What’s missing from the Williamson controversy …

Compact discs featuring an interview with Bishop Richard Williamson are displayed in a bookstore at St. Michael the Archangel Chapel in Farmingville, N.Y., Feb. 1. The chapel, which is affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X, was established under the direction of then-Father Williamson in 1983. British-born Bishop Williamson, whose excommunication was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI Jan. 21, provoked controversy with comments denying the full extent of the Holocaust. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Compact discs featuring an interview with Bishop Richard Williamson are displayed in a bookstore at St. Michael the Archangel Chapel in Farmingville, N.Y., Feb. 1. The chapel, which is affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X, was established under the direction of then-Father Williamson in 1983. British-born Bishop Williamson, whose excommunication was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI Jan. 21, provoked controversy with comments denying the full extent of the Holocaust. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

… is any recognition (OK, I exaggerate, there has been some recognition) that the lifting of excommunication for four bishops ordained in 1988 by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was only a first step — not the last — in regularizing Bishop Williamson and the others into the good graces of the Catholic Church.

The latest to miss the point was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who today said Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican needed to make clear there could be no denial of the Holocaust by someone like Bishop Williamson. The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, quickly replied with a statement that the pope has clearly distanced himself from the bishop’s remarks that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers.

A story of ours that hasn’t been getting the Web views that it deserves is last week’s Vatican Letter, by CNS Rome bureau chief John Thavis. He wrote:

When the pope lifted the excommunication of four of the society’s bishops in January, it finally seemed to open the way to the elusive “full communion” between the society’s leadership and the Catholic Church.

But the ending of this story has not yet been written, and even inside the Vatican there are questions about what the pope’s latest move really signifies for the short term and the long term.

One of the biggest short-term questions regards the standing of the Swiss-based society’s bishops and priests — specifically, whether in the Vatican’s view they remain suspended from their ministry until a more complete agreement is reached.

The answer, according to several Vatican sources, is that there’s no clear answer.

Thavis goes on to describe the “canonical mess” that remains and that hundreds of details remain to be negotiated, including “the elephant in the room” — the willingness of the Lefebvre bishops to accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

Read the entire column for a better understanding that these bishops are a long way from being in full communion with Rome.

UPDATE: The Vatican’s Feb. 4 statement clarified some of these issues, noting for instance that Bishop Williamson must distance himself from his previous statements in “an absolutely unequivocal and public manner.”

7 Responses

  1. Pope Benedict has checkmated himself with this crazy bishop move. Benedict is morally and politically crippled as a result of his invitation to Bishop Williamson and his nefarious associates.
    If Benedict pleads ignorance of the Lefebvrist anti-Semitic smell then he condemns himself as either a fool or a liar: ten minutes on the web gives you the odour and Benedict has spent a considerable proportion of his career immersed in Catholic power machinations – more often than not, sitting in the cockpit.
    If Benedict pleads pastoral healing then he condemns himself as either a fool or a sympathiser. His invitation has given oxygen to hate-mongering lies of the worst kind – a sin several orders of magnitude worse than the internal Catholic power play that caused the original excommunication.
    The chief shepherd has opened the gate to wolves – he’s lost the plot and must either resign or be sacked.

  2. It would be helpful to understand the spectrum of relationships with the Church between excommunication and being in full communion.

  3. Pope Benedict XVI should resign immediately as he has several times proven that he is so autocratic and full of himself that he doesn’t consult anyone before making the most disastrous decisions and doesn’t or won’t learn from his past mistakes.
    He is clearly transforming the Catholic (Universal) Church into a dangerous religious sect by adapting it to the schismatic ways of the Pius X Priestly Society rather than demanding that its excommunicated bishops prove they totally embrace the conclusions and constitutions of the Vatican II Council.

  4. Robinson and Thiv:
    Are you morons? This isn’t California politics; the Pope doesn’t resign. Benedict’s subsequent statement and forcing Williamson to make a retraction make clear enough that the Vatican does not support Williamson’s nonsence. Sharpen your talons elsewhere.

  5. The fundamental mission of the Church is reconcilliation, a mission which the Holy Father exemplifies well. His task–our task–is to make it as easy as possible for humanity to come closer together in God’s love. The Church must gently invite even the worst of us as close to God’s love as we will come, hoping always for the best. It is easy to cultivate a culture of hate towards those whose sins we are not tempted to commit, but if we were all more aware of our own sinfulness and of God’s mercy toward us, we would be more interested in the reconciliation of these others. God loves all of us, and wants all of us back with him. Does anyone but the Holy Father care about this anymore?

  6. Popes have abdicated in the past. They have also been murdered. Ratzinger is obviously incompetent and out of touch and must be removed in the interest of the People of God which he shuns in favour of hateful, bigoted and regressive throw-backs.

    Placing unity above truth and justice is a not the pope’s mission. He himself declared pompously that he preferred to lead a reduced Church of the savec happy few rather than be popular and make big in-roads and numerous converts.

  7. Wow. How ignorant I am. I thought the conclave that selected Benedict would be aware of what a Pope’s mission is and who would be the most competent individual to fulfill the mission.
    I now know I should disregard years of tradition, an impressive body of work by a very learned man and an impressive effort to unite Christ’s Universal church to follow the “truth and justice” of an indignant blogger with a wispy grasp of ecclesiastical history.
    Please lead the way, oh great leader.

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