5 February 2009
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Vatican City, Italy
This being our first direct correspondence since your ascension to the papacy, allow us to extend our sincerest reverence and congratulations. We write you today in our common capacity as individual followers of our global Catholic Communion and elected Members of the Canadian Parliament. The opinions expressed in this correspondence are extended only in these capacities, and not as a formal statement on behalf of the New Democratic Party or the Government of Canada.
For convenience, we have sent a physical copy of this correspondence to the Apostolic Palace.
We are compelled to express our deep concern over the reinstatement of controversial Bishop Richard Williamson to the Apostolic College. It is our view – one shared by a vast swath of world opinion – that the inexplicable reinstatement of this divisive figure threatens to directly undermine the moral authority of our faith by associating the Holy See with odious, inflammatory distortions of a forensically documented historical tragedy. This has provoked a wholly unnecessary revival of painful divisions within our Catholic community, and has renewed our estrangement from other people of faith with whom we share so many core values, most particularly our Jewish brothers and sisters.
In our judgement, Bishop Williamson’s reinstatement has the potential to severely if not irreparably damage relations between the Jewish and Catholic faiths, which had in the years prior to this irresponsible decision undergone a long-overdue and mutually gratifying rapprochement.
We respectfully question the wisdom of welcoming back into the Conference of Bishops a man who has both systematically denied and maliciously minimalized the atrocities committed by Hitler`s Germany against the Jewish inhabitants of Central and Eastern Europe between the late 1930s and 1945. We note with regret that this tactless and irresponsible move has revived painful memories of our church`s own inaction during this period of profound injustice, a silence that has been formally acknowledged by the Vatican as one of our Church`s greatest ever moral failures.
As democratically elected Canadian politicians as much as faithful Catholics, your Holiness, we must doubly condemn the Bishop`s reinstatement. Our Canadian nation has for many decades strived towards a more egalitarian, just society. This noble objective is shared by Canadians of several divergent political perspectives but is eternally opposed by the scourges of intolerance, racism, and too often, anti-Semitism. Over time we have as a society won many of these fights, even as we recognize that the fight for a world worthy of Christ`s legacy is not – and may never be – concluded by even the most tireless mortal exertions.
You will be aware that Canada, like most modern democracies, has enacted a vast body of law which protects our diverse people from the hate which almost invariably motivates tangible acts of discrimination, exclusion, and victimization. It is a sad testament to the gravity of our concern over this restoration that the highest profile defendant in a Canadian hate trial, Mr. Ernst Zundel, appears to share not just opinions but indeed associates with the source of today`s controversy, Bishop Williamson.
Beginning in 1989 with a public address at the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes parish in Sherbrooke, Québec, Bishop Williamson began a long pattern of making entirely false and morally indefensible pronouncements about the Holocaust, or Shoah as that abomination is known in Hebrew. The Bishop`s verbatim statements themselves have no doubt been brought to your attention, and we do not care to give them further airing here. Suffice it to say, Holiness, that we find them offensive in the extreme and see no place for such beliefs among the contemporary leadership of a great faith like our own.
During the Zundel trial, which led to the unrepentant celebrity anti-Semite’s eventual extradition from Canada and conviction in your German homeland for systematically denying the gruesome reality of this sensitive period in German history, the defendant cited the discredited "Leuchter Report" in his defence. This document relied heavily on the analysis of pseudo-Engineer Fred Leucther, who claimed falsely to have disproved the holocaust through a convoluted and scientifically worthless architectural examination of the genocidal Nazi premises at Auschwitz, Poland. During the course of this trial, the presiding judge rejected the entirety of his work, deeming it "ridiculous" and "preposterous."
It is an alarming and perhaps irrevocable condemnation of the Bishop that he has himself cited the Leuchter’s work in vainly defending himself from numerous enraged critics. Our concern over Bishop Williamson turned to outrage when we found that, as recently as November 2008, in a widely documented interview with Swedish media, Bishop Williamson reiterated his belief that despite the existence of literally thousands of pages, hours of video, as well as direct, powerful testimony from countless survivors and perpetrators of Nazi brutality, the holocaust simply never happened.
Our categorical rejection of these views is compounded by dozens of other inflammatory statements by the Bishop irrationally attacking a wide array of political leaders, rival Christian sects, labour figures, the world Jewish community, victims of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, and the Western democratic process itself.
It is evident given his predilection for near-constant reaffirmation of these despicable opinions that Bishop Williamson has not recanted in a sincere fashion and may still harbour such implacably offensive views. We cannot speculate, your Holiness, about what phobia, ignorance, or innate hatred motivates such belief in a man who aspires to speak for our just and inclusive God. We can say confidently, though, and trust you will concur that anyone who genuinely believes our faith is compatible with so vile and malicious a worldview lacks even the most basic understanding of the Catholic Church and its spiritual inspiration, Jesus of Nazareth.
While pro-active disclosure and repudiation of his long history of anti-Semitism, accompanied by genuine and profound repentance might have permitted Bishop Williamson to quietly reassume a leadership position within our Communion, any such repudiation issued amidst the present global furor would seem at best a mere act of political expediency and, at worst, an intentional concealment of discredited views which do not and must never define our Catholic community of faith.
We humbly recommend that if Bishop Williamson is to be restored to full Communion with the Church, he first recant absolutely his abhorrent views on the Holocaust, and perform a sincere, sustained penance satisfactory to leaders of the Jewish faith.
In light of Bishop Williamson`s egregious conduct, his continued leadership of the St. Pius X Society casts this entire order in a questionable light. We urge you to strongly consider suspending reinstatement of the St. Pius X Society pending a review of the group`s mandate, attitudes, and practice and ultimate resolution of the Williamson controversy.
We also recommend that a formal apology be issued by your office to the Jewish community for any offence caused by this controversy, along with a pledge to renew the extraordinary work of your immediate predecessor in bridging the divides between Judaism and Christianity.
The above actions will go some distance towards reassertion of the moral responsibility we feel as Catholics to be a voice of truth in the world, while protecting our Church from unfair slander precipitated by the un-Christian tendencies of any one man.
We trust you will act wisely and in the interests of a stronger, broader, more unified global Communion.
Joe Comartin, M.P.
Tony Martin, M.P.
Sault St- Marie
Charlie Angus, M.P.