various headlines across the world, the Pope has “welcomed back into the Church a Holocaust-denying Bishop” and “Ripped to shreds Catholic-Jewish relations for a generation.”

Bishop Richard Williamson

Which says a great deal more about media inaccuracy and hysteria than it does about what has just happened within the Roman Catholic Church.

What Pope Benedict actually did this weekend was to lift the excommunication of four bishops who were illicitly consecrated by the late archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. Among them was Richard Williamson, an execrable individual who is indeed an unrepentant Holocaust denier and anti-Semite. But the original excommunication had nothing to do with these bishops' views and neither does the removal of the excommunication.

Indeed one of the most significant obstacles to this welcome and sensible move was the reputation of Williamson, who hates the Vatican as much if not more than he dislikes Jews. He also, by the way, believes that The Sound of Music is a pornographic movie and that no self respecting person should ever watch it. So as repulsive as he may be, the man is also a buffoon.

The history of the issue dates back to Vatican II in the early 1960s. The council's recommendations were relatively mild but they were almost immediately purposely misinterpreted and abused so as to remove Latin from the Mass, ignore Papal teachings and attempt to transform the historic Church into a stew of ecumenical and subjective ideologies. This concerted liberal campaign did enormous damage, but a new generation of Catholics who rejected 1960s and '70s relativism and embraced a resurgent orthodoxy, empowered by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have now won the day. During the darkest times, however, up to a million traditional Catholics left the Church to worship with The Society of St. Pius X, founded by the French Archbishop Lefebvre.

The vast majority of those who joined were merely conservative Catholics who were understandably disturbed by many of the excesses performed, incorrectly, in the name of Vatican II. Others, though, and many within the leadership, embraced a much more reactionary agenda. Some spoke fondly of collaborationist Vichy France, supported the French National Front and not only rejected the Second Vatican Council but denied that the Church had the authority to call it. Which was, of course, a paradoxically Protestant approach. Most infamous of all these leaders was, and is, Richard Williamson, who recently gave an interview on Swedish TV in which he claimed that there were no Nazi gas chambers and that the “so-called Holocaust” was a myth.

It's partly to isolate this invincibly smug wing nut and his followers, a small minority within the Society of St. Pius X organization, that the Pope has expunged the excommunication: The main reason behind the action is the hope that hundreds of thousands of devout Catholics will return to the mainstream Church. Whether this will happen is open to question, but it's likely that if it does, Williamson, who would not be accepted as a bishop within the Church, would leave and form yet another sect. Yet to concentrate on this man is not only an absurd digression from the real debate but also plays directly into his hands, giving him and his rancid ideas a profile they simply do not deserve. He is, as it were, a legend in his own lunchtime.

It's partly to isolate this invincibly smug wing nut and his followers, a small minority within the Society of St. Pius X organization, that the Pope has expunged the excommunication: The main reason behind the action is the hope that hundreds of thousands of devout Catholics will return to the mainstream Church.

Numerous European cardinals and archbishops, including in France and Germany, have publicly welcomed the Papal announcement while simultaneously restating the self-evident fact that the Holocaust happened, that it was devilish, that Jesus, Mary and the Holy Family were Jewish and that to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-Christian.

It's not clear what else they can say or do. There are numerous Catholics who have dreadful beliefs, but they cannot be excommunicated merely for being wrong or bad. There are legions of alleged Catholics, even priests, who have taught fundamentally anti-Catholic theories and not been excommunicated; and just this week, for example, a number of senior American politicians who still claim to be part of the Church publicly encouraged eugenics and the killing of unborn children.

It's a complex and often disturbing dynamic, one addressed squarely by Pope John Paul the Great when he openly wept inside the great synagogue in Rome and spoke of the pain and suffering of the Jewish people and how a new bond of love and common fate had developed. All of his magnificent gestures toward the Jews were shared and supported by Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger.

That journey of testament to testament continues to this day, and to let it be halted by a lone, despised hater would be a terrible sin. Let him scream away at the songs of Julie Andrews while the real world, and the real Church, moves forward.



Michael Coren. "A loathsome Catholic — but still a Catholic." National Post, (Canada) January 28, 2009.

Reprinted with permission of Michael Coren and the National Post.


Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.


He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.

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