Today Pope Benedict offered an explanation of why he sought a rapprochement with the four excommunicated Lefebvrite bishops, members of the Society of St. Pius X.  His remarks are summarized by CNS below. (H/t to David Gibson at Dotcommonweal.) 

At the same time, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem severed ties to the Vatican to protest the lifting of the ban of excommunication on Bishop Williamson, who had spewed all that crazy talk about the Holocaust, which Cardinal Walter Kasper had called "gibberish." AP has the story of the chief rabbi’s actions here.  

Also, in case you missed it, a related story:  On our "Good Word" blog, Chris Chatteris, who teaches homiletics in South Africa, notes that the newly approved Mass translations are already being used there. 

Wait, there is a link here--and I don’t mean a webby one, I mean an ecclesial one.

What if, like the Lefebvrites who reject the Mass in the vernacular, English-speaking Catholics reject this new translation?  Will the Vatican then make overtures to this group who prefers the "older" version of the Mass?  Says Chatteris:  "Among native English speakers I have heard several people remark wryly that if the Latin Mass Society has the right to use the Tridentine version, what is there to stop a ’Vatican II Society’ claiming their right to stick to the old ICEL Mass? If the Church was unable to resist the demands of a small group like the Latin Mass Society, it’s unlikely to be able to say no to the much larger numbers that might to want to celebrate in the old ICEL version."  

Now back to that CNS story: "Pope Benedict XVI said he lifted the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops in the hope that they would take further steps toward unity, including the recognition of the authority of the pope and of the Second Vatican Council.  The pope, speaking at his general audience Jan. 28, said he was motivated by a desire for church unity when he removed the excommunication of Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of St. Pius X, and three other bishops of the breakaway society.

"I undertook this act of paternal mercy because these prelates had repeatedly manifested to me their deep pain at the situation in which they had come to find themselves," the pope said.  "I hope my gesture is followed by the hoped-for commitment on their part to take the further steps necessary to realize full communion with the church, thus witnessing true fidelity, and true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the pope and of the Second Vatican Council," he said.

The pope said he considered the restoration of full unity in the church as one of his primary pastoral tasks, one he had emphasized at the inaugural Mass of his pontificate in 2005. This task of maintaining unity, he said, is symbolized by the Gospel account of the miraculous catch of fishes, when the net did not break despite the heavy catch.

It was the pope’s first public comment on the lifting of the excommunications, and the first time a Vatican official had specifically raised the issue of the teachings of Vatican II. In his statement Jan. 24 welcoming the Vatican’s move, Bishop Fellay had professed loyalty to the pope but said the society still has "reservations" about the Second Vatican Council.

The four bishops were ordained against papal orders in 1988 by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The Vatican has held on-again, off-again talks with the society since 2000; in 2007 the pope granted wider use of the 1962 form of the Mass, known as the Tridentine rite, which had been another request of the society’s leaders. Vatican officials said the future talks will touch in part on the future status of the Swiss-based society and its estimated 500 priests and seminarians. -- CNS

