Friday, February 27, 2009

In Which I Agree with the Vatican

If the Vatican issued a press release declaring the skies are cloudy over Rome, I would assume the statement is not only wrong but sinister: I would suspect the sun is gleaming in a cloudless sky over Rome and they have issued this statement to somehow shield a pedophile priest from the law, or defend laws restricting women's rights, or keep condoms away from people exposed to AIDS. But I agree with this statement, mostly:

The Vatican said Friday it is not satisfied by the apology issued by a Catholic bishop who denied the Holocaust, saying the cleric must still clearly "distance himself" from the controversial comments.

Bishop Richard Williamson, who is now in England, issued a statement Thursday saying he regretted making the remarks. But he did not retract them or say he had changed his mind about the Holocaust ...

"The bishop's 'statement' does not appear to respect the conditions set by the secretariat of state on February 4, 2009, whereby he must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public from his stand regarding the Shoah (Holocaust)," said Padre Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
I agree with what I take to be the spirit of this undertaking -- namely, the Vatican appears to be making it clear that they will not lift the curse on or otherwise associate with Williamson because he shows every sign of clinging to his Holocaust denial. Holocaust deniers do not deserve the comity of civilized people, and insofar as that is genuinely the stance of the Vatican, I agree.

That said, I continue to question the validity of the exercise in that the Vatican appears to be demanding that a person change his mind about matters of historical fact, and do so sincerely, and on a strict timeline. I'm not sure that's the kind of thing that can be achieved by means of external command, but of course, demanding particular opinions about particular truth claims is the Church's historic bailiwick -- what good is having a dogma if you can't burn people to death over it? The Vatican appears to hold a piece of cheese Williamson wants, so that places them in a position of making demands, be they realistic or not.

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