Lots is going on in Europe these days, and not all of it is a pleasure. Here’s the full version.

Last week (the week before last actually already), Pope Benedict XVI revoked the excommunication of four priests that are part of the Pius Brotherhood (the decree in Italian). I’ve seen a lot written about it, but the only piece I’ve found so far that did (or could?) actually put matters into context was on Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung‘s site.

I’d like to stress that my reporting on matters and my attempt at understanding them does not mean I agree with their conclusions. My opinion will be stated at the end of this post.

In 1970, Marcel Lefebvre, archbishop of Dakar, founded the reactionary Pius Brotherhood in response to the changes the Second Vatican Council was to bring about in the Catholic Church, most noticeably liturgy. His open resistance to what had been defined in the council’s constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium among other things made Pope Pius VI suspend Lebfevre’s position as a bishop in 1976.

Now, it’s vital that you understand that in Catholicism, a person becomes priest respectively bishop through ordination, which is considered a sacrament. Sacraments (baptism, communion / eucharist, confirmation, marriage, ordination, anointing of the sick, confession) cannot be undone, so once you’re baptized, you’re Christian (that view is shared by all Christian denominations), so, unlike among Protestants, a bishop or a priest cannot get “fired” from their status but removed from their position or have their position suspended.

Josef Ratzinger, then already a highly respected young professor of dogmatics, was the advisor on questions of dogmatics of the progressive Cardinal Frings (Cologne) to Vaticanum II. In contrast to what many pieces I’ve seen written suggest by simply assuming that he secretly opposed the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council, Ratzinger was active (and influential) in the making of the declarations. People that were his students around that time told me that, despite being labelled conservative now, his interpretations were refreshing and progressive then, just that his scholarly approach made him base everything on the scriptures as opposed to a spiritually tinted gut feeling that is not uncommon these days among secular Europeans.

In 1988, Lefebvre ordained four of the priests in his brotherhood as bishops without Papal consent; this violation of constitutionalised ecclestical hierarchy resulted in him and the priests getting excommunicated by Pope John Paul II. Among those priests was the now notorious Richard Williamson, who had stated in an interview for Swedish TV held in German that he did not believe that Jews were killed in the gas-chambers and that only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had been murdered. So, while he had not denied the Holocaust in its entirety, he had diminished it. Either qualifies as a criminal offence in Germany, so now his case has become a matter of investigation for German public prosecutors. The Vatican immediately expressed its outrage over and disapproval of those statements. Pope Benedict XVI explicitly codemned all kinds of Holocaust denial and diminishing.

So what about that revokation of that excommunication anyway?

I’ve been trying to get a few inside sources, but all we can tell for now is highly speculative. Benedict’s motivation definitely has not been, as many blog posts insinuate, sympathy with Holocaust deniers. Such suggestions are frankly rather insulting and display a great deal of ignorance towards Benedict’s history of Christian – Jewish dialogue already under his predecessor.
The FAZ piece linked to above suggests he wanted to fix broken hierarchies within the Church, but that, too, is rather speculative.
An early commentary suggested that Benedict had acted up to the one of the highest of Christian ideals, mercy. Christianity, if you go all the way, requires you to have mercy with everybody even if you disagree with them or don’t have forgiveness for them. This, while also speculative, appears to be the most convincing explanation to me as it reflects Benedict’s “track record” of sticking to Christian teaching even if it doesn’t earn him the popular vote. And I think that all those Orthodox Jews that state that Judaism shouldn’t adapt to “feel good” popularism can relate to that way of thinking. It appears that Benedict is trying to prevent a larger rift, a schism between Orthodox and “feel good” reformatory forces within the Church by pointing out the core values of Christianity. And in a “feel good”, “religion is a social club”, and “I need a church for a nice wedding location” society, this is a smack into the face of many that are brought to see their complacency as hypocrisy, religiously speaking.

The revocation of the excommunication is tied to certain conditions, e.g. the priests acknowledging the role of the Pope and the consensus of Vaticanum II. Alas, I haven’t found many news sources pointing this out. So much for journalistic honesty.

At this point, we cannot even claim that Benedict knew about Williamson’s statements, afterall a pope is not omniscient and is not believed to be omniscient.

Will we ever know more? Yes, we will. Not necessarily during my lifetime or yours, but any documents – private, inofficial, and official – will go into the Vatican archives (they’re not secret, they’re just called such as in “secretary”; any scholar with references may access them – of course they cannot have any tourist flipping through the old parchments). The archivists are still working on organizing much older documents, so public release might still take a while.

The public outcry over Benedict’s decision was a loud one. The German Episcopal Council expressed their disapproval, the Israeli rabbinate respectively the minister for religious matters, Yizchak Cohen, threatened to severe ties with the Vatican, and Charlotte Knobloch, head of the German Jewish Council, declared the dialogue between the council and the Church was off. Johannes Gerster, president of the German-Israeli-Society and head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Israel, lamented the Vatican’s lack of sensitivity, but stated he did not expect this issue to have any lasting effects on Israeli-Vatican relationships. The chief rabbi of Italy though expressed his contentment about the Pope’s statement of clarification condemning Holocaust denial.

