Holocaust-Denying Bishop Reinstated by Pope Explains His Belief That No Jews Died in Gas Chambers
Attacks on Pope Benedict XVI's decision to lift the excommunication of a Holocaust denier escalated Monday, with one theologian calling on him to step down as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Criticism following the pope's January 24 announcement has been particularly cutting in Germany, where denying the Holocaust is a crime punishable with a jail sentence.
"If the pope wants to do some good for the Church, he should leave his job," eminent liberal Catholic theologian Hermann Haering told the German daily Tageszeitung. "That would not be a scandal, a bishop has to relinquish his position at 75 years, a cardinal loses his rights at 80 years," he said. Pope Benedict is 81.
Meanwhile, a senior Vatican official acknowledged the Vatican administration may have made "management errors" with the decision to lift excommunication against four bishops, including Richard Williamson, whose comments sparked the controversy.
"I observe the debate with great concern. There were misunderstandings and management errors in the Curia," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is in charge of the Vatican department that deals with Jewish relations. "The Pope wanted to open the debate because he wanted unity inside and outside," the German cardinal told Vatican Radio. He also noted that "these bishops are still suspended."
An international uproar followed the decision to rehabilitate Williamson, an English bishop who has dismissed as "lies" historical evidence that six million Jews were gassed by the Nazis during World War II. Jews and Catholics alike have produced widespread criticism.
"A pardon that tastes of poison," wrote Franco Garelli, an expert in religious history, in Italy's daily La Stampa Monday. "The trouble caused by this complicated affair is evident not only outside the Church but within it," wrote the academic, who spoke of the "profound discomfort stirred up by the lifting of the excommunication in numerous Catholic circles."