It was an internal Vatican power thing: the reports I've read have not been completely clear, but from what I gather the consecrating bishop, one Marcel Lefebvre, was in a traditionalist split-off group called the Society of St. Pius X, and I guess he decided to make his own bishops in order to boost said group -- without going through the appropriate channels. I don't know if the excommunication being rescinded means they're bishops again, or if they're priests, or just lay Catholics.
Why is Pope Benedict making this move? Well, two reasons. First, Benedict himself is a traditionalist who has some sympathies with folks who, for example, prefer the Latin mass to the vernacular. Second, the Society of St. Pius X has 150,000 members. That's a hundred and fifty thousand more Catholics, if Benedict can reconcile the split.
Nobody who wasn't Catholic would give a rat's ass about this, except for one minor problem: Richard Williamson is a Jew-hating loon who last week gave an interview to Swedish television in which he denied the Holocaust. As you can imagine, we Jews are a little pissed. It's a blow to Catholic-Jewish relations, and it's a real shit sandwich for the Pope. (I actually feel a little for Pope Benedict on this one: Williamson was thrown out for being consecrated in defiance of papal authority, not for being a Jew-hating loon, and on getting back in he immediately sets about making things more difficult for the Pope. Way to get off on the right foot, there, guy.)
Anyway, I heard about that on NPR this morning. But there was something else I didn't hear about on NPR this morning: Amin Al-Ansari, an Egyptian cleric, went on an Islamist Egyptian TV station a couple of days ago and offered his own views on the Holocaust. He went the other way from Williamson: he didn't deny it, he celebrated it.
You can see him (and disturbing concentration camp footage) on Egyptian TV here, or you can read the translation here. A taste:
These are corpses of dead humans and the shattered bones of Jews. Here we have a crematorium, in which the Jews were burnt. These are Jews who are being prepared to be burnt. Look, these are Jews dying of hunger or by gas. Look how they round them up and put them on trucks. Note the humiliation on his face, Allah be praised. “Abasement and humiliation were brought down upon them, and they became deserving of Allah’s wrath.” . . . Look, this is a barbed wire, used to crush their bodies. He and five others will be hanged with a single chain. Concentrate on this, my brothers. Watch this. Look, they are tying five heads together. These are bodies. Here they are drilling a hole in his back with a nail. This child awaits his turn. Watch their humiliation. . . . Watch this tractor clearing away the corpses of the Jews, and these are the refugees awaiting their turn to be killed. A German soldier will come now, and you will see a Jewish woman kissing his hand. Notice what humiliation, fear, and terror have struck her. See how much she is kissing his hand. Watch her humiliation.
This is what we hope will happen, but, Allah willing, at the hand of the Muslims.
I found it interesting that these two stories came to my attention so close together. And it got me thinking: which bugs me more? On one hand, the Catholic church is hierarchical, so the Pope's decision has political implications. OTOH, if he's just getting to be in the church again -- not a priest, not a bishop -- it's not as much of a concern, although I'd still dearly love to give the douchebag an atomic wedgie.
Islam, by contrast, is not centralized, so you can't really complain to anybody in authority about Amin Al-Ansari; the only guy you can complain to is the guy who owns the TV station, and he doesn't care. Also, an Islamist goon getting on TV and kvelling over dead Jews is not remarkable, and nobody gives a shit. I think that's what bugs me about that one: it's not remarkable. And nobody gives a shit.
And you don't hear about it on NPR. That bugs me, too.