Now, Charlotte Knobloch refused to partake in the German Federal Parliament’s session on Holocaust Remembrance Day. She’d disapproved of the survivors being placed in the visitors’ ranks and felt they hadn’t been given due respect. The news bits concerning this included confusing pieces of information, but as far as I could see, the parliament’s protocol does not admit non-members of parliament or the government as speakers, so it had just never been a matter of consideration. Anyhow, Knobloch and the chair of parliament have since been communicating and from what I hear, they reconciled.

Also, there’s been some criticism of the Pope’s recent choice of a conservative bishop for the Austrian diocesis of Linz. Wagner, the bishop to be, had made a few controversial statements in the past that – I’d have to feign surprise here – are pretty much in line with what you get to read by many Orthodox rabbis on the respective subjects. Cheap polemics is not in place here unless one cares to debate those issues with Orthodox Judaism as well.

Now, for my opinion: I can understand why Benedict XVI may have revoked those priests’ excommunication. It’s an inner-ecclesiastical matter that goes in line with his faith. I do see the insensitivity of the decision. I do, however, also see that many journalists, pseudo-journalists and wannabe-social analysts sprang to the occasion and declared their views without even trying to understand what was going on, shifting the focus onto a different issue. Rightfully, there was criticism of the Vatican’s decision based on spotlighting that issue. Still, it was not the Vatican’s motivation to rehabilitate a Holocaust denier. To claim so is not just an incorrect piece of information; it’s downright dishonest. Criticism is in place. Dishonesty is not. What this whole issue has also shown me is that Judaism urgently needs scholars again educated in other religions that do find a public platform without getting accused of being closet heretics or potential proselytizers. We used to have those scholars in Sholem Ben-Chorin and Pinchas Lapide. A lot of misunderstandings can be avoided through mutual understanding. Understanding does not inevitably mean agreement.
The Vatican’s insensitivity has definitely been a great source of embarrassment, but so has been the lack of knowledge that became apparent in many opinion pieces on the matter.

Judaism and Catholicism (rather: mainstream Christianity in general) share a lot of values and norms that define our Western societies to a large extent. We both are facing changes in society’s norms and values, and we’d be better off facing them together. Not as an undistinguishable mishmash, but each in their own right and identity, but with open dialogue and serious attempts at mutual understanding. This will not inevitably lead to mixed dancing.

Now, that we’ve both greatly embarrassed ourselves, can we go and get drunk together? I promise not to ask Benedict for a dance.

About the author



  • … to say nothing of the continued implosion of AGWT (Anthropocentic Global Warming Theory).

    This just in:
    NASA warming scientist James Hansen, one of former Vice President Al Gore’s closest allies in the promotion of man-made global warming fears, is being publicly rebuked by his former supervisor at NASA.

    Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon, the former supervisor of James Hansen, NASA’s vocal man-made global warming fears soothsayer, has now publicly declared himself a skeptic and declared that Hansen “embarrassed NASA” with his alarming climate claims and said Hansen was “was never muzzled.” Theon joins the rapidly growing ranks of international scientists abandoning the promotion of anthropogenic global warming fears.

    One link of many to this story:

  • Oh, I don’t know Froylein. You speculate that Benedict’s motivation is an anti-populist appeal to orthodoxy — as a way to prevent the alienation of reactionaries by addressing some hypothetical schism between them and reformers whose motivation is simply to “feel good”. I’m sorry, but I can’t find the meaning of what you are trying to say here. How many reactionaries? Mel Gibson? Are there others, whose numbers, while surely not great enough to make any appeal to them “populist”, hardly seem great enough to cause a rift in Catholicism. I’m reasonably sure many if not most American Catholics feel that the pontiff cannot mandate absolute intellectual agreement among all of them with the decisions of Rome, and yet just because larger numbers are comfortable with not reinstating the prayer for the conversion of the Jews or canonizing Pius XII, they are the forces to be reckoned with? That doesn’t make any sense at all and reinforces the perception of the church as a political institution alone rather than one that in good-faith seeks sound intellectual justifications for its actions and pronouncements.

    This is silly of you to defend a series of obviously reactionary impulses on Benedict’s part that one can find no reason for other than as an interest in his part in being a reactionary for its own sake. Or are you just trying to create the “feel good” moment of the year between anti-progressive Catholics and anti-progressive Jews? 😉

  • MUL, you’ve just proved you know little about the conflicting tendencies within Catholicism. Polish Catholicism, with tens of millions of adherents, is generally more conservative and qualifies as reactionary (so does Italian, Spanish and Portoguese Catholicism). Many American Catholics would be considered conservative by Central European standards, where Catholics generally are secular / traditional. And look up the specifics on that Good Friday prayer and the status of Pius XII; his beatification has been postponed by Benedict XVI. False claims are hardly the basis for a conversation.

