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A Papal fallacy

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, February 5, 2009

Let me get this straight.

“Deep-seated gay tendencies”? No.

Denial of the Holocaust? Yes.

“Support the so-called ‘gay culture?'” No.

Support the so-called Ahmadinejad culture? Yes.

In the course of the last few weeks, two Vatican-related news stories caught my eye.

First, according to the Associated Press: “In a report U.S. bishops released this week, the Vatican agency noted past ‘difficulties in the area of morality’ within seminaries that ‘usually but not exclusively’ involved ‘homosexual behavior.’ The evaluators said the appointment of better administrators in diocesan seminaries ‘has ensured that such difficulties have been overcome.'” The bishops then linked arms and rejoiced, for we shall overcome.

Gnaw on that for a while – we’ll come back to it later. In the meantime, second, The New York Times: Pope Benedict “revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust have provoked outrage…The bishop said that he believed that ‘the historical evidence; was strongly against the conclusion that millions of Jews had been ‘deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.'”

This week, the Bishop – Richard Williamson – apologized. Kinda. No, he didn’t acknowledge their lunacy. And no, he didn’t acknowledge that, yes, six million Jews died at the hands of Nazism. He did, though, apologize for the Pope’s “distressed” caused by the “media storm” over his “imprudent remarks.”

Imprudent remarks. You’d think a former (reluctant) member of the Hitler Youth might find them a bit more than imprudent.

But the criticism of Williamson (and the Vatican) shouldn’t stop with his unrepentant anti-Semitism. Holocaust-denial isn’t Williamson’s only “imprudent” opinion. For nearly two decades, the Bishop has been stirring the papal pot.

In addition to an assertion that some combination of God’s will and a government conspiracy orchestrated September 11th, Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination, Williamson has consistently extending his delusion to overt sexism.

These are too good to not copy verbatim.

Sept. 1, 2001: “Because of all kinds of natural reasons, almost no girl should go to any university … any Catholic with the least respect for Tradition recognizes that women should not be priests – can he deny that if few women went to university, almost none would wish to be priests? Alas, women going to university is part of the whole massive onslaught on God’s Nature which characterizes our times. That girls should not be in universities flows from the nature of universities and from the nature of girls: true universities are for ideas, ideas are not for true girls, so true universities are not for true girls.”

Sept. 1, 1991: “Trousers are ideological and attack the mind. For indeed women’s trousers, as worn today … are an assault upon woman’s womanhood and so they represent a deep-lying revolt against the order willed by God … Of course not all women who wear trousers abort the fruit of their womb, but all help to create the abortive society. Old-fashioned is good, modern is suicidal. You wish to stop abortion? Do it by example. Never wear trousers or shorts.”

To review: Ideas are not for girls. Some combination of God’s will and a government conspiracy orchestrated the September 11th attacks. Women should wear skirts, because pants and shorts, in addition to attacking the mind, promote abortion.

Because, you know, trousers offer much easier access.

We’re saved from the gays, and this is the payoff. Thanks, Benny.

This is a delusional man. Or, at least, he’s certainly not a messenger for God’s word and inspiration. And while he can’t, reportedly, “practice his ministry in the Catholic Church,” its still safe to say you shouldn’t be comfortable with re-incommunicated (yes, that’s the word) Bishop Williamson.

Of course, re-incommunicating someone does not necessarily mean that you’re endorsing everything he says and believes. But by going out of your way to welcome him back in without mention of those views until challenged, you endorse him as a representative of the Church. It’s not that people within the Church can’t disagree – they can and should – but that bringing back someone you’ve kicked out suggests that you have (or, at least, should have) paid particular attention to the way that person reflects the church as a whole.

The simultaneous “gay” news reveals a second reason, too. If you forbid priests who have “deep seated gay tendencies” and who “support the so-called gay culture,” you can be held accountable for the tendencies and cultures of those you do allow.

The Vatican has gotten some pressure on this one. Jewish leaders have challenged the Pope’s commitment to Jewish-Catholic dialogue and reconciliation, and German Chancellor Andrea Merkel called on the Pope to make “very clear” his views towards Holocaust deniers.

Wednesday, the Vatican demanded that Wiiliamson recant his Holocaust views. If he does, though, it can’t stop there. He should have to recant his absurd claims about 9/11, trousers, and, best of all, the assertion that “ideas are not for true girls.”

But by and large, we observe quietly. Even at Notre Dame, we don’t call out the Vatican on the horrible hypocrisy of keeping out potentially gay priests while including delusional sexists. We let the criticism of Williamson stop at his anti-Semitism, and ignore his anti-trouserism.

Non-Catholics and Catholics alike, though, cannot sit back and watch this one go by, ignoring a papal mistake because it is a papal action. Respect for religious authority need not mean respect for misguided, offensive, hypocritical decisions.

To sit back and let this one go would be, to use a word, imprudent.

Andrew Nesi is a senior American Studies major from Fairfield, Conn. As a scrawny second grader, he punched a much heftier friend in the stomach after the friend returned a kickoff for a touchdown as time expired to beat him in a game of Madden football on Sega Genesis. The friend laughed at him. He can be reached at anesi@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.