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message 1: by Bill (new)

Bill | 3 comments I've got scandals on the brain today. Anyone have thoughts on the holocaust denying bishop?

message 2: by James (new)

James | 61 comments When I see something like that I ask myself, "What's the motive? Why is this person doing this?"

The Holocaust is so thoroughly documented that no rational person could sincerely deny that it happened. So either he's professing a belief he doesn't really hold, or he's irrational. Further, without exception, every person I've ever heard of denying the Holocaust has had an extremist anti-Jewish and/or anti-Israeli agenda. They have always been affiliated with either neofascist or Islamist fundamentalist belief systems; if they expressed these views as members of groups that held them, those groups met the criteria to be called hate groups, and usually also aimed their hatred and libel at other cultures or groups as well as at Jews and Israel.

When a person voices hate speech while acting as an authority figure in a group like the Roman Catholic Church, that group faces a choice between accepting that speech as representative of the group, or renouncing it. This Pope seems ambivalent - on the one hand, he has now ordered that this bishop publicly renounce his Holocaust denials. On the other hand, the Pope chose to welcome this bishop back into the Church after he had been excommunicated for expressing these exact beliefs.

The only way I can interpret it is that the Pope is somehow so out of touch that he didn't realize his tacit endorsement of Holocaust denial would be passionately rejected by civilized people around the world. The Bishop in question is probably, and justifiably, feeling jerked around and betrayed and cursing the Pope as a coward who lacked the guts to stand behind beliefs he apparently found acceptable until he saw how much revulsion they brought down on him. I am no fan of the Church, but I can't imagine John Paul II ever doing the same thing.

message 3: by George (new)

George | 116 comments Probably not the deftest move for a German pope to make. I certainly agree that it wasn't something the Polish pope would have ever said, having experienced the war years very close up and personal, and obviously having seen the unfolding of the Holocaust. Plus, some 100,000 Poles died at Auschwitz.

message 4: by James (new)

James | 61 comments When I was in the Marine Corps, one battalion commander made a point of organizing a luncheon every year at the officer's club, attendance mandatory for every officer in the unit, and all the Holocaust survivors that lived in the area invited; one or two of them would speak to everyone, and the rest would sit with us and talk about whatever, which always included answering questions about their experiences. The colonel's aim was the same as General Eisenhower's had been when he ordered that as many of the troops in Europe as possible were to see the camps for themselves - he foresaw that there would be people who denied that it had happened, and he wanted as many eyewitnesses as possible to be around.

message 5: by Christopher (new)

Christopher | 13 comments I think there is actually a misconception here that's being fed by the news stories.

The bishop in question, Williamson, was excommunicated by the Catholic Church along with a whole bunch of others. It wasn't his Holocaust denial that got them excommunicated, it was their rejection of the Vatican II changes. I don't believe that there is a direct correlation between the people who have issues with Vatican II and Holocaust deniers.

I'm not Catholic and the esoterica of the Vatican II protocols are a bit foreign to me, but it looks like the Pope was trying to address one issue (a conservative group of bishops who had split from the Church over Vatican II) and got wrapped-up in another issue (one of those bishop's Holocaust denying views). I don't think he ever meant to be sending a message regarding the Holocaust.

message 6: by David (new)

David (nameofdog) | 6 comments One of the reforms of Vatican II was the Nostra Aetate which essentially said, "Ok, yeah, we believe the Jewish elders at the time moved to have Jesus killed, but we're not going to blame all Jews everywhere for all time."
This made Christian-Jewish reconciliation possible.

While I'm not going to say that rejecting Vatican II means the Society of Pius X is anti-semitic, any group that rejects those changes (including the one above) is so staunchly traditionalist that the word "fundamentalist" is not entirely out of place. The Society is no stranger to controversy - it's not the first time this Bishop has made statements like this, nor others in his group.

For Benedict to be unaware of this group (and this man's history) seems disingenuous at worst, and out-of-touch at best. I don't think he meant to be sending a message regarding the Holocaust either but it's not exactly reassuring either.

message 7: by George (new)

George | 116 comments It is indeed hard to imagine that even if the Pope were somehow that much out of touch that his closest advisors were as well, or that they would refuse to tell him. Perhaps, at best, he was oblivious to the message that was sent, but he couldn't have been unaware.

message 8: by David (new)

David (nameofdog) | 6 comments George wrote: "It is indeed hard to imagine that even if the Pope were somehow that much out of touch that his closest advisors were as well"

Here is an interesting article by the NYT pointing out the internal discord in the Church as a result of this.