  • That’s fine that you want to proclaim yourself more knowledgeable of the inner workings of Catholicism than me. I’ll never claim otherwise. But your argument only makes sense if these numbers, large as you claim they are, are great enough to cause a rift within the religion. If they were previously alienated from the church because of its supposed liberalism pre-Ratzinger, that’s one thing. Are you really sure that’s a point you would argue, though? Are you really prepared to assert that his interest in appealing to them is what prompted both his reinstitution of the Tridentine Mass including the line about converting the Jews “from darkness” and the efforts to canonize Pius XII? If that’s the case, so be it. And may it so be the case that your argument now sounds more populist than before. Otherwise, you may proclaim all you claim to know about Catholicism, but your argument doesn’t make any sense. At least, not yet.

    And regardless of all that, I still feel these were bad decisions on his part. In that truthy, gut-level, conservative/traditional, political sense of mine. I don’t see how protecting the trappings of an institution is reflective of a more conservative inclination than protecting the values (of inclusiveness to outsiders and the oppressed over the sinner and the leaders of institutions) that it says it was built on. Sometimes the preservation of institutional norms is its own end, and is separate from conservatism. Was the protection of pedophile priests a conservative or institutionalist impulse? You tell me.

  • First of all, the evaluation that re-permitting (not re-instituting) the Tridentine rite was to appeal to the more conservative forces is not only my assertion but that of any person only slightly knowledgeable of Catholicism I’ve spoken to / read published, part of which Vatican insiders.

    Secondly, unlike his predecessor, Benedict has not only emphasized but ordered that pedophile priests must subject themselves to the laws and courts of the countries they live in.

    John Paul II was highly conservative BTW, just that he had a more charming appeal and a better take on presenting himself than Benedict XVI, but theologically he wasn’t liberal.

    Again, look up the specifics on the Good Friday prayer and the status of Pius XII.

  • Although I’m not able to find the specific versions of the Pius XII controversy that you say are favorable to Ratzinger, my understanding is that the 1962 Good Friday prayer now reads as follows:

    Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. (Let us pray. Kneel. Rise.) Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

    Now, official Jewish reaction was divided between the ADL and the AJC, who took more concerned versus conciliatory stances respectively. Comparisons have been made to the Birkat ha-Minim, although with the context that Jews never existed in great enough numbers relative to Catholics to oppress them or even for us to know whether they would have oppressed them, nor were they inculcated into the kind of anti-Jewish attitudes that my parents knew to be common among Catholics growing up in America and expressed openly around the time of Easter. Perhaps the new version is more like a watered-down prayer for the leaders of the country, to grant them wisdom and yada yada yada, but the supercessionism is undeniable. That’s the formal term. I think the more descriptive term is “spiritual superiority”.

    The other retort among religious conservatives who defend the inclusion of inherently antagonistic proclamations among either or both faiths, is the Aleynu, whose lines in question I have always found to be anachronistic and unnecessary, if not silly. In political terms, we would call them “jingoistic”. Judaism, however, does have the distinction of not seeking conversion nor of being comfortable with condemning broad sections of humanity to damnation because of lack of adherence to a rather arbitrary article of faith.

  • All religions believe themselves to be the true one. That is only offensive to people unfamilar with religions.

    Pius XII has not been beatified yet at Ratzinger’s decision. Without beatification, there cannot be a process of canonization.

    The Aleinu is reflective of the consistent thought in Jewish teaching that chosenness doesn’t equal to innate greatness but a special bond that comes with special responsibilities.

    And when did you convert? Not too long ago, you professed not to be Jewish when Alex asked.

  • “All religions believe themselves to be the true one. That is only offensive to people unfamilar with religions.”

    First off, I’m not sure that I agree with this statement. Do they all profess to have a monopoly on truth to a similar degree? Do they all hold to the same sense of moral certainty? Eastern religions included?

    Further, call me crazy, but I’m not sure that even a monopoly on truth is the same thing as the sense of superiority one gets from consigning people to fire and brimstone and the like, or various other forms of physical and mental torture for all eternity. That’s a little bit of a more precious thing than just saying, “I’ve got the monopoly on truth!” wouldn’t you say? A little special, extra twist to subtly encourage your agreement with them! And a coercive one.

    “And when did you convert? Not too long ago, you professed not to be Jewish when Alex asked.”

    It is offensive to me that you would so assertively misremember Alex’s sad episode in this way. I said nothing of the sort. I professed nothing of the sort. You are taking Alex’s allegations (of which he had no evidence) and remembering them as if I professed to them. Feel free to look up the situation in question. Ck’s videotaped response was that it didn’t matter.

