Williamson Affair

Fr. Peter Daly

Parish Diary

February 10, 2009


            Thank God for the goodness of people like Rabbi Arnold Saltzman.

            I saw the Rabbi at a conference held at our parish just a few days after the Vatican announced the lifting of the excommunication of Richard Williamson, one of four men ordained as bishops by now deceased schismatic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

            I told Rabbi Saltzman how deeply pained and embarrassed I was by the views held by this man. I told him that Williamson’s views were not mine or the views of most Catholics.  

            Williamson denies the Holocaust. He denies that Jews were gassed by the Nazis. He says what the whole world knows to be false, that the Holocaust did not happen.

            The Rabbi said graciously, “I also believe in forgiveness.” Then he added, “The statements of a deranged individual will not undo the good work that has been done over the last 20 to 30 years.”

            Not for one minute do I believe that the Pope or the Vatican agree with Williamson on the holocaust and many other matters. The Vatican claimed afterwards that they had been unaware of Williamson’s statements.

            But somebody at the Vatican dropped the ball. Williamson views were no secret. He spews them forth on his blog. Recordings of his speeches are available on the internet. All they had to do at the Vatican was “Google” him.

            The same day that the excommunication was lifted, Williamson gave an interview to Swedish television. In that interview he said that “at most 200 to 300,000 Jews were killed” by the Nazis and that none were killed in gas chambers. He said, “I believe there were no gas chambers.”

            The whole world has seen those gas chambers. I have seen those gas chambers.

            Williamson’s fantasy views are not confined to the Holocaust.

            He thinks, for instance, that September 11, 2001 was a conspiracy carried out by the U.S. government to provide a pretext for war in Afghanistan and Iraq. He explains in some ersatz scientific detail why an airplane could not have done that damage to the Pentagon. He says that planes did not bring down the twin towers but rather a series of explosive devises were deliberately placed on many floors of the World Trade Center.

            This guy has other views no less lunatic.

            In an interview with the Toronto Star years ago he accused Vatican of deceit and said Rome was “under the power of Satan.” If that is so, why seek reunion with it?

            He also thinks that women should not be permitted to attend college or university. He opposes women wearing trousers.

            He denounced The Sound of Music, as “soul rotting slush.” I can see why he wouldn’t like it. That movie depicts his Nazis in a rather bad light.

            Williamson also thinks that the Kennedy assassination was staged by the U.S. government.

            All of this stuff is available in his own words.

            How was the Vatican caught so flat footed?

            If only the Vatican had said at the time they lifted Williamson’s excommunication that they disagreed with his views, particularly on the Holocaust. Williamson has been told he must recant those views now.

            Sometimes people within big organizations do not talk to people outside their own little circle. It happens in academia and government. In Washington they call this the “bubble effect,” which insulates Presidents from the impact of their policies or statements.

            Perhaps some of the advisors to the Pope need to get outside the bubble.

            Meanwhile, back in ordinary parish life, I thank God for the forgiveness of people like Rabbi Saltzman.