The furor over the “Holocaust denial” remarks of Bishop Richard Williamson is not a controversy about historical truth, the role of history in society, anti-Semitism or “hate.” This affair is really about power -- about those who really wield it in our culture, as well as about how and why that power is used.
Williamson is a 68-year-old English-born traditionalist Roman Catholic who has been fiercely criticized in recent weeks for his remarks about the Holocaust. In a Swedish television interview, which has been widely viewed on the Internet and quoted widely in the media, he expressed the view that no more than 300,000 Jews died in German concentration camps during World War II, and none were killed in gas chambers.
The uproar, which has received wide media attention, began several weeks ago after Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of Williamson and three other renegade bishops as part of an effort to heal a rift with a conservative Roman Catholic group that opposes liberalizing trends within the Church.
As the controversy grew, Williamson was expelled from Argentina, where he had been living, and German authorities announced that they might bring criminal charges against him. In Germany and some other European countries it is a crime to deny, justify or play down World War II genocide of Europe’s Jews. German authorities claim the right to prosecute anyone, anywhere who makes “denial” remarks that can be accessed through the Internet. After returning to his native Britain, Williamson issued an apology for the “harm and hurt” caused by his remarks, but he did not retract them.
Bishop Williamson holds unconventional views on a range of issues. He has repeatedly said that Nine-Eleven was an “inside job,” and believes that the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks were organized by the US government. But no one is demanding that Williamson apologize for charging that high-level US officials carried out mass murder of their own fellow citizens. Indeed, if the US government were to insist on such an apology, it would rightly be regarded as an act of arrogant effrontery.