It makes clear they bishops were excommunicated because they were ordained without a Papal mandate.
It also notes, "They [The Society of Pius X:] are particularly opposed to a Vatican II document that absolved contemporary Jews of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus." While it doesn't provide supporting evidence for this assertion, the Wikipedia links (including the link to the Southern Poverty Law Center's report on the group) provide supporting evidence.

message 9: by James (last edited Feb 08, 2009 01:03PM) (new)

James | 61 comments It's so clearly delusional as a belief system, in the face of so much evidence of many kinds of the Holocaust, that I believe it qualifies clinically as schizophrenic. As well as the six million Jews, they killed a comparable number from other groups, a combination of Russians, Poles, other Slavs, Gypsies, gays, the disabled, the mentally ill, Communists, and other political opponents.

message 10: by David (new)

David (nameofdog) | 6 comments No, schizophrenia as a clinical illness has little to do with this - it's a "a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social or occupational dysfunction."

Holocaust-deniers may be laboring under self-reinforcing delusions (the why of their reasons for denying the Holocaust, typically a barely hidden anti-Semitism) but they're generally fairly functional people otherwise. I don't think we need to bandy about faux clinical diagnoses to distance ourselves from the willful ignorance that is kin to the once widely held view by certain elements of the American South that black people really liked being slaves and it really was better for them all around.

message 11: by James (new)

James | 61 comments That's not a faux clinical diagnosis - I was indeed referring to the psychiatric definition of schizophrenia. I'm a clinician and I've treated quite a few schizophrenics, roughly even divided between people suffering from delusions and from hallucinations.

One subset of the disease consists of having one fixed delusional belief system that persists in the face of clear evidence that it's not real. It can also show up as hallucinations - most often auditory as you noted, as what they call command hallucinations, i.e. voices telling the person to do things; when the hallucinations are visual, they often take the form of "shadow people", figures glimpsed as dark outlines or in the peripheral vision.

But if someone sincerely believes that the Holocaust didn't happen, that there's some sinister Jewish conspiracy ruling the western world, etc. - and though I think they're a minority of Holocaust deniers, some people like that do exist - that would qualify as a delusion, and would constitute grounds for a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia - diagnostic criteria being "Preoccupation with one or more delusions or frequent auditory hallucinations", in the absence of "disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, or flat or inappropriate affect."

People's delusions sometimes form entire imaginary worlds, and sometimes consist of narrow and specific belief systems without any other apparent mental illness - those can take you by surprise even after you've known someone for a while, because they may never have said or done anything odd until that particular subject came up. My stepfather had a friend he'd known for many years, a building contractor who'd worked on his house, who had never done anything to strike my stepfather as strange or distasteful - then one day, in response to something in the news, the guy started spouting some of the nastiest anti-Semitic crap, including Holocaust denial, my stepdad had ever heard - he was shocked, threw the guy out of his house and never heard from him again, but it was a complete surprise.

One interesting example from the literature was a man who was convinced that he was dead, no matter what logic or evidence anyone offered to persuade him he was alive. One doctor asked whether he agreed that only a live person would bleed if he or she was stuck with a pin; the man agreed. The doctor proposed that each of them poke a finger with a pin as a test - the man agreed to that. They both stuck their fingers and drew blood, and the man turned to the doctor and said that he now realized he'd been mistaken - a dead man would bleed if he was stuck with a pin.

It has always seemed to me that if there was really a Jewish conspiracy running things, they weren't very competent, based on the history of Jews having been persecuted and murdered in just about every part of Europe and the Moslem world at various times - you'd think the masters of the universe would arrange to be treated a bit better. Of course, nothing I say on this subject can be taken seriously, because my wife and some of my ancestors are Jewish, so I'm really one of their agents sowing confusion and slandering those poor misunderstood Nazis.

message 12: by David (new)

David (nameofdog) | 6 comments Figures one Jew arguing with another (ie, me) over definitions!

Here's the problem I have with using narrow and specific delusional beliefs as grounds for a schizophrenic diagnosis - there are still large parts of the Arab world that think Israel had something to do with 9/11 and perpetuate the blood libel... are they all schizophrenic?

Are all the Americans who believed that GWB's campaign into Iraq had something to do with 911 and WMDs even after Blix said, 'no, really, there aren't any' schizophrenic?

