This business about Pope Benedict de-excommunicating the Holocaust denier bishop Richard Williamson is one of those strings that when pulled, produces a tug in the most interesting places. Here's the Times (UK) religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill (who's been all over this story from the start) --
Williamson is a former Anglican who went to Winchester and Cambridge. He is thought to have been influenced in his conversion to Catholicism by the late Malcolm Muggeridge and he was received into the Catholic church by the Irish missionary priest, Father John Flanagan.
Muggeridge plays an important role in the recent intellectual history of the American right, and in particular in the emergence of a Catholic wing of the neocons. His trajectory from left to right mirrored that of the original 1930s neocons (Trotskyites as they were then) and his conversion to Catholicism also had parallels in the USA -- not least to Fr. Richard John Neuhaus who died recently, a death taken sufficiently seriously by the Bush White House to merit a special statement (the only other bereavements during the recent period getting such statements involved another priest and a cat).
Note in particular the role of National Review's William F. Buckley in triangulating this socio-cultural scene. Note also these interesting remarks from Christopher Hitchens about the possibility that Muggeridge was anti-Semitic. And if you haven't had enough noting, note the link between Neuhaus and the attempts to market the Iraq invasion as a Catholic just war.
So anyway, the Williamson affair is going to be very awkward for the conservatives. It's a reminder that for all the attempts to assert a natural right-wing alliance of Catholics, Jews, and Evangelicals, each of the participants in such an alliance bring some baggage. There hasn't been a word so far from National Review on the Benedict decision, and yet Kathryn Jean Lopez found time a few days ago to suggest that Washington DC's Catholic Cardinal shouldn't have been at the Barack Obama National Prayer Service given Obama's views on abortion.
If anything requires the Catholic hierarchy taking a stand, shouldn't it be the Holocaust?
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan is immersed in the debate.
FINAL UPDATE: After several Catholics-bash-Obama posts, K-Lo realized she'd better say something about the Holocaust denying bishop. With the help of a few quotes from a source in Rome -- it's all legalisms and technicalities. Moral clarity, how are ya? The conclusion from her Rome source is remarkable --
The atrocities of the Third Reich are not a matter of theological opinion but of historical record. A bishop has no special competence to opine on these matters
Culture of life, indeed.