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Richard N. Williamson, FSSPX (Source)
As we speak, Richard N. Williamson, a Bishop of the FSSPX, is still not out of the world's media spotlight. He was recently "dis-excommunicated" by Pope Benedict XVI, but then the media spotlight turned to an interview Williamson gave to a Swedish television channel, in which he reportedly said no Jews died in gas chambers during World War II.
Williamson is still being excoriated by the media, but also by the Vatican and many Cardinals. I've also seen reports of Williamson losing his job as a Seminary Director in Argentina, and being given ten days to leave that country, etc.
Given I cannot be accused of being pro-Williamson (I've suggested to the Pope to re-excommunicate him), nor anti-Jew (I'd be willing to go fight side-by-side with Jews to help defend Israel), I guess if anybody should speak up in defense of Williamson, it's me.
So ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please grant me a few minutes of your attention.
When we see someone being condemned, one of our first reflexes should be: "Is this condemnation the result of a correct judicial process?" Here are, in my opinion, some essential elements of such a process:
2.1) Written accusation. The accusation must be written, unambiguous, and it must clearly describe which laws were violated by the accused.
2.2) Formal investigation. Some kind of formal investigation must be conducted. Normally, it is a trial in front of a judge, with the accuser and the accused present, often each represented by a lawyer.
2.3) The judge must have jurisdiction. If you steal a car in Canada, for example, you should not be tried by a court in Australia. To give another example, if you violate a law of the State, you should not be judged by an ecclesiastical court (and vice-versa). Another example would be the mob gathered in front of the courthouse. Yes, they can pass judgment on the accused, but they don't have jurisdiction, so their judgment does not apply.
2.4) The accused must be allowed to confront his accusers. At some point of time, the accused (or his lawyer) must be able to cross-examine the accuser.
I'm far from an expert in judicial matters, and on top of that I haven't been following the "Williamson Affair" closely. But from what I've seen, several things are fishy:
3.1) Vague accusation. I haven't found a clear and written accusation of Williamson. Many journalists mention "Negationist", then make long emotional insinuations that Williamson considers Jews to be sub-human.
But if Williamson is being accused of considering Jews to be sub-human, it should be written down clearly. (And of course, this accusation would then need to be proven!) Moreover, the word "Negationist" should be defined. From what I've read, Williamson does not say no Jews were killed by the Nazis, or that concentration camps never existed, just that no Jews were killed in gas chambers.
The assertion: "No Jews died in Nazi gas chambers" strikes me as totally false, but we still have to be specific in our accusation of Williamson. Which law is he violating? If someone claims that millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis, but using the electric chair instead of poison gas, is that a crime? If someone claims 5 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, instead of 6 million, is that a crime? What if they say 2 million? And what about the millions of Russians massacred during World War II? Can someone be condemned for giving the wrong number of Jews killed by Nazis, yet never be asked how many Russians were massacred during World War II? (Let's not forget that Nazis also considered every Russian to be an "untermensch".)
3.2) Formal investigation. The rules of justice don't mean we have to forget our common sense until a formal court of law has spoken! (For example, if you read about the beginning of a trial for someone accused of killing babies, you probably should not ask that person to babysit your kids, even though the trial has not demonstrated anything yet!) It's the same thing for Williamson; there are apparently plenty of written and audiovisual documents on the Internet allowing us to think that there is something very wrong with him. But before destroying his reputation, firing him, throwing him out of the country where he lives, etc., there should be some sort of investigation.
Maybe that investigation only needs to be a half-hour long conversation between Williamson, the Pope, a few Cardinals, and one secretary who takes minutes. Or maybe Williamson should just be taken to the local sheriff's office or municipal court, where the judge would read the written accusation, and ask Williamson a few questions (with, here again, official transcripts of what was said). But something formal and official should be done.
As a counter-example, take Father Jon Sobrino, Jesuit. Accused of one of the worst heresies (denying the divinity of Christ), I think the Vatican judicial process lasted about fifteen years! His writings were carefully studied by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then he was warned in writing, then he was convened to Rome to explain himself, then he received another warning, and so on and so forth. After all that, Rome basically said: "That theologian's books cannot be used in Catholic seminaries". That's all! Williamson, on his part, was fired, expatriated, and essentially banished from the Church, all that in a few days, and based on a video on YouTube! Either the Vatican's legendary slowness has miraculously been cured, or some steps were omitted!
3.3) The judge must have jurisdiction. Since when does a mob of journalists have jurisdiction to condemn anybody, for any crime?
4.4) The accused must be allowed to confront his accusers. I haven't seen or heard of any accuser giving Williamson the opportunity to present his defense. And this, as far as I know, currently includes the Vatican.
By the way, allow me to give a short reminder on the nature of historical knowledge.
What happened to the Jews during World War II? Strictly speaking, I don't know. I wasn't there. I did not even exist in those days. I have read in many books about the genocide of 6 million Jews by the Nazis, most of them by gas chambers in concentration camps. I have no reason to disbelieve those books, so I believe them.
If I went to Europe, visited the locations of those concentration camps, examined historical pictures and written documents, interrogated survivors, etc., I would very probably start thinking, with practical certainty, what I currently believe about Jews and World War II. (Strictly speaking, historical knowledge cannot attain the level of scientific knowledge, because we can never go back into the past, to observe the facts with evidence.)
The Catholic Church has no authority whatsoever on events that occured during World War II. The Magisterium has authority on what we must believe to be Catholics (dogma) and what we must do to get to Heaven (morals), but that's all. The Catholic Church infallibly teaches that all men have a spiritual and immortal soul created immediately by God at the moment of conception, and hence that all men have the same dignity (whether they are hemen or women, Catholics or Jews, handicapped or healthy, black or white, young or old, etc.).
That seems unlikely to me but, in theory, someone could very well be mistaken on a historical fact (Nazi gas chambers), while being totally convinced that Jews have exactly the same human dignity as non-Jews.
Hitting the target by shooting with your eyes closed is possible. Very rare, but possible! In the same way, it's possible to correctly punish the accused, despite a nearly-blind judicial process.
It could very well be that Williamson deserves all the punishment he is getting (at least the non-extreme things I've seen mentioned). But even then, there would still be something deeply perverse about the way Williamson has been treated.
When the most apparently guilty individuals get a written and clear accusation, a correct trial, a chance to confront their accusers, etc., then we can all sleep well at night. If even the most apparently guilty individuals are treated justly, chances are so will we.
If not, then be afraid. Today, they came to get him. Tomorrow, it might be your turn...
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