    My grandparents were born in the states and their parents were born in various parts of Eastern Europe… Poland, Russia, Byelorussian and the Baltics… back then all known as the Pale of Settlement. In elementary school we were given an assignment of looking into our genealogical history. I called up my grandfather and he went into a detail that included the branches that Hitler had apparently got a hold of. My parents were conservative and I grew up in this tradition, although some of my many cousins on my father’s side attended a modern Orthodox Jewish day school, as did I for a year. I received a prety standard Bar Mitzvah, although the particular portion I don’t recall at the moment. I visited Israel the summer of my first year of college and stayed with relatives south of Haifa for a few weeks. The girls I date are at least half the time Jewish, including one I was seeing for more than a year who was more traditional (a more sentimental category than those built on sectarian definitions, and one I also prefer) and who was interested in our getting married. She was and still is (I presume) a wonderful cook and kept kosher in the house — only dates Jews and saw no reason for me to prove I was Jewish. I still don’t have much trouble reciting the Birkat haMazon and usually did after the meals we would invite people over to following services on Friday nights.

    Now, does that settle it or do I need to provide the mohel’s certification and a picture revealing anatomical proof of purchase? My preference is this should end all discussion on the matter but sometimes I’m not sure what consitutes an adequete burden of proof as required by either you or Alex. I’m also not certain how it pertains to the actual discussion on Ratzinger’s guidance of the church and treatment of Williamson.

    (Although it’s nice to know that we agree on the quality of Dalia’s reporting ;-))

  • BTW – The girlfriend I just told you about was introduced to me (and vice versa) through a good friend of mine while he was a rabbinical student at JTS. His wife met her while they were in Israel. We are good friends who met in college. He is now a rabbi at a congregation on Long Island. He is orthodox.

  • Rest assured, Eastern religions and philosophies do also believe in condemnation of those not adhering to their truths, just that in their case it’s reincarnation on an inferior level, resulting in a longer way into nirvana. The Catholic Church, BTW, has ditched the teaching of hell.

    And while it doesn’t actually matter what faith you adhere to (and circumcision is not proof that anybody’s Jewish), your answer back then suggested you weren’t, at the very least in the affiliated sense. I was wondering as your takes on theology are not standard Jewish ones (as in Orthodox or Conservative).

  • I forgot to add something: My mother has a cousin whose two sons are also rabbis. Yes, they were born Jewish. As was their mother. As was her mother. Which makes my mom Jewish. My mother used to work for the U.S. government and the identifying documents in her possession that she showed me one time indicated her religion to be: Jewish. I remember being surprised that the U.S. government would care to document such details, but she was always pretty proud of being Jewish – and yet, like me, understood when and how it was relevant and when and how it was not. I guess this was in the days before the internet.

  • I’m not sure I know all that much more about official/doctrinal theology than any standard congregant, but I suppose my take on theological or spiritual matters are probably more creative and open-ended, if hopefully not too incoherent to someone for whom authoritativeness is an issue. And while it’s pretty technical to point out that circumcision alone doesn’t guarantee that one is Jewish, it would probably take a pretty negligent mohel to perform one without ruling out contrary assumptions. I feel safe in assuming that my mitochondrial DNA conforms to all the technical extrapolations that standard assumptions of Judaism require. And I don’t see how my answers to Alex (or perhaps lack thereof) indicated anything of the sort. They indicated that it didn’t matter. They still do. It still doesn’t.

  • Considering that not only mohels carry out circumcisions but also imams as well as doctors and that circumcision used to be standard procedure in the US for a while, it pretty much is evidence of nothing at all.

  • Barking dogs and such, the Chinese are so wise. Is this like a scene from Europa Europa? I just felt like divulging extensive details out of how appalled I was that you took Alex’s dialogue to indicate something that it couldn’t have. And it gave us something to talk about. Silence or even offense at being persistently interrogated and accused of things doesn’t indicate an agreement or disagreement one way or another with the accusations, does it? I take this attitude from Western notions of liberty and propriety, and the fact that religion among civilized nations is generally considered a personal matter. Ck seemed to agree, no?

    But as for theology more generally, my own opinions are probably more influenced by Hume, and by the pragmatists. I like The Metaphysical Club, by Menand. Absolute certainty breeds a tendency toward violence. Influential stream of American thought that was once popular and in longstanding need of a thorough revival that now seems iminent, thankfully.

  • “Considering that not only mohels carry out circumcisions but also imams as well as doctors and that circumcision used to be standard procedure in the US for a while, it pretty much is evidence of nothing at all.”

    You’re being pretty silly here, froylein, seeing as how I had proceeded to address what the mohel did at the time – with observers at witnesses at the bris (and pictures thereof), not how there is now strictly anatomical evidence today of what the mohel did then. Unless you are more obsessed with my penis per se than with the matter of how mohels make the decision to circumsize. I can’t help with that. ;-(

  • You weren’t exactly silent, but evasive, which gave the impression (not only to me I might add) that you were embarrassed.

  • One thing for sure, please keep your penis covered while commenting. I know a few mohels (Chasidishe), and they’ll circumcise any boy brought to them.

  • “You weren’t exactly silent, but evasive, which gave the impression (not only to me I might add) that you were embarrassed.”

    Embarrassed about being Jewish? Absolutely not. Embarrassed about being thought not to be Jewish? I guess that’s an interesting possibility, and one you might try considering. Embarrassed about the fact that someone would stoop to such low and ridiculous tactics to reveal and prove nothing of import to the discussion? That’s probably closer to the case. Embarrassed about what would constitute an adequate argument in the mind of someone who identifies as a sensient human? That’s probably as close as it gets.

