Bishop Richard Williamson has been keeping a very low profile of late, ever since an interview he gave about the Holocaust ("I believe there were no gas chambers") dragged the Pope into an international row. Williamson himself, who is an unofficial bishop from the ultraconservative breakaway group the Society of St Pius X, was thrown out of Argentina where he ran a theological college. He's now holed up somewhere in England, from where he continues to issue regular bulletins to his supporters. One of these reached the Heresiarch's desk the other day.
Williamson is very upset by the result of the Irish referendum, which he sees as evidence that the increasingly godless people have chosen "the material prosperity and consumerism unknown in Ireland before it joined the EU in 1973" over the pious poverty they used to enjoy and that kept Frank McCourt in such comfort during his later years. He finds a parallel in the case of Portugal - which also enjoyed the benefits of national independence during the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar. Salazar ran a Franco-style quasi-fascist regime for almost four decades in the mid 20th century, during which time he repressed opposition, deployed a notorious secret police and almost ruined Portugal in an anachronistic attempt to cling on to the country's African empire while the other colonial powers were dismantling theirs. But on the plus side, he was (like Franco, of course) a loyal Catholic. As the good bishop puts it,
Knowing that life, politics and even economics are not just about cheap flights to golden beaches, he preferred for his country "poverty, but independence", primarily from the international banksters. Their vile media promptly branded him as a "fascist dictator", but the Portuguese people happily followed him, because it was the revival of their Catholic piety by Fatima (1917) which had brought Salazar to power in the first place.
It was all for nothing, however. A mere 16 years after Salazar's death, Portugal was swallowed up by the EU (to the delight of the "international banksters", of course). "Truly the onward march of God's enemies in today's world seems inexorable" laments Williamson.
Any attempt to resist their drive towards the Antichrist cuts more and more the figure of a sandcastle resisting the incoming tide. If it is well built, like Salazar's Portugal, it lasts for a few moments, but give it a few more moments and it too vanishes beneath the waves washing over it. So all Europe is locking itself into the godless New World Order, for football and beaches!
The bishop points his readers, whoever they may be, in the direction of a pamphlet by Marta Andreasen, the international accountant turned UKIP MEP. She has indeed done great things in exposing the EU's dodgy finances; and getting her on board was UKIP's greatest ever coup. Williamson quotes her description of the EU as "lawless, corrupt, mistaken, undemocratic, bureaucratic, over-regulated and, ultimately, unworkable", and I would suggest that at least four and probably five of those adjectives are unarguably accurate. Unlike many of the EU's critics, she knows it from the inside: her willingness to rock the boat is unusual and admirable. On the other hand, Williamson suggests, despite her familiarity with the EU she doesn't know the half of it. She attributes the trouble to lack of accountability. But "Does it occur to her that the EU may have hidden masters that positively want corrupt servants, rather easier to manipulate?"
It's not immediately clear whether Williamson believes these hidden masters to be the international "banksters" (he's too careful these days to stress the ethnic/religious affiliation of these shadowy conspiritors, but we can guess who he means) or something with a more supernatural dimension. Perhaps he means both.
Williamson is of course far from alone in his suspicions of the EU, which is often mentioned by believers in End-of-the-Worldism as a candidate for the "Beast of Babylon" described in the Book of Revelation. The other day, the Guardian's Andrew Brown left a rather mischievous comment along these lines on one of his own articles. He wondered if Tony Blair, should he become EU President, would be marked down as Antichrist. While some have cast Obama in the role, Blair "is a much more interesting candidate", since he "is actually going to be part of something the loonies believe is prefigured in Revelation, and not it a good way." Tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but it's obvious what he's referring to.
I've often wondered why the very sensible and rational case against the European Union (and in particular its profoundly undemocratic institutions) should attract so many eccentric supporters.