At Ethics Daily Robert Parham celebrates Baptist historians, among them E. Glenn Hinson, once of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Parham reminds us that in 1980 amid the gathering fundamentalist storm, Hinson “took on Bailey Smith, the Southern Baptist fundamentalist, who said in 1980 that ‘God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.'”
Hinson told FaithLab in an interview:
I made five points in response to Bailey Smith: (1) Jesus was a Jew – you may have disenfranchised Jesus’ prayers; (2) You disenfranchised everybody from Abraham to Jesus; (3) The Bible teaches that God hears the prayers of unbelievers; (4) This conflicts with centuries of Baptists’ respect for every person’s religious belief; (5) This is the stuff from which Holocausts come. I think the last point may have ignited the tinder.
Hinson eventually left Southern, and although he still considers himself a Baptist was blunt in his assessment of Southern Baptists:
The Baptist tradition depends on a minority consciousness. And having become the majority, Baptists in the South could no longer think like Baptists, they thought like medieval Catholics.
I think it will finish by becoming a dialogue of the deaf, because of two things. One: The two positions in themselves are irreconcilable. For example 2+2=4 and 2+2=5 it’s irreconcilable. Therefore of three things, one: either they say 2+2=4 , enounce reality and say 2+2=5 –that is to say the Fraternity would abandon the truth that God forbids us to do or that those who say that 2+2=5 convert and return to the truth or the two come half-way, that means everyone decides that 2+2=4 ½ . It’s wrong. Therefore, either the Fraternity betrays itself or Rome converts, or it is a dialogue of the deaf.
[Full translation of the interview here.]
The pope set off a firestorm of criticism by lifting the excommunication from four Society of St Pius X bishops last January, among them holocaust-denier Williamson. The pope eventually admitted his handling of the matter was a mistake. Yet controversy over the attempt to reconcile with the historically anti-Semitic SSPX continues to simmer.
In his most recent interview Williamson skates past his Holocaust denial, still without apologizing. Yet his interview is still rich in points of controversy. For example, he does say Christians have been “chased out” of the Holy Land and he defies mainstream Catholicism with the claim that Jews who don’t accept Jesus are no longer the “chosen people.”
Williamson’s comments probably do harm by giving resounding affirmation to negative views of the Vatican’s attempt to reconcile with SSPX. Yet he is not a spokesman for SSPX. Williamson is, in effect, speaking out of turn. His Holocaust denial caused such an uproar early last year that the head of the SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay, issued a gag order and Williamson was removed as head of the SSPX seminary in Argentina. Now at home in Britain, he lives in an SSPX home in the Wimbledon section of London in what he called “an unexpected but quite agreeable sabbatical year.”
Do you not wonder if Bishop Fellay will now further define for Williamson the restrictions of that sabbatical?
[H/T: Cathy Lynn Grossman ]
The Vatican’s path forward includes paying more attention to how news spreads over the internet. After all, there had long been ample information on the Web documenting Williamson’s incendiary holocaust-denying stands.
From a full translation of the letter by Chris Gillibrand at Cathcon we read:
Several groups, however, accused the pope of wanting to return to the time before the Council and an avalanche of protests began to move, which made bitter injuries visible and this could be seen immediately. So I am under an obligation to you, dear brethren, to provide a clarifying word, which should help to understand the intentions, which I and the competent organs of the Holy See have been following with this step. I hope in this way to promote peace in the church.
One for me unpredictable mishap was that the lifting of the excommunication was overtaken by the Williamson case. The quiet gesture of mercy to four validly but not legally consecrated bishops appeared suddenly as something quite different: as a rejection of Christian-Jewish reconciliation and the withdrawal of what the Council in this matter has declared as the way of the Church.
An invitation to reconciliation with a separated Church grouping became the reverse: an apparent return from all the steps forward in the reconciliation of Christians and Jews, which had gone on since the Council and whose achievement had been from the start a goal of my theological work.
Thursday, when the full text of the Pope’s letter is issued, he is to resume a Jewish/Catholic dialogue suspended by the Israeli side because of Williamson. He is receiving a delegation of Israeli rabbis.
In some regards, timing is everything, even for the Pope.
Holocaust deniers like Williamson will find no sympathetic ear or place of refuge in the Catholic Church, of which he is not — and may never become — a member.
Mark Silk at SpiritualPolitics observes:
Without criticizing the pope, [Mahony has] seized on Williamson’s Holocaust foot-dragging to take the next step and send him back into outer darkness. It will be interesting to see if any of his peers follow his lead.
Most importantly, what plans does the Pope Benedict XVI have now?
Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) head Bishop Bernard Fellay has declared that Bishop Richard Williamson would be excluded from the order if he reiterated his holocaust-denial.