    Some things offend me because of how incredibly stupid they are. That’s about as close as I come to being offended by anything. I worry about the human species when it includes the possibility for affiliation by individuals who don’t have much more than a neanderthal’s capacity for reason.

    “One thing for sure, please keep your penis covered while commenting. I know a few mohels (Chasidishe), and they’ll circumcise any boy brought to them.”

    Does this mean you still doubt that I am cirumcised? 😉 (It’s usually not possible to do it twice).

  • Sometimes a straight answer is the best to avoid suggestions. And in the context of your own responses, not in the big picture though, I could understand why Alex asked.

    MUL, really now, I’m not particularly interested in familiarzing myself with your genitalia. I’m not a urologist.

  • “MUL, really now, I’m not particularly interested in familiarzing myself with your genitalia. I’m not a urologist.”

    That’s good to know, because my mohel probably wouldn’t let you near my penis! ;-D

    Ok, I’ll stop. Sorry! lol. (Couldn’t resist).

    Seriously though, the rest of the conversation was interesting. I’ll be interested to see how rest of the details of the Williamson case play out, as well as those related to the approach the church is taking generally. Thanks for posting this.

  • Holy crap. You duck out for a few hours, and all, uh, hell breaks loose.

    This is a public relations disaster for the church. Make that a PR problem for the church, and a disaster for the pope, who at least on these shores is very much a man alone on an island.

    And public relations is important– perceptions matter, and it’s the Vatican’s responsibility to make decisions like this, given the sensitivities involved, in a very clearly-explained manner. That didn’t happen.

    After Mass this morning, I headed to the rectory to peruse the priests’ NY Times and sneak a few donuts, and ran into our pastor, who put the following in the bulletin under the headline, “Catholic Bishop Denies Holocaust”:

    “Recently it was reported that the Pope lifted the excommunication of schismatic bishop Williamson, who among other things stated that the number of Jews killed in the concentration camps is highly exaggerated and that there were no gas chambers. These are unacceptable words. To say it more bluntly I quote Cardinal Kasper who wrote: ‘to deny the Holocaust is stupid and is a position that has nothing to do with the Catholic Church.’ In addition, Pope Benedict in his weekly audience said: ‘the Holocaust should be a warning for all against forgetting, denial and reductionism. I renew with affection the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our Jewish brothers. I hope the memory of the Shoah will induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of hate when it conquers the hearts of men.'”

    Fr. Jack’s pretty, uh, po’d at the moment and has been on the phone trying to get the Cardinal Archbishop to issue a statement.

    Thanks, Holy Father. We need this like a hole in the head.

  • As to the substance: the excommunications are removed, but the men have not been admitted to ministry, i.e. can’t say Mass or perform priestly functions. So it remains to be seen what quid pro quo Benedict gets out of his display of generosity.

    You can be a wife beater, a murderer, an idiot and, yes, a Holocaust denier, and that won’t get you excommunicated. However, the issue with Williamson is whether he accepts Vatican II doctrines, one of which revises church teaching on Jews and Judaism. Holocaust-minimizing, with the rest of his anti-modernism, suggests he may not. And if not, this controversy– pending further developments– suggests an unacceptable giving-in and yielding of papal authority. If the far-righties can cross the pope about Jews and get away with it, why can’t the “progressives” reject the rules on abortion, etc.?

    Even very conservative US Catholics (e.g. George Weigel) are all over Benedict about this.

    The pope’s an arch-theologian, a vaunted explainer. At the end of the day, he’d better have an outcome in which these extremists publicly accept all relevant Vatican II doctrines.

    I know all of our Jewish pals here are rooting for the Pope to assert his authority and come down on these turkeys like a ton of bricks.

  • froylein, you just kinda hang out at the rectory, ask if you can check your e-mail at the office, then slip into the kitchen, where the Boston Globe and Sunday Times are on the table, along with a box of donuts and a pot of coffee. The crullers are Fr. Jack’s, but the rest are fair game.

    (Fr. also had some unkind words about Germans and tact, which I forebear from repeating.)

  • I don’t need the Pope to come down on anybody like a ton of bricks. I’d like him to explain that this was an unintentional oversight or something to that effect. I need to know this was an error or poor judgement, because if the alternative is that he did what he did knowingly, then it seems that one of the most heinous beliefs out there regarding Jews is acceptable to the Church. That is troubling, not that there is anything I or any other Jewish person can do about it, and it is doubly troubling because of the ongoing debate WWWII’s Pope’s actions.

  • Fr. Jack thinks he should just admit it was a mistake, but I’m not sure how that would work. Does that mean you re-excommunicate them? I think the best approach is to say that all Catholics, including obviously clergy, are expected to acknowledge and obey all church teaching, including Nostra Aetate.

    They’ll probably get around to doing something like that, maybe sooner rather than later, but in the meantime the damage has been done.

