Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Difference Between Deaf And Selectively Deaf

Bishop Williamson says Vatican-SSPX talks “dialogue of the deaf”
Reuters - Jan 19, 2010 - 17:51 EST

Bishop Richard Williamson, the ultra-traditionalist prelate whose denial of the extent of the Holocaust created an uproar in the Catholic Church and with Jews early last year, has said the discussions at the Vatican to rehabilitate his Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) are a “dialogue of the deaf.” Williamson, one of the four SSPX bishops whose bans of excommunication were lifted by Pope Benedict only days after his controversial views were aired on Swedish television, said the two sides had “absolutely irreconcilable” positions.
In a 15-minute interview posted on the French video-sharing website Dailymotion, Williamson discussed a number of issues with a man identified by the Paris Catholic daily La Croix as a minor French far-right politician named Pierre Panet. When asked about the negotiation under way at the Vatican to reintegrate the once-shunned SSPX into the Roman church, he said in fluent French:

“I think that will end up as a dialogue of the deaf. The two positions are absolutely irreconcilable. 2+2=4 and 2+2=5 are irreconcilable. Either those who say 2+2=4 renounce the truth and agree that 2+2=5 — that is, the SSPX abandons the truth, which God forbids us to do — or those who say 2+2=5 convert and return to the truth. Or the two meet halfway and say that 2+2=4-1/2. That’s wrong. Either the SSPX becomes a traitor or Rome converts or it’s a dialogue of the deaf.”

Williamson’s negationist views of the Holocaust caused such an uproar early last year that the head of the SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay, issued a gag order for him. It was so embarrassing for Benedict that he had to issue a letter to Catholic bishops around the world explaining his decision. Williamson was quickly removed from his post as head of the SSPX seminary in Argentina and sent home to Britain, where he lives in an SSPX home in the Wimbledon section of London. Asked about his life there, he said with dry British humour: “This is an unexpected but quite agreeable sabbatical year.”

Asked how he spends his days, he said: “Dormir et manger” (sleeping and eating), as well as writing his blog Dinoscopus, which was quickly turned into a private blog after the controversy last year.

When Panet asked for his views about Israel, Williamson said: “Many people think this state is legitimate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.”

La Croix quoted a Rev. Jacques Masson, a former member of the SSPX, as saying of Williamson: “He belonged to the group that was the most intransigent with Rome. I suspect that they pushed (SSPX founder) Archbishop (Marcel) Lefebvre to harden his line and finally go into schism.” The SSPX, which rejects the Second Vatican Council and the Catholic Church’s reconciliation with the Jews, broke from Rome in 1988 when Lefebvre disobeyed Pope John Paul and consecrated four bishops, including Williamson. Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications in 2009 and the negotiations with the Vatican aim at finding a way to reintegrate these traditionalists into the Church.

Pope Benedict recently said he hoped to reestablish full communion with the SSPX.


I've written a great deal lately about spiritual intelligence and spiritual maturity and why this is such an important concept. I posted the above article on Bishop Williamson because it demonstrates how difficult it is to penetrate stage I spiritual thinking. Williamson's use of simple math to illustrate his thinking is almost too perfect. Unfortunately for Williamson spiritual relationships work far more like the never ending Pi ratio than they do 2+2=4.

Here's another take on this same theme of spiritual maturity. In some respects this is one of the shortest and best explanations I have read in a long while. It's a reflection on the Irish abuse crisis.

GERARD CASEY Professor of philosophy, University College Dublin

“I can’t understand people losing faith because of scandals. I’m not making light of what happened, but for me it’s not where faith comes from. Religion and morality are not the same thing, but for most Irish Catholics the two are one and the same. When you tell them the moral code associated with Catholicism is pretty much the same as in any religion, they find it hard to believe. (The hierarchy has lately been bending over backwards to 'help' us think that Catholic morality and Catholic spirituality are exactly the same thing.)
"You have to get morality from reason – morals are either a set of conventions in a utilitarian way or a real code to live by. The problem with utilitarianism is that morality only survives when the going is good, otherwise it’s every man for himself. There is nothing specifically Catholic about natural law. When you look at what human beings are, you see they have needs and that means we know the kind of actions that are [morally] destructive. (We are currently seeing this played out by some groups in Haiti. As survival needs become imperative, morality becomes very frangible.)

