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Archive for March 4th, 2013

A polyglot agreement — but wrong in point of fact

Monday, March 4th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — concerning a valid bishop acting in an illicit manner ]


Whatever language you speak in this era when a polyphony of tongues might indicate Babel (not so good), Pentecost (way better), glossolalia (no comment) or heteroglossia (yowza!), it’s apparently easy enough to label Ralph Napierski (left, black hat, shaking the hand of Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana, to his right, red skullcap) a non-bishop:

The Queen’s English, Imposter dressed as cardinal sneaks into Vatican ahead of conclave to elect pope and gets as far as synod square before being led away English

English with Australian accent, Fake bishop Ralph Napierski tries to sneak into Vatican

French, un faux évêque s’immisce parmi les cardinaux

Spanish, el falso obispo que se coló en el Vaticano

German, Falscher Bischof mischt sich unter Kardinäle

Portuguese, Falso bispo tenta entrar em pré-conclave de cardeais

or Norwegian, Falsk biskop snek seg inn i Vatikanet


Not so fast!

Massimo Introvigne, sociologist of religions, founder of the international Center for Studies on New Religions and Chairman of the Observatory of Religious Liberty set up by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, monitors religious movements small and large. He commented on a scholarly listserv today, and I quote him with permission:

Some of you may be curious about Bishop Ralph Napierski, who today managed to enter the Vatican with the cardinals preparing the Conclave, and even gave some interviews, before being identified as a non-Catholic «imposter» and thrown out.

Napierski is not a simple prankster dressed as a Bishop. He is one the so called “wandering Bishops” claiming a consecration as a Bishop which from the Catholic point of view is not “lawful” – since lawful consecrations of new Bishops should be approved by the Pope – but nonetheless is “valid” according to the (prevailing) Catholic doctrine, which maintains that a Bishop, even excommunicated, maintains the power to validly consecrate another Bishop, who in turn may consecrate further Bishops. “Validity” means that this “illicit” Bishop, although automatically excommunicated, will have the power to ordain priests who would be “real” priests, i.e. from the Catholic point of view will have the power of converting bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, provided they perform the correct ritual and believe in it.

The greatest manufacturer of wandering Bishops in the 20th century was the former Archbishop of Hué, Vietnam, Pierre-Martin Ngo-Dinh Thuc (1897-1984). Among others he consecrated as a Bishop Clemente Dominguez (1946-2005), later to proclaim himself Pope Gregory XVII for the Catholic Palmarian Church headquartered in Palmar de Troya, Spain. Dominguez consecrated in 1978 his German follower Alfred Seiwert-Fleige, who however in 1980 organized a schism among German members of the Catholic Palmarian Church. And our Napierski was originally consecrated by Seiwert-Fleige for his group.

As many other wandering Bishops, Napierski makes a living by selling titles in bogus Orders of Chivalry and degrees from his Jesus Christ University. He also appears often at LGBT events. He acquired some notoriety years ago by claiming that Dan Brown was right and Jesus did indeed marry Mary Magdalene.


The Episcopi Vagantes or Wandering Bishops are a fascinating lot, and given my interest in the byways of Church history I’ve been intrigued by them since I first read Peter Anson‘s Bishops at Large while at Oxford.

My good friend the painter Jan Valentin Saether is a priest in one such succession, that of the Ecclesia Gnostica under Bishop Stephan Hoeller.

Discovering a New Circle of Hell

Monday, March 4th, 2013

There is an understandable buzz when a historical event as well known and deeply investigated as  the Holocaust has suddenly been found to have been underestimated by an order of magnitude.

From The New York Times:

The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking 

….As early as 1933, at the start of Hitler’s reign, the Third Reich established about 110 camps specifically designed to imprison some 10,000 political opponents and others, the researchers found. As Germany invaded and began occupying European neighbors, the use of camps and ghettos was expanded to confine and sometimes kill not only Jews but also homosexuals, Gypsies, Poles, Russians and many other ethnic groups in Eastern Europe. The camps and ghettos varied enormously in their mission, organization and size, depending on the Nazis’ needs, the researchers have found.

The biggest site identified is the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, which held about 500,000 people at its height. But as few as a dozen prisoners worked at one of the smallest camps, the München-Schwabing site in Germany. Small groups of prisoners were sent there from the Dachau concentration camp under armed guard. They were reportedly whipped and ordered to do manual labor at the home of a fervent Nazi patron known as “Sister Pia,” cleaning her house, tending her garden and even building children’s toys for her.

When the research began in 2000, Dr. Megargee said he expected to find perhaps 7,000 Nazi camps and ghettos, based on postwar estimates. But the numbers kept climbing — first to 11,500, then 20,000, then 30,000, and now 42,500.

The numbers astound: 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers.

In Berlin alone, researchers have documented some 3,000 camps and so-called Jew houses, while Hamburg held 1,300 sites.

….The lead editors on the project, Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean, estimate that 15 million to 20 million people died or were imprisoned in the sites that they have identified as part of a multivolume encyclopedia

Read the rest here.

Perhaps some of you will recall the controversy in the late 1990’s surrounding the release of Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen where Goldhagen argued that Nazi genocide was only possible with the widespread complicity and often enthusiastic participation of “ordinary Germans” who were not themselves Gestapo agents or Nazi fanatics.  One of the primary charges against Goldhagen by academic historians was his generalizing indictment of a generation of Germans for Nazi policy that was, for all intents and purposes, officially a state secret.  After all, the closest thing to a “public” discussion in the Third Reich of the Final Solution was a terrifying speech by SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler at the Posen Conference to an assembly of Gauleiters  and Reichsleiters who constituted the aristocracy of the Nazi Party.

The sheer geographic density and social ubiquity of the Nazi machinery of repression and genocide documented by researchers severely undermines the critics of Goldhagen. While it is well documented that most Germans, unless they were political opponent or social misfits, did not personally feel the heavy hand of the Gestapo in the way Soviet citizens experienced the NKVD, Germans during the war years irrefutably lived cheek by jowl with the miserably wretched slaves of the Reich.

Some of the shock produced by this investigation is due to an artificial “parsing of genocide” by historians into distinct categories of death-dealing instead of looking at Nazi democide as a whole cloth or continuum.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, there was little interest beyond the Nuremberg  Tribunal in delving into the depths of Nazi crimes. Reconstruction of Europe and “getting on with life” or the exigencies of the Cold War and the ominous threat of the Soviets took far greater precedence. Even among Holocaust survivors themselves, there was initially an effort to “move on” from the unimaginable, or to make a anguished pretense of so doing, as expressed in the critically acclaimed Rod Steiger film, The Pawnbroker. When historians began more serious examinations of Nazi crimes in the 1960’s and 1970’s, there was a tendency to separate the Holocaust from related or similar atrocities due in part to the overriding ideological emphasis the most extreme Nazis placed upon the total and absolute elimination of all Jews – every last one – at all costs,. Even over and above winning the war.

However, that genocidal crusade by the SS against the Jews also facilitated the deaths of millions of others – including the Gypsies (marked for nearly complete extermination), the “useless eaters“, some 700,000 Serbs to please the Ustase puppet regime, political opponents who disappeared into the Night and Fog, and a vast democide of Slavic peoples to feed the Third Reich’s inexhaustible need for slave labor. Albert Speer wrote that Himmler coldly planned a further massive reduction of the Russian and Ukranian populations west of the Urals to build a post-war Nazi racial empire in vanquished Russia.

The scale of murder by totalitarian governments in the 20th century approaches the mythic, a phenomena for which the Holocaust has become a totem.

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