  • The Pope already stated something to that effect two or three days ago, but it didn’t make the news in the US (just as little as his preconditions re: lifting the excommunication).

  • Yeah, the way this thing was handled… The story was out for several days (at least here) before the pope spoke of it directly.

  • Over here, L’Osservatore Romano had the Vatican’s response out within minutes after Williamson’s claims became known, so they were cited on mainstream media, too.

  • Super Bowl? No clue. But there’s a party drink we call Bowle, which consists out of fruit soaked in some spirit, juice / soda and champagne.

  • A group of criminals (Steelers) are playing Princes of the Church (Cardinals).

  • The other possibility is that Nostra Aetate and other parts of Vatican II never penetrated very deeply in world Catholicism, and are destined to be Holocaust-era blips in the otherwise unbroken history of official anti-Jewish dogma and sentiment.

  • Well, time will tell, but I don’t know of anyone who has the slightest interest in returning to Williamson-style, pre-1950s theology (the Latin Mass, etc.). In an church that is growing less Eurocentric, arguments over the Hitler period and European history generally have less and less interest for most Catholics, including American ones.

  • I dare say, since more than 99.99% of all Catholic theologians and clergy welcomed Vaticanum II, its acceptance is pretty high compared to, let’s say, the contents of several encyclicals.

    BTW, any non-Jewish religion is theologically anti-Jewish. The Pilgrim Fathers were theologically and socially anti-Jewish, the founding fathers of the USA considered only white Protestants of English background humans. Obviously, that view has changed in the US, just as the awareness of anti-Judaistic theologies potentially leading (and having led) to anti-Semitism among the common people has risen among Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism. Those extremists that believe all Jews need to be disunited for Jesus to return are ironically enough welcomed with arms wide open in Israel.

  • Greg, FYI, my father’s Catholic and studied at the Gregoriana, the Catholic elite faculty in the Vatican, which one cannot enrol at but only get invited to.

    That aside, since this is a matter of concern for the Jewish community, it is vital that it’s understood what is going on. Many blog posts I’ve seen on the topic were unfortunately filled with false information, weird links and way-off allegations. Spewing hate speech and paranoid rants at each other won’t get anybody anywhere.

  • Oh, just saw it’s the clueless and hateful Greg alias Steve alias monosyllabic-name-of-your-choice.

    We have no particular need nor desire for your contributions here.

  • I think early US history is rather more complicated, froylein. Maryland, for example, was founded by Anglo-Catholic Lord Baltimore in 1634.

    I remember as a kid being taken on a school trip to Touro Synagogue, founded in 1763 in Newport, RI. I remember vaguely thinking that Jews had all come to America in the 20th century, so the visit was quite an eye-opener.

    Of course, I now see it as having been a vapid exercise in interfaith dialogue.

    Greg, we can hope, but the jury is still out.

  • Tom, founding fathers refers to a specific group of men. 😉 Maybe I should have capitalized the term.

  • Adam, since Mr Wilders stands for alleged values that I deem non-democratic, pre-Enlightment, overall unbalanced, and populistic, he’s among the last persons I’m interested in giving a platform.

    Tom, indeed, they were a bunch extraordinaire.

  • Adam, did you bother reading other posts on the front page including the guest post about Wilders?


  • “BTW, any non-Jewish religion is theologically anti-Jewish. The Pilgrim Fathers were theologically and socially anti-Jewish, the founding fathers of the USA considered only white Protestants of English background humans. Obviously, that view has changed in the US, just as the awareness of anti-Judaistic theologies potentially leading (and having led) to anti-Semitism among the common people has risen among Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism. Those extremists that believe all Jews need to be disunited for Jesus to return are ironically enough welcomed with arms wide open in Israel.”


    I can’t speak for the Puritans specifically, but the U.S. was founded by a rather philo-Semitic bunch, generally, and in contrast to the norm in Europe. There were differences, of course, and Albion’s Seed does a tremendous job outlining the four British cultural pathways that made up early American immigration, distinguishing New Englanders from William Penn’s colonists, the Southerners and those who went to Kentucky and made up the “Highlanders”. Penn’s “Sylvania” was founded on the highly novel concept of religious tolerance for all, as was Rhode Island, if I’m not mistaken. But the New Englanders who had originally provided refuge were a little bit more provinicial, I’m sorry to say Tom. The Massachusetts delegation to the constitutional convention actually protested the clause against foregoing a religious “test” for office!

    But the point being that among the founders, philo-semitism was the norm – and the broader nation, in viewing itself as the “New Israel” drew inspiration from the old Israel rather than contempt for it.

  • The Pope wanted a group of schismatics back in the Church so as to prevent further schism. Schisms can start small and get big. Look what happened to what used to be a small group of Jews who thought a carpenter from the Galil was Moschiach. Snowballs rolling downhill, etc.

    What Benedict did does not surprise me in the least, and any Jew who thinks that Jewish feelings will trump the need of the church to put heretics back in line before they consecrate too many bishops and set up a papacy in, say, Avignon, is dreaming.

