Supporting Abortion Rights is Worse than Holocaust Denial

January 26, 2009 § 11 Comments

So the Pope has lifted the excommunications of the four illicitly consecrated Bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. For those who don’t follow Catholic inside baseball, the SSPX considers itself an ultra-traditionalist group with the goal of attempting to preserve the pre-Vatican II patrimony of the Catholic Church in the face of Vatican II reforms. Assuming I have it right, which I might not because I don’t have an intense interest in the matter, these four Bishops were consecrated – validly, that is to say, they really did sacramentally become bishops – but illicitly, that is, without the juridical permission of Rome. As a result they were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II. It is that excommunication which has been lifted by Pope Benedict XVI.

That is just background for what interests me in particular here, which is the hubbub over the fact that one of the four Bishops is apparently a Holocaust denier. (Note: I haven’t been able to view the video at dotCommonweal as of this writing, but we can stipulate all of this for my purposes here).

Now Bishop Williamson was not excommunicated for being a Holocaust denier: he was excommunicated for his deliberate illicit consecration as a Bishop. The one really has nothing to do with the other. Nevertheless, and understandably, lifting his excommunication has created a bit of a storm. Many people feel that Holocaust denial is so gravely immoral – not to mention loopy – that it warrants excommunication in itself; and I am sympathetic to this view.

However, that directly raises the general question of what moral wrongs are so gravely wicked that they warrant excommunication. Keep in mind that even a serial killer is not excommunicated on account of being a serial killer: he may be damned, if he does not repent, but he is not excommunicated.

Holocaust denial is inexcusably crazy and wicked, but it does not involve advocacy and support of an existing legal right to murder Jews. Furthermore, it is not Catholic doctrine that some historical event such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, the moon landing, or the Holocaust actually occurred. On the other hand, opposition to a legal right to abortion is Catholic doctrine. So if the time has come to start excommunicating the wicked – a proposition about which I reserve judgment – they had better get in line behind the heretics.

(Cross-posted)

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§ 11 Responses to Supporting Abortion Rights is Worse than Holocaust Denial

  • Scott W. says:

    <>Assuming I have it right, which I might not because I don’t have an intense interest in the matter<>LoL. My advice is that if you are ever at a dinner party with someone who has it right and is interested in it, excuse yourself to the bathromm and pray there is a window you can crawl out of and escape.

  • Jason Cebalo says:

    Perhaps by posting this I become one of the people Mr. W. advises you crawl out a window to escape from, but I really dont think I’m that scary.Anyhow, yes, you are correct that the consecration is regarded by the church as sacramentally valid but illicit, however you are slightly off-base in your statement that the then Holy Father excommunicated them. The current Code of Cannon Law says that a, if a consecration is performed without the prior permission of Rome, then the consecrating Bishop(s) and those consecrated are excommunited by virtue of act. What that means is, the Holy Father did not excommunicate them, he mearly announced that they had excommunicated themselves.

  • zippy says:

    Jason:We may not be obsessively invested in the particular subject matter around here, but pedantry is a core foundational value of this blog. So I appreciate the correction/clarification.

  • Scott W. says:

    It’s not so much scary, but it is for many of us a “O Lord, not <>this<> again!” moment. I can set my watch to it on Fr. Z’s blog. There will be dozens of entries with 8 comments. Or 15, 20, occassionally one will break 50. Then I’ll see a few with 120. I’ll bet big money those are about SSPX. Heck, the original entry could be about Lance Berkman’s batting average and someone will have turned it into an SSPX discussion. And so with all this discussion lots of headway and understanding is made, right?Heh. No flippin’ way. It’s like being locked in a closet with a recording of a bad joke on auto replay.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Well, since pedantry is a core value, I’ll just throw a little Protestant ignorance into the mix, because this is obviously the place to get the answer: If the Pope merely _announced_ an excommunication which the men had brought upon themselves by their own act, but did not in fact enact it, how can he _lift_ the excommunication now? The act is still done. I mean, did they go to confession for it or something? Is that supposed to be the deal–that they’ve repented for it as a sin? I assume the lifting of the excommunication isn’t a statement that the original pronouncement was in error. So what, theologically, is supposed to have happened between then and now that gives meaning to the “lifting” of the excommunications?

  • zippy says:

    Good questions, Lydia.Any excommunication is (and always has been) juridical in nature; it isn’t a state brought about by nature or whatever; it is a juridical penalty imposed by the Church. The kind of automatic excommunication which obtained here is the result of the current code of canon law (ratified in 1983 by Pope John Paul II), which provides for various acts which automatically result in excommunication. (One of those is procuring an abortion, BTW: someone who does so is automatically excommunicated and has to have that excommunication reversed by a Bishop, IIRC — it is not sufficient to just repent and confess to a priest. But I could be wrong about that).The Pope has the authority to change or dispense from canon law pretty much arbitrarily, precisely because it is juridical in nature. So in a nutshell the Pope has a kind of “pardon power” for excommunications analogous to the President’s pardon power for criminal acts.All assuming that I know what I am talking about.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,Today I heard a talk radio show host, who I listen to regularly and respect, say that “we need pro-choice Republicans”, but I guarantee he would never say “we need Nazi Republicans”. To be fair, he is probably pointing out the fact that Republicans cannot win with only pro-life voters, but I do get the feeling that somehow what is being implied is that neo-Nazi’s and white supremacist are worse than baby killers. I would rather lose an election than win it on the Holocaust vote, but apparently some disagree.– Kurt

  • William Luse says:

    I like Lydia’s question about confession. It would be nice to know whether these guys had said they’re sorry as a condition of the Pope’s action.

  • zippy says:

    Anonymous:That’s just because the Nazi vote wouldn’t increase Republican electoral chances, apparently.Bill:I would be interesting to know, but I tend to doubt it. I see this more as a move that calls everyone’s bluff.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I think I get the legal type of situation that is supposed to obtain. Perhaps it’s supposed to be like committing a crime which carries a particular fine as a penalty under positive law. If the positive law weren’t in place, you wouldn’t be liable for the fine. Since it is in place, there is a sense in which you “owe” the fine once you’ve committed the crime even if you haven’t been caught and sentenced. But once you have been sentenced, the fine can be “forgiven” if the governor commutes the sentence or pardons the crime.

  • […] obscure and hidden as possible under a fog of sentimentalism. (Unless you are the kind of sinner we don’t like: the only people worse than you are the people trying to dissipate the […]

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