the rehabilitation of a Holocaust denier

Meet  Mr Richard Williamson:

“I believe there were no gas chambers… I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers,” he told SVT television in an interview that was recorded in Germany last November. “There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies!”

Mr Williamson, 68, who is the rector of the Seminary of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix in La Reja, Argentina, is no stranger to controversy. He has endorsed “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery, and claimed that Jews are bent on world domination. He supports conspiracy theories on the assassination of President Kennedy and the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, and has accused the Vatican of being under the power of Satan.

Did I say Mr Williamson? Sorry, that’s Bishop Williamson to you – for the Pope’s just welcomed this hateful fellow (and three other right-wingers) back into the church fold.

The Vatican’s explanation for reversing Williamson’s twenty-year excommunication is quite extraordinary:

Senior Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi fought back yesterday, telling the Observer: “Williamson’s statements are not agreed with and are open to criticism, and they have nothing to do with the lifting of the excommunication. One is not connected to the other. The Society of Saint Pius X has itself distanced itself from these statements.”

Here’s an overtly anti-Semitic individual ushered into a high position in the church hierarchy – and all the official Vatican mouthpiece can say is, well, we wouldn’t have made those comments ourselves. Denying the Holocaust is merely ‘open to criticism’; the Society of Saint Pius X  ‘distances’ itself  from such remarks. It doesn’t even rise to the level of condemnation.

The Guardian‘s story ends like this:

In its statement yesterday, the Vatican said Benedict was bringing the bishops back into the fold “with the hope that full conciliation and shared communion is achieved as soon as possible”.

Yep, that’s right. Now that Williamson no longer thinks the Vatican a hotbed of Satanism, it’s ‘full conciliation and shared communion’ with a Holocaust denier.

If a left-wing organisation maintained a known anti-Semite in a position of authority, they’d be denounced in every editorial in the country — and rightly so. Well, let’s see how Greg Sheridan, Gerard Henderson and the rest of the gang play this one.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

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