Thuggish cleric behaves thuggishly!

Let’s all agree that Richard Williamson of the schismatic Society of St. Pius X shows no understanding of history that has occurred in his lifetime and is singularly lacking in people skills. That the man ever became a priest, much less a schismatic bishop, boggles the mind. Thus, should it surprise anyone that he waved his fist in the face of a Reuters reporter who pursued him, Hound of Heaven-style, through the international airport in Buenos Aires?

Ruth Gledhill of The Times quotes The Associated Press’ Jeanette Neumann as reporting:

A local television station showed Richard Williamson raising his fist toward a reporter, then shoving him into a pole with his shoulder as he hurried through Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza international airport to catch a flight for London.

Such overly condensed writing makes the reporter’s condition sound far worse than it was. The video shows Williamson attempting to bump the reporter into a collision with a pillar, but the nimble reporter dodges it and keeps hounding Williamson through the airport. A muscleman in Williamson’s entourage attempts to slow the reporter’s pace, but to little avail. Throughout the video, all of civilized society is cheering the reporter along.

With this incident, an understandable loathing of Williamson’s Holocaust denial becomes an occasion to chastise Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church anew. Gledhill writes:

Will the Roman Catholic Church ever admit it was wrong? Never. It would rather die first, and possibly will if it carries on like this. The Holy See will continue to justify the lifting of the excommunications on the technical grounds that they were in the first place unjust, the reasons that persuaded His Holiness to allow the lifting of them in the first place.

Sadly, the Holy See will never understand that as far as the public is concerned, to the millions who will watch this unseemly brawl on television over the next few days, to the thousands of innocent men and women denied communion because of the Church’s inhumane disciplines on remarriage, the Church appears to be descending into a new dark age when anti-Semitic hooded thugs with eyes shielded from the light by dark glasses are welcomed into the fold. Meanwhile ‘ecclesial communities’ such as my own are condemned as ‘not proper churches’ and Archbishops such as Rowan Williams are not permitted to receive communion in Catholic churches.

I see it differently. It’s a pseudo-event when a Holocaust-denying schismatic bishop tries to escape, in an indisputably churlish manner, from a determined reporter. Years ago, a conservative Catholic editor introduced me to the saying that the wheels of the Catholic Church’s justice grind slow but they grind exceedingly fine. I think that Williamson may have just helped those wheels begin grinding a bit more quickly.

About the embedded YouTube video: I chose this version only for its widescreen format. I consider its heading of “Modern witch hunting” another form of hysteria. I’ll happily link to a better version of the same report if I find one, and I welcome readers’ help.

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  • Nicholas

    Why the critique of Ruth Glendhill? Doesn’t she write an opinion column?

    • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

      Ruth’s post is a mix of reporting and opinion. As usual, I will let my criticism speak for itself.

  • http://www.followingthelede.blogspot.com Sabrina

    It’s interesting to hear the commentary in Spanish from the Argentine reporter (depicted) and the (off-camera) anchors. The reporter essentially replays all that we’re watching on-screen (he does say he was hit, in addition to being shoved) and seems more miffed at the other priest trying to keep him from Williamson (mostly hidden from our view by the man in white).

    At the very end the reporter finally gets around to telling us what he chased down Bishop Williamson to ask: was there a historic basis for his assertions about the Holocaust?
    The title along the bottom reads (at one point) “Williamson expelled” from Argentina — was he? I haven’t heard any such thing (but, I’ve been hiding under a rock lately…).

  • Gerard

    Bravo Bishop Williamson! He acted rightly, but I do wish he’d given that awful reporter a wallop he’d never forget.

    Douglas LeBlanc doesn’t know squat about Bishop Williamson.

    Nor does he know of Williamson’s amazing ability with people, his great charity and wonderful spirit and holiness. None of which is diminished by his being man enough to want to get into a brawl with a parasitic reporter who is now claiming he was “attacked” boo-hoo!

    If Williamson doubts the figures of the holocaust then there is something probably there to investigate. Even moreso since the hysteria around him is so disproportionate. I think the media doth protesteth too much!

  • http://www.followingthelede.blogspot.com Sabrina

    Sorry, Gerard, but I’m with Doug on this one.