“A classic way of looking at morality is from Confucian philosophy. “There are four concentric circles. The innermost circle is the basic, natural state where we individually are the centre of the universe. We understand this in children and find it quite cute, but it would be sinister in an adult. The next circle is the utilitarian level: we still want things for ourselves, but have to at least simulate an interest in others. (Some would say this is the current philosophy of the Democratic party and most other politicians.)

“The breakthrough comes at the next moral level – this is when you recognise that other human beings are exactly like you: each has hopes, dreams and fears. There can be a sense of shock when we realise this.

“The final circle is the transcendent, where the human world is understood in a larger context. Traditionally this has been religious, but it can be other things, such as politics, for example – anything that says there is a dimension above us.

“The key for us as individuals is to match up the emotional and the intellectual sides of our lives. It’s a developmental process and, to some degree, a pattern of habituation.” (One could also use the term enculturation as well as habituation.)

These four stages also mirror neurological development, which is why they are most frequently described in terms of chronological development. The problems in maturation develop generally because habituation or enculturation preclude more development, or just as frequently, by the amount of trauma experienced in earlier stages of neural development. This is why it is paramount that we 'match up the emotional and the intellectual sides of our lives." As Terence Weldon wrote recently on his own blog, quoting theologian Fr. John McNeil "it is not possible to separate sound theology from sound psychology". In theory, that is.

Bishop Williamson is still functioning from a world view encased in the first circle. For him all issues come down to the concrete notion that they will reduce to the simplicity of 2+2=4. Most of us move out of that kind of thinking by the time we reach puberty and experience the fact that not everything boils down so easily.

There was another example of William's type thinking on the web this morning. It was part of a story on the Mexican hierarchy and their reasons for desiring to deny gays the ability to adopt children. The article cited the website of a Canadian woman as proof of their concerns of the damage gay parents do to children.

This woman had a very difficult upbringing, but the problem is her experiences are hardly unique to children of gay men. The fact is they are far far more likely to occur to children of parents in heterosexual relationships, especially in those relationships in which chemical dependency is a factor. The fact the Mexican bishops can call for social policy legislation on a data point of one, ignoring all other data points, is not indicative of higher reasoning processes. In fact those same reasoning processes, based on millions of data points, would be to deny adoption and marriage to divorced heterosexual men. To advocate for this position would also conform to Church sexual morality.

The fact the Mexican bishops are not calling for this kind of blanket ban on marriage and adoption for divorced heterosexual males tells us that their essentially childish reasoning only applies to gays, not heterosexuals. This would put these bishops into the outskirts of the second concentric circle, in that it is a suspiciously utilitarian reasoning. It also demonstrates just how selectively deaf they are to the arguments of the third and fourth circles. In this case 2+2=4 for gays, but something else for heterosexuals.

Or maybe the logic is based on the equally simple equation peg A must fit into slot B where slot B has little or no choice and the well being of the = C part of the equation is left totally to chance factors. That would very much be circle one thinking.


  1. Colleen,
    This man (I won't call him Bishop) is incredible! "A dialogue of the deaf." And this is man whose rehabiliation was worth nearly destroying the Catholic Church's relationship with Judaism? What a horrible mistake and a horrible waste of years of work on Catholic-Jewish relations. I do agree with that man on one thing, the differences between his SSPX and what we may recognize as the Catholic Church are indeed "irreconcilable."

    Thanks for letting me vent.


  2. Hello Colleen,
    I read a little of the Canadian woman's story on her blog. It seems to me she makes a good case for gay marriage. Perhaps if her father had been able to marry a gay man, he would have had the support necessary to live a monogamous lifestyle.
    Thanks for all the excellent posts. I read you every day.
    Mary H.

  3. Mary, thanks for mentioning that because the first thing that I objected to was the very fact her father was a victim of not just his own father, but he came out in the sixties when that culture was vastly different from the gay culture of today.

    I don't know, I suppose it's fitting that the Mexican hierarchy would equate a pre vatican II gay culture with today.

    David, this is the man whose rehabilitation caused such destruction to Jewish/Catholic understanding. What's sadder is he isn't the only member of SSPX with the 'you are going to hell and deserve to be in hell' attitude towards jews--or muslims or gays or secular women or any other group which in his opinion is beneath white heterosexual european males. You are always welcome to vent.

  4. The SSPX's teachings are nothing but the teachings of the Church, as they have always been. This was understood well by those of the Vatican II generation, which is why this council was accounted as 'such a big deal.' And yes, the two worldviews really are 'irreconcilable.'

