Reading Time: 2 minutes Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Reading Time: 2 minutes

This was written a few years ago before Pope Benedict resigned.

Pope Benedict XVI, otherwise known as Joseph Ratzinger, is deemed infallible when it comes to matters of church dogma.  According to the Church, God tells him what to say, and he cannot be wrong.  Last weekend, Ratzinger lifted the excommunication of some pretty nasty people who were excommunicated by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.  The four guys who were kicked out of the church belong to a notoriously anti-Semitic sect called the Society of St. Pius X, the largest of the so-called “traditionalist” groups in the Church.  Among other things, the group denies the reality of the Holocaust.  The spokesman for the group, a British-born bishop named Richard Williamson claims that only a couple hundred thousand Jews were killed in the Nazi concentration camps, instead of the 6 million most historians agree perished there.  He claims that no Jews were gassed, saying, “There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers.  It was all lies, lies, lies.”

He has also said that Jews drink the blood of Christian babies, an old myth used to incite the pogroms that killed many innocent Jews in Europe during the last century.  His organization advocates segregating Jews in ghettos because they are “known to kill Christians.”  He also believes that the attacks of 9/11 were an American plot to justify invading Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s clear why John Paul II wanted nothing to do with such lunatics.  So why has Ratzinger reversed the excommunication?  Various rationales have been proposed.  The Church is deathly afraid of any move toward a breakup…of splinter groups separating from Rome.  Also, these “traditionalists” favor a return to traditional ways…performing the mass in Latin, instead of the local language, and a rigid adherence to church dogma.  Ratzinger is known to share many of the same views, even though he has stated his disagreement with them on the Holocaust.

Some apologists in the Church have claimed that Ratzinger’s action falls within the Church’s canon law, saying that to deny the Holocaust is not heresy, even though it is a lie.  Therefore, the excommunication can be lifted because they are not heretics…merely liars.

So what should reasonable people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, make of this?  Was the Pope directed by God to make this judgment, to let these anti-semitic bigots and spreaders of lies and hate back into the Church?  Is canonical law so important that lies and bigotry should be tolerated in order to maintain church unity?

Churches always claim to be the keepers of our absolute moral standards.  Religious people often claim that without religion, human society would descend into chaos, and they decry the “moral relativism” of non-religious people.

I dare say that this action by Ratzinger smells strongly of moral relativism.


Bert Bigelow graduated from the University of Michigan engineering school, and then pursued a career in software design.  He has always enjoyed writing, and since retirement, has produced short essays on many subjects.  His main interests are in the areas of politics and religion, and the intersection of the two.  Many of his writings are posted on his web site,  You can contact him at

Bert Bigelow is a trained engineer who pursued a career in software design. Now retired, he enjoys writing short essays on many subjects but mainly focuses on politics and religion and the intersection...