    Pope Benedict XVI and Father Lombardi (and dozens of other Catholic bishops and Vatican officials) don’t seem too happy with Williamson or his Holocaust denial either.

  • Martha

    “when anti-Semitic hooded thugs with eyes shielded from the light by dark glasses are welcomed into the fold.”

    Pausing only to remark I hope she makes the same points about every rock star, pop star, film star, and reality-tv celebrity who wears his or her sunglasses at night – Williamson is a Catholic.

    He’s not a bishop (of the Roman Catholic church; I know there is legitimate wibble room over is he valid – probably – but illicit – definitely; what I mean is, he has been assigned to no diocese and holds no see); he probably is a priest – but he had to join the SSPX to be consecrated (I read on a Catholic blog that after converting from Anglicanism, he attempted to become a priest, was refused, then jumped ship to the SSPX), but he’s definitely as much of a lay Catholic as any of the rest of us (God help us all).

    The Pope has not, as some commentary mistakenly put it, made him a legitimate bishop. And let me just say that’s the one bit that really drives me nuts – that’s the easiest part of this whole thing to find out, reporter-folks! Look up the list of sees and appointments, and I think you’ll find his name is not there! It’s like describing, oh, Tom Daschle as “Secretary for Health and Human Services”, even though we all know how that turned out. Even *if* he gets his head out of his backside and recants his errors and puts himself under obedience, his status as a priest, much less a bishop, has to be sorted out and that’s going to take a while.

    He has not ‘rejoined’ the Church, since he (and the rest of the SSPX) would claim they are the authentic Catholics and, on their part, have not abandoned the faith. He’s schismatic, but he hasn’t formally renounced the faith and gone back to Anglicanism (lucky for the Anglicans).

    This is where the SSPX have to put their money where their mouth is; is their loyalty to the Church, or to their own particular world-view? There are heartening indications that the SSPX are cleaning up their act and seriously addressing the poison of anti-Semitism.

    The likes of Williamson are being tested; do they truly hold to Catholicism because they believe it is true, or when push comes to shove, will they persist in obstinancy, choose disobedience to the successor of Peter, and prefer to be big fish in the small and dying pond of their own fantasies rather than be truly reconciled?

    I think, with Williamson, we are seeing what he truly believes and holds dear – and it’s not the Pope, the Church, or anyone outside himself – not even the SSPX, whom he is disgracing.

    But it’ll be easier to write all this up as “Hitler Youth Pope prefers to give cushy job to his Holocaust-denier buddy rather than get with the 21st century on divorce, contraception, and abortion”, rather than do some digging into the background.

  • FW Ken

    So tell me: would a bishop – or anyone – be excommunicated from the Anglican religion for holding obnoxious beliefs not intrinsic to the religion? Or for loutish behavior? Maybe driving drunk? How about Orthodoxy? Would pushing a pushy reporter be an offense meriting excommunication? Rhetorical questions, I know.

    Gledhill’s column can fairly be described as a mix of opinion and news reporting, indeed, with a dash of gossip thrown in from time to time; this particular Gledhill screed, however, qualifies fully as full-throated anti-catholic polemic. That would be “polemic”, as opposed to principled disagreement with the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, anti-catholic prejudice seldom lies far beneath an Anglican surface, liberal or conservative, though I often point to the conservative Anglican blogger Christopher Johnson as a good example of an Anglican with clear protestant convictions, but not a trace of anti-catholic prejudice.

    Martha accurately notes how Gledhill misses the intricacies of what the pope did with respect to the SSPX bishops. Now, I question his action myself, since those four men have evidenced no repentance for that which incurred the excommunication in the first place: rejection of the Second Vatican Council in general and their schismatic ordinations to the episcopate. Nevertheless, the pope’s action is, as noted, forcing the darkness in the SSPX into the light and bringing about some cleansing. But of course, it’s more fun to trash-talk the Catholic Church, isn’t it.

    What bothers me most, though, is a small thing. Gledhill is clearly talking about the pope’s decision with respect to the SSPX, but then lapses into referring to “the Catholic Church, it. Of course, in the radical individualism of the west, we generally have trouble speaking of communities. We prefer to think of impersonal “institutions”. Gledhill makes the error of all bigots, which is to dehumanize those with whom she disagrees. Does she see Pope Benedict as a person? Or simply a cardboard cutout to represent a Faith she simply doesn’t like?

