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Friday, 23 January 2009

SSPX - the agony and the ecstasy

Rorate Caeli has been posting updates of the rumour made public on the Spanish blog La Cigüeña de la Torre, namely that the excommunication of the SSPX bishops will be lifted within the next few days. The rumour has been hotting up with Andrea Tornielli reporting that Bishop Fellay has recently been to meet Cardinal Antonio Cañizares at the Congregation for Divine Worship. We can probably bet safely that this was not to arrange training for the SSPX priests to say the new Mass.

Not surprisingly, the rumour has been accompanied by widespread attention to the public statements of Bishop Williamson in which he has repeatedly denied the holocaust. Ruth Gledhill of the Times has an article on this with a video clip of an interview given by Bishop Williamson to Swedish TV. (See: Traditionalist bishop: 'There were no gas chambers' and the article Church of England clergy host Holocaust denial Bishop)

Gledhill also has another post Church of England clergy host Holocaust denial Bishop and an article in the paper Pope could welcome Holocaust denier back into the fold which apply the full spin to the news. In the enthusiasm to wreck the good news of the possible reconciliation of the SSPX, there is a little error of fact. Gledhill says that the Bishop "gave an interview to Swedish TV this week". No - it was given on 1 November last year. It has been splashed all over the internet this week.

First off, let's deal with Bishop Williamson's assertions. In the interview he relies on the report by Fred Leuchter who supposedly provided "scientific" evidence that there were no gas chambers.

Leuchter came to fame at the trial of Ernst Zundel in 1988. Zundel was a German-Canadian neo-Nazi accused under a Canadian law of publishing hate propaganda. He had Leuchter testify that there were no gas chambers at the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau, or Majdanek. His evidence was dismissed because he did not have the credentials to prove any relevant expertise. In fact, although Leuchter presented himself as an engineer, he did not have any qualifications in the field but had graduated with a BA in history. He later blamed the opprobrium which surrounded him on an international Jewish conspiracy. For information on the chemistry involved in gas chambers which refutes the claims of Leuchter and other peddlers of counterknowledge, see Richard Green's article on The Chemistry of Auschwitz.

At the end of the interview, which took place in Bavaria, Bishop Williamson acknowledges that what he has said is illegal in Germany and concludes:
"You could have me thrown into prison before I leave Germany. I hope that's not your intention."
A report in the German section of Vatican Radio confirms that in fact the Regensburg prosecutor may indeed be intending to throw him in jail. (Original text - English translation by Cathcon.) Incidentally, Cathcon has a post with a roundup of links on the affair as well as a translation of the article in Der Spiegel attacking the SSPX on the basis of Bishop Williamson's remarks.

The Remnant has published a copy of the letter that Bishop Fellay has written to the Swedish TV station. Damian Thompson has a robust article in which he points up the inadequacy of Bishop Fellay's letter. (See: Head of SSPX 'refuses to condemn Bishop Williamson for Holocaust denial') Although Damian charitably raises the possibility that the letter is not genuine, I doubt whether the Remnant would publish it unless they were quite sure of its provenance.

Rather better is the response of Fr Schmidberger reported in the Remnant. He said:
"Our Lord Jesus Christ is in His human nature a Jew, His Holy Mother is a Jewess and all the Apostles are Jews. Therefore, no true Christian can be an Anti-semite."
and further:
"We do not know the interview done by Bishop Williamson with Swedish television. As soon as we get it, we will submit it to scrutiny and get the advice of lawyers. It is clear that the only one responsible for the statements made by the Bishop, is the Bishop himself as well as that the statements do not reflect the views held by the Society of St. Pius X. In addition, Pope Pius XI in his encyclical ”Mit Brennender Sorge” warned about the godless Nazi regime and its crimes."
Still this is not enough. Even if the Swedish TV station did raise the question in order to rubbish the SSPX, and even if Der Spiegel wanted to stir up trouble, surely the point is that the SSPX should by now have faced up to the question of Bishop Williamson's execrable public statements denying the holocaust and the immense damage that they have done. If it is true that the excommunications are to be lifted in the next few days, Pope Benedict will have brought off another master-stroke of understated genius by associating it with the Octave of prayer for Christian Unity. It is infuriating that the press have been given such a golden opportunity to call the whole thing into question.

Personally, I hope with all my heart that the rumour of the lifting of the excommunications is true. I would love to see all these people in full, regular, non "state of necessity" jurisdictional regularity. I was reflecting today that the Battle for Helm's Deep could be a metaphor for the spiritual battle that we are facing in the West with the real possibility that the USA could be falling to secularism. The arrival of the SSPX in the ranks would be like the elves arriving to boost the defences, recalling the days of long ago when elves and men fought side by side.

For a better perspective on the SSPX than the Williamson interview, see this story of a good and kindly 83 year old priest killed in South Africa by a young man whom he had helped: Priest’s ‘killer’ knew him. for more about Fr Leslie, see: Father Leslie ‘was dedicated to the old ways’.
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