While Bishop Williamson’s recent apology for his Holocaust denial (which he failed to recant) is an “important step,” Bishop Fellay said, Bishop Williamson should probably stay quiet and “in a corner somewhere.”
Williamson is the only Holocaust-denier among four Catholic bishops whose excommunication was lifted by the Vatican on Jan. 21 as a first step toward healing a division between the church and SSPX. All four are members of the Lefebvre movement, whose long, troubled relationship with Judiasm was documented by the National Catholic Reporter.
Bishop Fellay’s declaration suggests that SSPX strongly wishes to proceed with restoration, and will cast out Bishop Williamson to do so if it must.
Debate over church statistics and assignment of theological blame, is not unique to the Southern Baptist Convention, as we may see from the Vatican statistical yearbook delivered to the Pope last week. It says, reports BBC, “that the number of priests has increased by several hundred each year since 2000, after two decades of decline.” And the “percentage of Catholics worldwide remains stable, at about 17.3% of the global population.”
Turnaround accomplished, it seems.
Today Bishop Bernard Fellay of the rightist Society of Saint Pius X employed undocumented statistics to explain why SSPX, which he heads, is not ready to meet the Feb. 4 Vatican requirement that “a full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition for any future recognition of the Society of Saint Pius X.”
In an interview with a Swiss newspaper he said:
The aftermath of the [Second Vatican] Council has been to empty seminaries, nunneries and churches. Thousands of priests have left their orders and millions of faithful have stopped being practicing Catholics and have joined sects. If these are the fruits of the Council, they’re strange indeed.
You may recall that Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of Bishop Fellay and three other bishops, who were ordained against papal orders in 1988, as a step toward dialogue and reconciliation. One of the four is Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson, whose disingenuous apology and failure to recant was well-rejected by the Vatican last week.
Williamson wants more time to consider whether the Holocaust occurred and Fellay says that if the Vatican requirement is met, it will be the after “doctrinal discussions” with his society. As if the Holocaust were really in doubt and rollback of Vatican II were actually on the block.
We wonder if there is a decidedly unhopeful SSPX pattern here?
Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson’s disingenuous apology was well-rejected by the Vatican. It is unclear whether the Society of St Pius X can withstand careful scrutiny today, but Williamson is a creature of the radical, racist right. The London Times’ Damian Thompson writes:
Trawling through Williamson’s sermons is a sad experience. There’s an intense piety there, powerful faith, but it’s poisoned by anger, hatred and an all-consuming paranoia. This troubled man has links to the political Far Right, and has written about Hitler “liberating” Germany from the control of Jewish money.
Even more bizarre than his frequently expressed view that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were not carried out by terrorists, all of those assertions were in public view well before his excommunication was lifted.
We need not play that reprehensible game, “Kick the Pope,” to wonder where this is going and exactly why Pope Benedict XVI put matters on this path, making the radical right more bold and the Catholic Church’s position of moral authority less powerful.
Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson apologized today, after being booted out of Argentina, where on Feb. 9 he was dismissed as director of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) seminary in La Reja.
“I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them,” Williamson said, according to the website of Zenit, a Catholic news agency. . . .
“To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologise,” he said. . . .
He did not say in his apology whether he had changed his views.
Lest anyone be confused about where we stand: “Never again.”
Unrepentant Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson is being booted out of Argentina, where on Feb. 9 he was dismissed as director of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) seminary in La Reja. He has 10 days to leave.
Legally, Williamson failed to declare his true job as director of a seminary on immigration forms interior ministry, but Argentine officials make it clear that his Holocaust-denials “profoundly insulted Argentine society, the Jewish community and all of humanity by denying the historic truth.”
Argentina’s Jewish population, one of the world’s largest, praised the decision.
Ordered by Pope Benedict XVI to recant, Williamson has not done so, claiming he needed time to research the issue so that he can act with sincerity. The head of Williamson’s Swiss-based society, Monsignor Bernard Fellay, said in an interview published Monday that Williamson should be given time to reconsider his denials.
There is pressure on the pope to further repudiate Williamson’s views, and time appears to be running out, now in more than one regard.
Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson balked at immediately meeting the pope’s requirement that he recant.
“Since I see that there are many honest and intelligent people who think differently, I must look again at the historical evidence,” the British bishop was quoted as saying.
Germany’s Catholic bishops responded by calling for his re-excommunication.
“Mr. Williamson is impossible and irresponsible,” said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference in an article published Saturday. “I now see no room for him in the Catholic Church.”
The German tabloid press was even less oblique in its statements and characterized Williamson as dishonest in a variety of ways.
Williamson is “holed up in the seminary he runs in Argentina,” and isn’t talking to reporters.