  • Martha

    FW Ken, I’d love to know what would get a bishop excommunicated from Anglicanism, seeing as how you can be a functional atheist and still in gaiters ;-)

    I imagine it would be for the sins of racism, sexism, or other discriminatory practices.

    Holocaust denial is a messy business; it does, I suppose, involve free speech rights (as see the British historian, David Irving, the last person most notorious for this) in that you can’t be censored just for being crazy. On the other hand, when you’re saying black is white, in the face of all the evidence, and calling all the previous generations liars and frauds…

    I’m glad Williamson is getting the spotlight shone upon him. I’m delighted the SSPX is being made to address this issue. I’m even mildly happy that there is a move to heal the schism between the SSPX and the rest of us.

    I’m fed-up with the press coverage, but part of that is the fault of the Vatican press office which seems to have been totally caught on the hop here, and part of that is that any stick will do to beat the Church. I’d love to see some reporter, somewhere, getting the light-bulb of inspiration popping up over his or her head and realising that Williamson is NOT, repeat NOT, a Roman Catholic bishop in good standing – but I imagine the Winter Olympics will be held in Tartaros before that happens.

  • Gerard

    Fact 1) The SSPX nor Bp Williamson is not anti-semitic, never has been and never has been antagonistic or prejudiced against any race.

    Fact 2) The SSPX and Bp Williamson are against Judaism because it is a religion that cannot get souls to Heaven. So they seek to evangelize. The late Fr. Harry Marchosky certainly would not have been welcome had they been racists.

    Fact 3) The excommunications were lifted by Pope Benedict because they were unjustly and invalidly placed and he wanted to avoid a true schism from developing. This was also in response to the two Rosary Crusades offered by the SSPX for the freeing of the Traditional Latin Mass and the Excommunications to be retracted.

    Fact 4) Schism means a denial and refusal of papal authority. The SSPX were never schismatic. That is why the Rosary Crusades were launched.

    Fact 5) Bishop Williamson is not a “denier” of Jewish persecution because he questions the number and method of the killings that happened in WWII. In the Swedish interview he even qualified his statements saying he would change his conclusion should the evidence show.

    Fact 6) This is a manufactured event designed to attack the Pope for attempting to stop the “auto-demolition” of the Church as described by Pope Paul VI. And it was in the waiting, prior to the lifting of the excommunications there were numerous articles that you can still find endlessly complaining about Pope Benedict’s setting back Jewish/Catholic relations and John Paul II before him, Canonizing Edith Stein, Pope Benedict speaks too little on the holocaust while in America, B16 ends restrictions on the Catholic liturgy, he changes the Good Friday prayer but it’s not enough, He visits Auschwitz (doesn’t visit the swimming pool that’s there) and makes a big display and that’s not enough, Pope Pius XII is still lied about at the Vad Yashem memorial and nobody complains and the museum isn’t attacked.

    Anyone with an honest mind should just go on youtube or other places and listen to a few of Williamson’s sermons that are posted and get a true measure of the man.

  • FW Ken

    http://www.religiousintelligence.co.uk/news/?NewsID=3964

    Not only not excommunicated, but they made him a bishop!

  • EmbarkOn

    I’m also glad that Williamson is getting the attention from the press, I think he deserves it. He had some guts to make those controversial comments about such a sensitive issue.

    I found this video about the story. It looks at it from a few different points of view according to how different media outlets covered it.

    http://www.newsy.com/videos/controversial_bishop_returns_to_the_u_k/

  • Alfred Lorona

    Slight correction. Many, I would say most, SSPX lay people do NOT think that we are the only legitimate Catholics This is a stigma that has been put on us by too many analysts,journalists, reporters, etc., The transformed Vatican 11 church is legitimate. So are all of the clergy, priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope. How can it be otherwise?

    What we are against is the prohibition of the traditional Mass that has been taken from us. We prefer the mass of our childhood and of our forefathers. We do not want to pray the mass alongside clowns, ballons, dancing, twangy guitars, and similar changes that have infiltrated and transformed the mass. We do not sit Around pretending to be theologians arguig what is legitimate, permitted, legal, sanctioned and so on. We like our old mass. That’s all. It’s as simple as that.