    To a Catholic, especially the Pope, the Church will always come before everything else. We should stop being surprised. Now that Williamson is “back in the fold” he will have to shut up when Benedict tells him to.

    As for Widlers, froylein, you’re missing the point. His views are not important. What is important is that he is being muzzled because people are afraid that he’s going to offend the Muslims and they may riot. It’s far, plain and simple. Regardless of whatever else Wilders may or may not believe, and whether or not you would consider having tea with him, this European penchant for muzzling people whose opinions are unpopular is very disturbing. Soon, it will be illegal to say anything the Muslims deem to be an insult. is that really what you want?

    Where is Voltaire when you need him?

  • Yeah, Ephraim– if the Vatican had a do-over, it would’ve given that crank Henry VIII have his divorce, and mollified Luther while that was still possible.

  • MUL, that was the consensus of all my American history, politics & literature profs as well as the reading material we had. It goes in line with Puritan theology, too (which is greatly marked by the concept of new “chosenness”). Penn, in contrast to that, was a Quaker and founded Pennsylvania as Quakers were being discriminated against in the Puritan colonies (which went as far as getting the mark of Cain tattooed onto their foreheads). The period of history we’re talking about is that of the “Jewish Emancipation” resp. “Jewish Enlightment”, when Jews in Europe (Central Europe mostly) experienced unprecedented liberties (not that life was awesome, but conditions had improved).

    Ephraim, I think somebody who thinks we need to report about Wilders for whatever is happening to him in response to his behaviour, at that suggesting he was of best Jewish interests, is missing a few points of history.

  • BTW, just recalled that on a US American teachers’ resource site, I found a text comparing Puritan and American settlers. I copied it to my old HD; I’ll see if I can retrieve it, but it summarized what I also found in history books (of American origin, lest somebody starts whining) that Quakers practised religious tolerance (having been subject to religious discrimination themselves plus being profoundly pacifist as per their theology) whereas Puritans would use force to ensure that there were no non-Puritans on their territories, and everybody who wanted to reside in their midst had to belong to their faith, attend their Sunday services and abide by their social norms.

  • Missing the sarcasm, Tom. It seems that you think Benedict should not have rescinded the excommunication. I don’t get the impression that Benedict has made any concessions whatsoever to their theological positions as would have been necessary to co-opt Henry and Luther; on the contrary, now that they are un-excommunicated they are back under Church authority where Benedict can control them, and Benedict, so far as I can tell, has not given them too much of a quid-pro-quo. But, I’m not a Catholic, so perhaps I’m missing something. A bone-headed move, I absolutely agree. It just does not surprise me too much, although I am sure that many good Catholics, yourself included, are hurt and baffled by it. But, I rather feel the same way sometimes when Ovadia Yosef, or someone in a similar position, unburdens himself of one of his gems of “wisdom”, so I feel your pain.

    Froylein, I don’t think Wilders is “good for the Jews”, and that is not my point. My argument is that once the government has the power to deny free speech to someone whose views it dislikes, the only thing that matters is who the government is, not what truth is. Holland is obviously afraid that Wilders is going to cause the Muslims to go apeshit and start rampaging through the streets. So they pre-emptively silence people because they are afraid of the Muslims. There is simply no other explanation for this. If they were being fair, any imam who calls Jews apes and pigs would similarly be on trial. But of course that does not happen. So this is clearly dhimmi boot-licking. You would think that the government would not punish somebody who says “You know, I don’t think Islam is compatible with Western secular deocracy” but rather punish the people who riot when they are “offended”. You know, the people who actually commit crimes.

    It is obvious that the thought police are still alive and well in Europe and that they are dancing to a tune written in Riyadh. You guys had better do something quick before you can’t say anything at all.

    Like I said, where’s Voltaire when you really need him?

  • I guess what I’d then be curious to know is whether the Puritans were more or less influential than the Quakers (or equally so), and if so, when the influence of either started to take hold or overtake the other. It sounds like we’re in agreement about each tradition representing somewhat influential, if conflicting streams that have both been thoroughly incorporated into the American consciousness — so much so that most Americans wouldn’t even consciously think to recognize it.

    As an American who is familiar with both areas of the country where the two settled, the dichotomy that still exists today is quite evident to me and I am grateful that a very detailed and clear description of its provenance (along with other strong and strange quirks of American culture) was provided upon reading the description of David Hackett Fischer’s book.

  • Ephraim, I think you’re absolutely right on the substance, and I certainly understand Benedict’s motivations– he likely has contempt for these ‘bishops’ (if only because they’re disobedient), but wants to keep their followers in the fold. Hard to disagree with that. And if these guys are indeed ‘conservative’ and ‘traditional’, they will have to toe the line going forward.

    But you have to take care in how these things are articulated, given the sensitivities involved. Benedict put interfaith relations at risk in the way this was handled. I can’t see JPII bringing this sort of mess on himself.

    Oh, well. You just roll your eyes at yet another self-inflicted wound, a specialty, unfortunately, of the RCC.