I realize it's somewhat off-topic, but it's a fascinating discussion on the nature of belief.

message 13: by James (last edited Feb 09, 2009 10:56AM) (new)

James | 61 comments Those are good questions. Perhaps a way to distinguish would be to examine whether a belief was embedded in a society or was held only by an individual or a relatively small group.

Then, too, there's the philosophical question of whether the diagnosis of schizophrenia is a valid construct, given that it's presented as a pretty binary or digital choice - a person does or does not have delusions and/or hallucinations - when, actually, I doubt there's a person anywhere who doesn't have some distorted perceptions or denial, or who doesn't have some accurate perceptions; I got a lively discussion going at lunch once by pointing that out and expressing the idea that to label someone as either schizophrenic or not was in and of itself a delusional act.

At some level (often an absurd one), nearly any belief is probably wrong - in a book on chaos theory, the author pointed out that even something like the length of the coast of England is impossible to determine without arbitrarily choosing one unit of measure (if you actually took a tape measure and recorded the distance by measuring the distance around the periphery of each rock outcropping and so on, it would be huge; take it down to grains of sand and it looks infinite) and tossing out others that seem equally valid. All constructs of reality seem to be expedient oversimplifications, though some are clearly in contradiction with confirmable facts.

To return to the topic, if someone had been taught that the Holocaust hadn't taken place by people they had reason to trust and hadn't been presented with evidence to the contrary, I don't think it would be a sign of pathology, just misinformation - but there's enough information around that I don't think anyone in a Western society can claim ignorance of it.

If any of us are going to call ourselves open-minded, we need to be willing to consider new evidence on any issue and change our minds if warranted. That's what I like about science - good scientists are always ready to change their minds if new facts emerge. Closed minds, like those of Holocaust deniers and other bigots, are the source of much evil and suffering - most of the worst crimes against humanity have been committed by people who were smugly, complacently sure they were right. Give me self-doubters anytime; no one ever started a Holocaust, Crusade, jihad, or other ideological war under a flag with a question mark on it.

message 14: by Bill (new)

Bill | 3 comments The latest update I heard on this is that the Pope has instructed the Bishop to recant his denials of the Holocaust. I don't know what, if anything has happened since then.

message 15: by James (new)

James | 61 comments Yes, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds from here. I haven't heard anything since the news about the Pope's directive, or whether he gave the bishop a deadline. Both the stance of the Catholic Church on issues of hate and intolerance, and the authority of the Pope within the Church, are now riding on this. It may lead to a schism, like the ones in some Protestant denominations over the ordination of gay clergy members.

message 16: by George (new)

George | 116 comments well, he was dismissed as the head of a seminary in Argentina recently for refusing to recant. he turned down a suggestion to go visit Auschwitz. He says he needs time to study the issue.

message 17: by Sam (last edited Feb 20, 2009 11:15PM) (new)

Sam Jung | 5 comments I guess there would be two types of people who "claim that Holocaust do not (allegedly, perhaps purportedly) exist".

First will be the Neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic nut jobs and other neurologically challenged of that sort.

Second will probably be the ones who say that the ideas and perceptions generally held about Holocaust are flawed or false, to some degree or entirely (i.e. historians who claim that Holocaust wasn't a systematical persecution and purge, but rather a "coincidence" fated by sheer, spontaneous bursts of hatred towards Jews)

I don't belong to either of those types of people, but the first group probably do not deserve any rational person's sympathy.

message 18: by James (new)

James | 61 comments The two seem to overlap quite a bit; a lot of neoNazis are Holocaust deniers (though some celebrate it), and most if not all Holocaust deniers tend to be anti-Semites who frequently scapegoat Jews for all kinds of societal and international problems.

Rational people can't afford to ignore, let alone sympathize with, people like this - as Morris Dees from the Southern Poverty Law Center puts it, they have a right to hate people, but not to act on that hatred, and the ones who make a lot of noise about their hatreds act on them too often if they aren't confronted.

message 19: by Donster (new)

