The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Holocaust Denial in the Vatican?

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 5, 2009

Sometimes I feel like it’s two steps forward and one step back for the advance of science, reason, and critical thinking. Case in point, it seems as if the specter of the Dark Ages could be rearing its ugly head in the Vatican.

Now, I’m not going to go on a rant about religion or my many criticisms of various Vatican policies, but what has happened recently certainly bears mentioning. Pope Benedict XVI recently decided to lift the excommunication of British Bishop Richard Williamson from the Catholic Church. Bishop Williamson is an ultra-traditionalist in the Catholic faith, and he was excommunicated from the Church in 1988 by Pope John Paul II because he had been ordained without Vatican permission by the renegade French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

bishop williamson

So what? Well, it seems that Bishop Williamson is a Holocaust denier – a rather repulsive breed of pseudohistorian & conspiracy theorist who believes that the Holocaust never happened or, at the very least, was drastically over-exaggerated.

Just weeks ago, Bishop Williamson stated in a broadcast on Swedish television some of the following claims…

[That the historical evidence was] hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. 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.

… Anti-Semitism can only be bad if it is against the truth. But if something is true, it cant be bad. I am not interested in the word anti-Semitism.

Here’s the entire interview:

Bishop Williamson’s claims are complete garbage. This is because there are mountains of evidence which confirm the reality of the Holocaust – in fact, there’s so much evidence that the United States has an entire public museum dedicated to preserving the historical evidence of the Holocaust! It’s called the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and it resides in Washington DC, and I’ve toured it and seen this evidence for myself.

But that evidence doesn’t matter to deniers like Bishop Williamson – rather than look at the whole body of evidence placed before them, they tend to cherry-pick the data (taking what they like and discarding/ignoring everything else) for evidence they think might preserve their racist worldview. And even if that evidence doesn’t support their claims, they’ll spin it as if it does. This is precisely the same kind of thinking employed by all manner of conspiracy theorists & pseudoscientists in that, no matter what evidence is presented, the denier’s conclusion that the Holocaust wasn’t real or was drastically overblown is completely non-falsifiable.

Understandably, once this news hit, there was a huge public protest over this move on the part of Pope Benedict XVI. Critics from the Jewish community strongly condemned the move, and there was substantial criticism from within the Vatican itself as well. Yesterday, the controversy hit a fever pitch when Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany (where Holocaust denial is a crime) blasted the Pope for his rehabilitation of Bishop Williamson.

Initially, the Vatican defended the Pope against Merkel’s criticism, but thankfully just today the Vatican has publicly stated that in order for Bishop Williamson to be rehabilitated into the Catholic Church he must recant his views on Holocaust denial.

So it looks as if, for now, more reasonable heads have prevailed over at the Vatican – at least on this issue. However, the mere fact that Pope Benedict XVI even attempted this move in the first place is a bit unsettling to me. I worry that defenders of science & reason may have to cast a wary and watchful eye on Rome for some time to come.

3 Responses to “Holocaust Denial in the Vatican?”

  1. Akira said

    Why do you have so much respect for Mr Williamson that you keep referring to him as “Bishop Williamson”? I thought the whole point of the controversy [the original controversy for which he was excommunicated] was that he’s NOT a bishop, and never has been. Or perhaps you think that he must be a bishop because he dresses funny?

    • mattusmaximus said

      Akira said:

      Why do you have so much respect for Mr Williamson that you keep referring to him as “Bishop Williamson”? I thought the whole point of the controversy [the original controversy for which he was excommunicated] was that he’s NOT a bishop, and never has been. Or perhaps you think that he must be a bishop because he dresses funny?

      I actually have next to zero respect for Bishop Williamson – I think Holocaust deniers are among the lowest of the low when it comes to woo, and the fact that he has either a title or a collar means squat to me. As for whether or not he’s really a bishop, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m perfectly happy to let his organization and the Vatican fight their silly little ecumenical battles. I just used that title because that’s what I saw in the articles referring to him. Now that I think about it, it might be more appropriate to refer to him as “Scumbag Williamson”.

  2. […] Holocaust Denial in the Vatican? « The Skeptical Teacher […]

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