Monday, January 26, 2009

Jews and the Vatican


20 years ago, Richard Williamson, a British bishop in the Catholic Church, was excommunicated along with three others because they were consecrated without papal consent. The rehabilitation of these bishops would normally be a simple part of Vatican procedure by Pope Benedict XVI, except for one small problem. The problem is Williamson is on record stating that at most, 200,000-300,000 Jews died in Auschwitz, and that these Jews were not gassed by the Nazis. Williamson is in a word, a Holocaust denier.

The plan of many Holocaust deniers basically involves attacking the facts of the most well documented event in world history. By arguing the numbers and means of the Holocaust are incorrect, they are trying to prove that it is a historical fallacy made up by the Jews. They do this with the hopes of delegitimizing the establishment of the State of Israel, which they erroneously believe was only founded because the world felt guilty about the Holocaust.

What is so scary about this is the number of people who believe these Holocaust deniers. What is also so scary is how many eye witnesses to these atrocities are dying off. I mention this in part because this past week, I officiated at the funeral of Rachel Engelman, beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, and Holocaust survivor. Rachel's story is similar to many who survived the wellspring of anger generated out of Germany and Eastern Europe towards the Jews. This anger in many ways is rooted in the very teachings of the Catholic Church by the way, as is illustrated in the book Constantine's Sword. Rachel survived by hiding under a stair case in a factory in Budapest for two years. Rachel survived by ignoring orders from German soldiers, and by ripping the yellow star off of her clothes. Rachel survived when so many others did not.

By agreeing to rehabilitate Williamson into the Church, Pope Benedict is spitting on Rachel's grave and the graves of all of the other victims of this senseless violence and hate. As a man who speaks of reconciliation and peace one would hope Pope Benedict would re-think his decision. For words mean little when actions speak volumes.

If there is a silver lining, it is the possibility that German authorities are investigating Williamson to see if he broke German law by denying the Holocaust. One could only wish the Vatican would do the same.

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