Donster | 29 comments James, as a fellow clinician I advise you to go back and review your definitions of both schizophrenia and delusions.
Firstly, not everyone in a delusional state is schizophrenic. This should be obvious to any experienced clinician. While delusions are a common feature of schizophrenia, there are other delusional disorders. A diagnosis of schizophrenia requires two or more features of hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, negative symptoms, and disorganized or catatonic behaviour.
Secondly, beliefs that otherwise could be defined as delusional may not be if they they meet cultural norms for that particular individual. Examples of this would include most conspiracy theorists as well as many religious beliefs. Belief that Christ actually arose from the dead could objectively be viewed as delusional were it not part of a mainstream religion. I think most Holocaust deniers would fit into this category. As mentioned above, they are almost universally subscribers to strong neo-Nazi or anti-Semetic belief systems. Denial of the Holocaust within those groups cannot objectively be viewed as delusional.
Frankly, while many Holocaust deniers may or may not be mentally ill, I don't think most of them could be correctly diagnosed as schizophrenic or even delusional. They couldn't really be held responsible for such views if they truly resulted from mental illness. Alternative diagnoses such as personality disorders may be more applicable.
I don't have specific knowledge of the bishop in question, but his refusal to accept Vatican II suggests he is an anti-Semite and it's likely his denial of such a thoroughly documented event is part of his racist views, possibly combined with a negative personality type.

message 20: by Donald (last edited Feb 24, 2009 04:07PM) (new)

Donald (donroc) | 10 comments The Bishop may be a member of the British-Israel World Federation, which believes the Brits are descended from the Lost 10 Tribes whereas Jews are a mongrelized people of Idumean origin.

Look up the group on the internet. I have read their publications. Some examples:

The seafaring tribe of Dan gave their name to Danmark.

The Persians called the children of Isaac Saccaseni, thus Saxons.

A daughter of the last King of Israel married an Irish prince who was the forebear of the Stuarts.

Egyptian bas reliefs prove ancient Israelites looked like the British.

And more including selective interpretation of Scriptural passages.

The Federation is racist as well.

message 21: by James (last edited Feb 24, 2009 05:29PM) (new)

James | 61 comments Donster, I have no quarrel with your characterization of most anti-Semites as personality-disordered rather than schizophrenic; but their speech and writings indicate that their Holocaust denial is disingenuous posturing rather than a sincere belief (I suspect that's the case with this bishop), and just as often they acknowledge it and praise the Holocaust in some settings even as they're denying it in others. So those people aren't delusional, they're liars. I also agree that it is sometimes likely caused by other delusional disorders. But in the absence of those exclusions, it would sometimes fit under paranoid schizophrenia.

For someone raised and educated in a culture that presented an accurate version of that history to nevertheless believe the opposite in the face of the overwhelming and encyclopedic evidence confirming the truth is just as bizarre as someone believing, say, that the earth is flat. It amounts to a belief that with no reasonable motive or benefit, millions of people in many countries have engaged in a mammoth multi-decade hoax - ranging from millions of people getting numbers tattooed on their arms, to the forging of millions of photos and documents, to the perjurious testimony of millions of troops including a lot of Germans - and that they've somehow managed to keep any of this deception from being objectively demonstrated. If that isn't bizarre, nothing is.

I'm reading page 312 of the DSM-IV-TR right now, and under paragraph it notes that only one Criterion A symptom is required if delusions are bizarre. Not only that, but this pathology often definitely qualifies for Criterion B, causing marked social dysfunction, and C, for duration, and it is not ruled out by the differential diagnostic criteria D, E, and F.

As a therapist and clinical supervisor in a prison psychiatric hospital, I've worked with more patients with serious schizophrenia than I would have chosen to and seen a lot of bizarre delusional systems, and based on that experience I believe the diagnosis is sometimes valid in this context.

message 22: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 1 comments Hi - I just wanted to mention a documentary that my wife and I saw recently on DVD called Constantine's Sword: . It opens with a discussion of the influence of the Evangelical movement at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, but it quickly broadens out to a sweeping history of anti-Semitism. It might be worth a look for anyone interested in the topic. - Jonathan

message 23: by James (new)

James | 61 comments Sounds good. I've read some about that in the Intelligence Report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. They covered the case in which an AF Academy alumnus sued after his son told him about being harassed for being Jewish - they were doing things like making non-fundamentalists stand in a separate place in formations. I think that would have the Founders rolling in their graves. It's also, beyond being wrong, stupid and shortsighted. The fundamentalists are a minority in America, and if they set a precedent of official discrimination against any denomination or none, it could easily come back to bite them someday. They should see that they need religious tolerance as much as anyone does.

It's funny how people who embrace bigotry seldom target their hate at a group that's really big and powerful and could actually represent a threat to them. Cowards.

message 24: by George (new)

George | 116 comments Well, I think there was a not altogether unreasonable assumption that they could get away with this during the Bush administration. I doubt they currently think so.

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