    Why do we need "Jewish-Catholic" relations? If the Catholic Church is the true Church, as we believe it to be, then the Jews must convert to be saved. Pontiffs prior to the 1960s understood this well ---John Paul II has the shame (as a Pope) of being the first pope since St. Peter ever to set foot in a Jewish synagogue.

    Long live Bp. Williamson! I had the pleasure to meet him last year, and I think he is the saintliest man alive today.

  5. John, it sounds as if you are thinking of the Church as a sort of replacement of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As a Church, we first must be converted to Christ and become like Christ and reflect the true spirit of Christ, of which SSPX certainly does not. The worry and insistence about converting others, while not being converted yourself to Christ first, is the point that SSPX does not get yet. The SSPX has been converted to Church only and does not act as if it has met Jesus, nor can it convey the message of Jesus Christ to the world via forced conversions to Church.

    The SSPX does not listen, work to understand how to understand the Gospels in a way that reflects a true understanding of Jesus Christ & His teachings. It works in ways that block the teachings of Jesus Christ, because it puts a lot of immature misunderstanding in-between their intellect and their emotions.

  6. It would be morally untenable to defend 2000 years of anti-Semitism rampant within the Church. Whether or not you believe that the Church is the true Church is irrelevant to the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. History is full of injustices committed by Christians of all types against the Jewish people, who are the blood relatives of Jesus. This sort of immorality cannot be defended by any dogma or doctrine.

  7. Butterfly,

    The SSPX certainly reflects the true spirit of Christ. Christians are to love one another, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good works, and confessing the true faith -for works without faith avail not, as scripture teaches. I don't know what's un-Christlike in the SSPX's doctrine or actions. Sometimes confessing the true faith can be less than sweetness and pleasantries, as the first Christians demonstrated when they refused to renounce their faith and met the lions in Roman arenas. Likewise, today, one is often obliged to take a public stand over something that's politically-incorrect, but nevertheless true. The SSPX does not advocate forced conversions, nor do any Catholics I know of. :)


    Stating that the Jews need to convert (and thus that, logically, the false ecumenism which obscures this truth is a bad thing which we should not mourn the passing of) is not anti-semitism. I fail to see what it has to do with the discussion, really. Anti-semitism is "hatred of the Jews." It isn't hatred of a people, but the greatest love, to attempt to spread the good news of Christ so that they can perhaps save their souls.


  8. "Bishop" Williamson isn't just deaf, but also obtuse. I agree, the SSPX is not worth destroying Catholicism's rapprochement with Judaism, but it appears to me that both Williamson and Benedict XVI want to place the institution before everything else, including human beings. No institution should be more important than the people who make up the institution. The SSPX exalts form and the past over substance, and evidently the bloody history of the institutional church's anti-Semitism isn't enough to budge Williamson and his flock. That is why Williamson feels compelled to deny realities like the Shoah. I doubt whether anyone could convince SSPX members to read James Carroll's "Constantine's Sword" or to watch the film based upon the book. There are many of us who don't feel inclined to return to the past, which we didn't feel was so great to begin with.

  9. "If the Catholic Church is the true Church, as we believe it to be ..."

    John, who is this "we" to whom you refer?

    There are a lot of us who stopped believing in that a long time ago.

    Delude yourself if you will, but leave the rest of us out of your nightmare.

    Jim McCrea

  10. It was good and inspiring to read this again, Colleen. The deaf are still deaf. I think I gained some more understanding from reading this again. Your writings are a lot of food for thought. I have undoubtedly been reading the writings of a contemplative spiritual master.

    John from SSPX made no jump or leap of faith from where he stood. To his reasoning, there is only 2+2=4. There are no other possibles, or connections, or depth or height or width of even a concept of eternity that is not stuck in time. There really is no heaven in such a view, other than an external imagining. "Heaven is within you" but SSPX does not compute. Externals are everything to an SSPXer, in my humble opinion.

    Their view is spiritually immature in the sense that it is limited, from a set flat surface and everything revolves closely to the subjective viewer who sees everything as dependent (never interdependent) and pre-determined & static (never to change), does not allow for further development or a concept of space & the universe that is expanding, as well as consciousness is expanding, nor for growth or expansive enough to let one past this first stage of reasoning. Evolution cannot exist in this view either, as all things are fixed in their understanding and there is nothing new to learn. It's a literal translation and simplistic view which does not always compute to being right or correct or the absolute truth.

    word verif is verse - as in reverse