  • Ephraim, my point was not to diminish Wilders’ freeddom of speech (which doesn’t cover freedom of libel here; a lot of his claims and those of his supporters are painfully familiar from past propaganda), byt to explain to Adam, who randomly chose a post written by me to drop the above lines, why I wasn’t willing to give Wilders anymore of a platform than he’d already been given. That aside, Europe does address issues with Muslim immigrants; Germany has imprisoned several hate preachers, as they’re called here, respectively extradited several to Turkey.

  • If a private citizen was suing Wilders for libel, which, while perhaps defined differently in various places is illegal everywhere, that would be one thing.

    But as far as I can tell from this side of the pond, the government is putting him on trial for hate speech. That’s a whole different ball game.

    If this is over his film “Fitna”, I don’t see how it is libelous to quotes passages in the Koran that advocate making war on the infidels while showing images of Muslims doing ecxactly that. So fas as I know, “Fitna” contains no commentary from Wilders, it’s all quotes from the Koran. Hard to call that libelous.

  • Statements by him (Fitna aside) that became public here would qualify as hate speech / demagoguery. If the Netherlands are similar to Germany in that regard (they might well be), it could easily be a criminal offence.

  • That’s precisely my point.

    These “hate speech” laws are being used to stifle dissent. They should all be abolished.

    The idea that someone can say “I thnk Islam is bad” and can get hauled up on charges while Jews are assaulted and even killed and the authorities claim it’s not a hate crime just shows how bad things have gotten.

    If giving a Nazi the right to speak will preserve my right to speak, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

    Holland is simply knuckling under to threats of Muslim violence. It is beyond shameful.

    It is a plain and obvious fact that Muslims perpetrate violence against non-Muslims and proudly proclaim they do so in the name of their religion. They preach that Islam will conquer the West. They attack Jews in the streets with impunity and firebomb synagoges. They murder their own sisters and daughters if they have besmirched their “honor”. All this is done in the name of Islam.

    And Wilders is to be punished for pointing out that these things have no place in Europe and that the religion that preaches them might not be compatible with European cuilture? That’s like saying that water is wet.

    Only in an insane asylum could someone get punished for pointing out what is obvious to anyone with sense.

  • Ephraim, what bothers me is that the pseudo-liberal, traditionally leftist media are as unbalanced as it gets in such matter over here. There are only a handful of newspapers in this world that know the trade and the responsibility of good journalism.

  • It seems increasingly short-sighted to rail at the influence of one end of a political spectrum on a continent’s media, when an establishment whose influence was complicit in an furthering an even more nefarious history is becoming increasingly open to the nutty fringe on the other side.

    Ephraim’s right. The anti-speech codes themselves are another part of the problem (except for perhaps in Germany where the symbolic suppression of pro-Holocaust speech seems an appropriate, if increasingly merely symbolic gesture). And Hitchens’ piece only makes me more sympathetic and surprisngly open to the atheists — on strictly political grounds. The only hope for the world as your nutters on both right and left continue bumbling their way to their precious apocalypse remains the United States. Not surprising given its status as one of the few Western countries capable of turning the Muslisms from an unassimilable fanaticism that persists for generations, and perhaps indefinitely, in Europe.

  • Your comment is a complete non-sequitur, froylein. What do you mean by it? That what I see reported in the newspapers about Islamazoids going batshit at the drop of a hat is not actually happening?

    Wilders is being prosecuted by his own government under “hate speech” laws that are, in and of themselves, nothing more or less than censorship. Is this or is this not a fact?

  • He’s being prosecuted on grounds of breaking the law. “Hate speech” laws do not prohibit criticism of groups but spreading false information in order to discriminate or encourage / justify violence against them.

    MUL, have I blamed it all on the media? No. Do I see a rising tendency of poor quality journalism deeming itself intellectually progressive? Yes. Would I agree with my brother that many of those unqualified for “proper” jobs still take a chance at journalism? Alas, I would.

  • How is pointing out the plain and obvious fact that certain tenets of Islam are incompatible with Western pluralism and that political Islam seeks to dominate non-Muslims false information? It is true.

    I don’t believe that Wilders has advocated that Muslims should be physically attacked. He has said that Islam is incompatible with Duth democracy and that Muslims living in Holland should assimilate into Dutch society, even if that requires giving up certain Islamic practices and beliefs. You can call that arrogant if you like. But I don’t believe he has called for anyone to be attacked. The Muslims have, however, and they do it all the time.

    And, like I said, libel laws are already in place so an aggrieved person (not the government) can sue someone for libel if he wants to.

    But you are right: what Wilders did may very well have been against the law. That is precisely why those laws must be abolished.

    Or we can do this: when the laws are fairly enforced across the board and the government prosecutes Muslims for spreading hate speech against non-Muslims by quoting their Koran, which is, just as Wilders says, full of hatred and contempt for non-Muslims and calls for jihad against them, I will revise my opinion of European hate speech law.

    Until then, color me skeptical.