Action Alert!

No room for sinners?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 09, 2009

First Bishop Wiliamson caused scandal by questioning the severity of the Holocaust. Now a leading German prelate, in his haste to condemn Williamson's statement, has scandalized me.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch told Der Spiegel that Bishop Williamson is "impossible and irresponsible." Hard words, but I can't honestly disagree with them. I have no desire to defend the SSPX bishop, let alone his ugly revisionism. It's the next sentence that bothers me. According to Spiegel, the archbishop said:

I now see no room for him in the Catholic Church.

I'd like to be able to say that the translation is inaccurate. Alas, the original looks fairly straightforward:

Ich sehe keinen Platz für ihn in der katholischen Kirche.

Maybe-- just maybe-- the archbishop is saying that there's no place for Williamson in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. I couldn't disagree with him on that point, either. Unfortunately the words convey a different meaning.

Why would there be "no room in the Catholic Church" for Bishop Williamson? Because he has done something seriously wrong? Leaving alone the question of whether Holocaust denial is the worst possible offense-- worse, say, than raping children or killing the unborn-- isn't the Church a haven for sinners?

For myself, I've always found that when I have done my worst, and when I'm as disgusted with myself as the world is now disgusted with Williamson-- that's precisely when, through the action of grace, I am reminded that there is "room in the Catholic Church" for me. A very specific room, in fact: a confessional.

Sometimes it's awkward being a Catholic. You have to put up with co-religionists like Williamson. And like me.


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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