So now that the decree of latae sententiae excommunication has been lifted on the four Bishops of the SSPX, where do we go from here.
This is certainly not the end of the saga with the SSPX, but most assuredly just the beginning. Many question need to be answered before they are in full and visible communion with the Church.
Bishop Fellay, in response to the lifting of the ex-Communications, keys in on just this point.
Besides our gratitude towards the Holy Father and towards all those who helped him to make this courageous act, we are pleased that the decree of January 21 considers as necessary “talks” with the Holy See, talks which will enable the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the Church.
There are many issues that need to be discussed, not the least of which are the real and difficult problems of the views of the Society toward Jews. Besides the very disturbing (holocaust denying) antics of screwball in residence Williamson, there are real differences between how the Society views the Jews and how the Church says we should view the Jews.
– Jews are “directly responsible for the crucifixion,” Jews are cursed with the “blindness to the things of G-d and eternity” [Source]
– Jews as a people stand “in entire opposition with the Catholic Church” [Source]
– “Christendom and Jewry are designed inevitably to meet everywhere without reconciliation or mixing”; that Jews “should neither be eliminated from among us … nor given equality of rights.” [Source]
Besides the obvious lengthy discussions ahead on this and other topics, this presents other problems besides doctrinal. It creates public relations problems as well. The Simon Wiesenthal center issued this just today.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is calling on His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to declare that the group known as the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) cannot function within the Catholic Church while mocking Church doctrine on anti-Semitism.
Pope Benedict, a champion of Church unity, is reportedly poised to lift the excommunication of four bishops from the Society, which had been operating outside the authority of the Vatican. While the group, which has tens of thousands of Catholics followers worldwide, has apparently agreed to accept the authority of the Pope, its teachings remain completely at odds with the positions of openness and improved ecumenical relations that were born out of the Church’s Second Ecumenical Council. One of the landmark rulings from the Council, also known as Vatican II, denounced anti-Semitism as a sin. Pope Benedict, then Father Joseph Ratzinger, was one of the theologians involved in drafting these new positions.
“According to media reports, Bishop Williamson, one of the Society’s leaders, gave an interview just last week denying Jews were murdered in gas chambers, hardly an indication of a change of heart or mind”, charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center. “Beyond the Holocaust denial of one bishop looms the larger issue of the virulent anti-Semitism of the group as a whole,” he added.
This is by no means to suggest that the Holy Father should not have lifted the ex-communication. This was a specific (and automatically incurred) sanction for a specific reason. It is not a punishment for any doctrinal or public relations problem. But the problem is real. The media is likely to hang this around the neck of the Pope for some time to come.
As stated, this is just the beginning for the SSPX. They must come into line on many things to enjoy full communion and the talks will be long and hard. It remains to be seen if the Society can survive at all in the face of any concessions on their part in the future. Williamson might lead the wacko wing into a full break from the Society and the Church. I hope not but this seems a real possibility.
I believe that the lifiting of the ex-communications is a very good thing for those in the Society and for its adherants. It is also a potentially good thing for the Church as a whole. But we are not there yet.
In his letter to the Pope requesting the lifting of ex-communication Bishop Fellay, writing for all their Bishops said “We are always firmly determined in our will to remain Catholic and to place all our efforts at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept its teachings with filial disposition. We believe firmly in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and for this the current situation makes us suffer so much.”
Now it is time to find out if they mean it.