Sorry is not enough

It was an apology of sorts -- but not of the sort to make amends.

The Holocaust-denying schismatic British bishop whose rehabilitation by the Vatican sparked an international row apologised last night for remarks in which he denied the scale of the Nazis’ genocidal campaign against the Jews. The apology, made in England (where he has returned after being expelled from Argentina), is carried by Zenit here.

Referring to his interview with a Swedish TV station in which he denied the existence of the gas chambers, Bishop Williamson - a member of the breakaway traditionalist Society of Pius X  -- said:

"I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them."

In his interview he only gave the "opinion [...] of a non-historian," a perspective "formed 20 years ago on the basis of evidence then available, and rarely expressed in public since."

In remarks that hint at the kind of pressure he has been under to make this statement, he said that "the events of recent weeks and the advice of senior members of the Society of St. Pius X have persuaded me of my responsibility for much distress caused." And he added:

"To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize."

But the Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, said the apology was insufficient.

Williamson’s statement "does not seem to respect the conditions established in the Feb. 4 note from the [Vatican] Secretariat of State, which stated that [Bishop Williamson] must distance himself in an absolute, unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah," he told journalists.

The spokesman also noted that the prelate’s declaration was not a letter directed to the Holy Father or to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which oversees the Church’s efforts to heal the schism with the Society of St. Pius X.

The Secretariat of State’s 4 February declaration made clear that the four SSPX bishops,"have no canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise any ministry within it", even after the lifting of the canonical penalty of excommunication.

"A full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition for any future recognition of the Society of St. Pius X," the Secretariat said, adding that Bishop Williamson’s positions on the Holocaust are "absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father."

For Bishop Williamson "to be admitted to function as a bishop within the Church, [he] must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were unknown to the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication."

Bishop Williamson, of course, cannot do this, any more than he can accept the authority of the Second Vatican Council. An apology is not what was called for. He was asked to submit to the authority of an ecumenical council and the teaching of the Church. And this he cannot do.

It is good for traditionalists, for once, to learn the limits of dissent.

8 years 2 months ago
Agree completely! Would only add that it is good for BOTH traditionalists and progressives to learn the limits of dissent.
8 years 2 months ago
I felt Williamson's lukewarm apology was just as sincere as were those of the bishops who passed sex offender priests around like hot potatoes.
8 years 2 months ago
And this is supposed to be a Catholic site?!
8 years 2 months ago
The apologies to abused people by the Vatican wasn't enough either.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

In this photo taken May 19, 2017, a GPO worker stacks copies of "Analytical Perspectives Budget of the U.S. Government Fiscal Year 2018" onto a pallet at the U.S. Government Publishing Office's (GPO) plant in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The budget’s moral measure will be assessed by “how well it promotes the common good of all,” the bishops write.
Kevin ClarkeMay 22, 2017
A veteran activist provides a blueprint for creating a movement in the moment of Trump.
Nathan SchneiderMay 22, 2017
Given the number of those in the California legal system today who are Latino, “you can guess a large percentage of them are Catholic.”
Jim McDermottMay 22, 2017
Pope Francis waves during a visit to give an Easter blessing to homes in a public housing complex in Ostia, a Rome suburb on the Mediterranean Sea, May 19 (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano).
Vatican leaders seem quietly confident that the meeting will go well.
Gerard O'ConnellMay 22, 2017