Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Recanting on Demand

Does this seem a tad futile to anyone else?

The Vatican says it has ordered a controversial bishop who denies the Holocaust to "distance himself" from his views "in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner."

The Vatican has been under fire since Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson almost two weeks ago.

That development came days after an interview was broadcast in Sweden in which Williamson said the Nazis had not systematically murdered six million Jews during World War II.
It's not clear what the Vatican is demanding here. If it is demanding that Williams re-examine the massive historical evidence that contradicts his denial of the Holocaust, that's reasonable. It's reasonable if you accept the premise that an organization can require its members to examine, read, hear, review, and otherwise open themselves to ideas they might otherwise ignore or reject. That's commonplace enough -- as a condition of working for McDonald's, for example, the manager made me watch an instructional video on hand-washing, covering before sneezing, keeping flies out of the pancake batter, upholding the saintly image of the McDonald's corporation, etc.

It could even be salutary for the Vatican to demand that of Williams and, in the process, telegraph exactly which evidence it expects him to re-examine. There are apparently people out there, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who have managed to get this wrong.

But this doesn't sound quite like that. Instead, the Pope seems to be demanding that Williams abruptly announce that he accepts the historical authenticity of the Holocaust, and make a good show of sincerity in the announcement, lest he be un-de-excommunicated or forced to sit in the "dunce bishops" corner without his funny hat or whatever. But as recently as last weekend, and for many years prior, Williams has been insisting the Holocaust is an historical fraud.

I don't see the purpose in forcing someone to pretend to believe that which they do not believe. I don't see why either party, Williams or the Vatican, would accept this arrangement. Forcing Williams to play the role of a person who once but no longer denies the Holocaust increases the net sum of dishonesty.

The Holocaust happened, and those who deny it, especially if they hold positions of authority, should be regarded as lying monsters. Play-acting helps nothing.


Lirone said...

Well, these are people who believe Pascal's wager makes sense - at least they're being consistent in their expectation of plasticity of belief based on self-advantage.

Dale said...

Good call, Lirone. They assert the existence of an all-knowing thought-reading entity and then claim to be able to fool this entity by professing beliefs they don't actually hold. Neat!