As we went to press, Swedish television was planning to broadcast a programme claiming that senior figures in the Vatican knew about the Holocaust-denying opinions of SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson before his excommunication was lifted. This is, on the face of it, shocking. The revelation could inflict further damage on Pope Benedict just before a Vatican delegation sits down with leading Lefebvrists to discuss doctrinal obstacles to full unity.
But, on closer examination, is it really that surprising that some Vatican officials knew of Williamson’s crazed antiSemitism? Reports of his Holocaust denial were easily found on the internet years before the lifting of the excommunications. The Swedish programme hints at a cover-up – and, if by that one means that certain Vatican officials failed to pass on the information, then it has a point. But we can be confident that the Holy Father did not know the full content of Williamson’s odious beliefs when he admitted him back into the Church. The Vatican press office must make this clear, and work hard to make sure that the media do not waste time raking over this territory once again.