As providence would have it, longtime CNS New York correspondent Tracy Early, who died in 2005, thought Lefebvrite Bishop — and now notorious Holocaust denier — Richard Williamson newsworthy enough to include on page 11 of his posthumously published memoir, “Sidebars: Reflections by a Missionary Journalist in New York.”
Early’s delight was in being able to ask, with a straight face, “Is the pope Catholic?”
The setting: July 10, 1988, not long after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had illicitly ordained four bishops, Bishop Williamson among them, into his Society of St. Pius X. At the time, the new bishop had been rector of a Lefebvrite seminary in the United States; his running of a seminary in Argentina was behind the Argentine government’s expulsion of him earlier this year once the Holocaust controversy was raging.
Early had covered a Tridentine Mass celebrated by Bishop Wiliamson at a Farmingville, N.Y., church. Let’s let Early pick it up from here.
After Mass, Bishop Williamson talked with the handful of reporters who showed up, and explained why a true Catholic could not longer remain in communion with the powers that now governed at the Vatican. He told us that the key issue was not the Latin Mass in its old form, but the conviction that Catholicism was `the one exclusively true religion.’ He repeated charges of Archbishop Lefebvre that Pope John Paul II departed from Catholicism pure and absolute when he visited the synagogue in Rome, prayed for peace with leaders of other religions at Assisi and in 1982 walked up the aisle of Canterbury cathedral with Robert Runcie, the Anglican archbishop.
Maybe the pope just did not know any better. ‘I’m sure he does not intend to destroy the Catholic Church, but his confusion is such that this is what he does,’ Bishop Williamson commented charitably.
How could I resist? ‘Is the pope a Catholic?’ I just had to ask. Bishop Williamson, a native of Britain who had left Anglicanism as a teenager and later found ‘the one exclusively true religion’ in Catholicism, answered by referring to the remark of the Anglican curate who said the egg he had been served was ‘good in parts.’
So now you know. ‘Pope John Paul II is Catholic in parts,’ the Lefebvre bishop said.