Have you been hearing 'bout The Pope reinstating the excommunicated bishop from the UK? (Having written that, it seems that would be a good opener for a joke, but this is serious!)
The bishop in question, one Richard Williamson, is a devout believer that holocaust was a hoax. Now I am not going to get into the ridicule of Mr. Williamson for this. That is not the point of this entry. I should (as I was taught by my Catholic upbringing) have referred to him as "His Excellency" but I cannot bring myself to do that. What is so excellent in accepting at face value something you think might be true while denying something that has left behind so much physical and documentary evidence?
Now let's forget for a moment what the Bishop did... let’s look at what the Pope did. In reinstating the Bishop he said that denying the holocaust was nothing more than a lie and a person should not be excommunicated for lying.
Uh, excuse me... since when did lying become okay. I vaguely believe I read something about bearing false witness in a book somewhere. I kind-of took it as read that the author was more-or-less against it.So he sinned.
"So what!" You might say. (To quote another passage from that same book: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.") No, not stones, let's sling a little logic around. We could easily ridicule both of the participants in this little face.
But that is not the point! The point is that the Catholic dogma (at least as I learned it in Chasidism classes) was that God forgives sinners but only repentant sinners. Furthermore, one is not (again, according to my recollection of the training) allowed to take communion unless one has repented all their sins and done penance.
So let's recap: The Pope admits that Mr. Williamson is wrong about the holocaust. He goes on to admit that holding and expressing the belief is a lie. Further he goes on to at least strongly imply that it is his (Pope Benedict XVI’s) understanding is that the Bishop has no intention of recanting his statements that the Holocaust never happened. The Pope, rather than insisting that the sinner make penance and "sin no more," welcomes the unrepentant sinner back into the pulpit.
If you've been following all this, my disclaimer (see the upper-right of the blog’s home page) notwithstanding, were I to assert that I was 6'6" and be an almost exact copy of [insert the name of your favorite movie star here] I would be a sinner and unable to take communion until I had admitted to being 6'4" and at best bearing a passing resemblance to Benny Hill; repented the assertion, did penance, and promised never again to say I was a real hot guy. (Unless it ever became a factual statement.)
But if I were to tell anyone who would listen that despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Nazis got a bad rap and should be considered nothing more than a band of misled frat boys on a bender that fell in with the wrong crowd, I could continue to say the Eucharist - or I could if I happened to be a Bishop that a previous Pope (who apparently hadn't had a lobotomy that affected his logical reasoning) had excommunicated for preaching that doctrine.
And people wonder why I am a member of the Existentialist Branch of the church... by which I mean I believe the church exists. The rest I can take or leave. (...which is the real reason I don’t take communion!)
Being a proponent of free speech and no longer a member of the church, let me just say that Mr. Williamson has a right to say whatever crazy thing he feels like saying. And being the Pope Benedict has the right to lift excommunication on anyone he wants to. But if anyone sees the logic in this, I wish they would explain it to me!
Wherever you are today, I hope you have a great day!
Don Bergquist - February 10, 2009 - Lakewood, Colorado, USA