Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is the Holocaust just a theory?

For Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson, it appears that evolution, gravity and human reproduction are not the only dimensions of the physical and material world unexplained by the laws of science or historical evidence. Add the Holocaust to that list.

Pope Benedict XVI's decision to "rescind" the ex-communication of Williamson, who, as a member of the breakaway fringe group, Society of St. Pius X, has said for years that the Holocaust never happened (and who just recently refused an invitation from the German magazine, Der Spiegel, to visit Auschwitz) has undermined much of the progress that the Church has made in the last 25 years in reaching out to Jews around the world. Benedict's decision to rescind Williamson's ex-communication is part of his effort to bring Catholics back into the fold. The best comment I've read on this bizzare development comes from E. J. Dionne, who, from the vantage point of a "liberal Catholic," has called on the Church to take a hard stance on Williamson and continue the Church's commitment, begun under Pope John Paul II's, to expunge anti-Semitism from its teachings. Dionne's comments are informed, sincere and deeply-felt, and it cannot be easy to criticize an institution that has always been important to Catholics like Dionne.

On the other hand, this entire episode is infuriating for no other reason that it seems to allow some wiggle room for Williamson, Benedict, the Church and others -- not Dionne -- to "work through" the issue, to talk about the complexities of reconciling religion, sin, consecreation . . . whatever . . . with an "opinion" that is absolutely and without qualification wrong, wrong and wrong. Religion is entitled to no more deference on Holocaust than some nut from the secular world -- think David Irving. Or David Duke, for that matter.

Underneath this story is another one. For you "content analysts" out there who study communication or how the media covers stories and who gets the attention and who doesn't, put together a quick little project on the amount of newspaper space devoted to the A-Rod "revelations" and the amount of space given to the Williamson story. Pick five major newspapers. I'll make it easy by not asking you to analyze web coverage of this story.

I'm guessing that the ratio will be about 20:1 in column inches. And that's a conservative estimate.

Unless Williamson used steroids or did some late-night bong hits with his fellow bishops. Then it would be news.

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