While this analogy isn’t perfect, it does roughly illustrate the situation. And if this seems a stretch, consider that excommunication has been called a spiritual death sentence. It is the harshest penalty the Church imposes and, like capital punishment, is only applied for specific transgressions. It is not imposed simply for making outrageous or offensive comments; if it were, it’s staggering to think how many Catholics might suffer this fate.
Thus, excommunication exists for a particular reason, one that has nothing to do with augmenting the wider society’s scorn and ostracism. And besides the fact that it would be disproportionate to that purpose, Church law isn’t there to do the secular world’s bidding.
It might also be pointed out that the secular world could lead by example. If it really believes that something beyond scorn is warranted as a consequence for Williamson, it could advocate criminal penalties. This is what they do in Germany, after all, where historian David Irving did a stretch in prison for Holocaust revisionism.
Oh, but we don’t want to stifle freedom of speech by imposing our harsher punishments on those with errant tongues? Well, perhaps it’s now easier to understand why the Church may not impose its harshest penalty for such a thing.
At the end of the day, however, this issue boils down to one simple fact: Williamson’s excommunication had nothing to do with his views on the Holocaust, and the remission of it had nothing to do with them. It is ridiculous to conflate the two.
It’s also important to understand that the rehabilitation of the four bishops is part of a much larger process, an attempt to heal divisions in the Church and bring the SSPX back into the fold. Insofar as this goes, it’s much like when a government offers to pardon a rebel group if its members will lay down their arms.
Under such an agreement, it certainly isn’t customary to say that you will exclude this or that member because he made a highly outrageous statement. No, he comes with the organization - it’s a package deal.
Really, though, one has to wonder why this story still has legs. The Vatican has repudiated Williamson’s comments, and the Pope has stated on numerous occasions that denial of the Holocaust’s horrors is gravely wrong. Moreover, as Rabbi David Dalin has said, and contrary to leftist spin, the Church has long been a friend of the Jews - since at least the 13th century.