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Anonymous | 2/22/2009 - 2:37pm
An unfair comparison I think, the ICEL translation to the Tridentine Mass. It was not s much folding to demands of the Latin Mass society as it was stating what had been decided long ago in secret commission, circa 1985,86 that the Tridentine Mass was never abrogated. We as Catholics have a right to it as has been since its' codification in 1570. The ICEL translations, already known to be wrought with error and inaccuracies are not something to cling to when they could endanger souls. The Church did not start in 1970, contrary to popular belief, and although it is an "easier" Church nowadays it does not make it the best it can offer. And for each and every Catholic who insists that the Church started again with Vatican II, do ot forget what they said about Latin and the parts that pertain to you. Have you fullfilled your obligation?
Anonymous | 1/30/2009 - 1:58pm
My, my, Ted. You really are off your rocker, huh?
Anonymous | 1/29/2009 - 10:14pm
Archibishop Lefebvre was prefigured by Eleazer in the Second Book of Maccabees and possibly Matthias in the First Book of Maccabees. These few who have held fast to the Traditions of the Fathers shall recover again the most renowned Temple in all the world. (2 Maccabees Chapter 2). The apostasy of Vatican II was prefigured by the apostasy during the time of the Maccabees of old which Our Lord referenced to in Matthew 24: When you see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place which is a obvious reference to the abomination of desolation in the First Book of Maccabees. The Novus Ordo very well could be the abomination of desolation as what could be more holy than the Altar of God-Calvary. The lifting of the excommunications is the turning of the tide to recover again the most renowned Temple in all the world-the visible Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and this turning of the tide is referenced in 2 Maccabees Chapter 8: When Judas had gathered a multitude he could not be withstood by the heathens.
Anonymous | 1/29/2009 - 8:47pm
The Church is in deep trouble. We need a new pope who will call for another Vatican Council to reform the Church. There should be a mandatory retirement age for popes.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 9:39pm
There is nothing Scriptural about the English speaking church adhering to the Patriarch of Rome. Indeed, as a group the Bishops could elect a new patriarch and start an equally valid Church with its own Rite - even going so far as to call it the Church of the Gallatians, who were ethnic Gauls in Asia Minor. Those pushing for their new set of prayers in their linguistic idioms should remember that the Church can go somewhere else without loss of our basic Catholicism. Doing so would actually be healthy, in that the objections of many of the Protestant sects to Catholicism would be mooted if a unified English speaking Catholic Church formed - especially if it sought union with Constantinople. This is all an administrative, rather than a doctrinal arrangement. Proposing it is not heresy, just common sense.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 8:38pm
The SSPX sympathizers like to point out that Archbishop Lefebvre was ill and under pressure when he consecrated those four bishops. Cardinal Martini is ill and perhaps feeling under pressure as well. I suggest to Cardinal Martini that he might consider starting the Society of John XXIII and consecrating bishops of his own. Why not? What does he have to lose? His enemies have already consigned him to hell anyhow.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 8:19pm
'If the Church was unable to resist the demands of a small group like the Latin Mass Society...' Unable to resist the demands? What exactly has happened here other than that the excommunications have been lifted with the hope that talks will begin with the goal of unity with Rome? The Holy Father seems to indicate that an essential part of unity will be submission to all magisterial authority, including Vatican II. The Church is hardly 'in danger' of reverting to a liturgy only in Latin, which incidentally was given prime standing in Roman liturgical rites by Vatican II. It has been over a year since Summorum Pontificum went into effect and I think one can safely that most dioceses, much less most parishes, have no liturgy in the Latin at all and especially not in the Traditional Rite. Like many, I was surprised by the Pope's move, but one should not overblow what it means either.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 7:14pm
Hmm, this is interesting. However, I do think there are some significant differences between the translation and the rite itself. As Benedict's Motu Proprio indicated, the Tridentine rite of the Mass was never abrogated, and so its validity as a rite has never been denied. But translations are something different. If the Vatican was saying that we can no longer celebrate the Novus Ordo, that would be something very different. The Vatican is merely saying that the Novus Ordo rite that was developed during the Council is written in Latin, and from Latin is thus translated into the vernacular. But in the 40+ years since Vatican II, we are still making steps to properly implement various components of the council, and part of that is ensuring that the vernacular translations are faithful to the rite as it is written in Latin. So it's really not the same thing as saying we are appealing to the Traditionalists by allowing them the TLM, since the TLM was never abrogated, but not appealing to the Vatican II society by not allowing them to keep their translation, since it is simply a matter of the translation itself being poor and inaccurate. By assuring a more accurate translation, the Church is not going back on anything from Vatican II, but rather ensuring that the faithful are more fully attuned to Vatican II.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 6:38pm
Indeed, what if some of us preferred the 80's ICEL translation, reportedly better than either the first or the last? Or if women's communities or other feminist-inspired groups wanted a more inclusive language lectionary? Or if others decided the Ambrosian, the Sarum, or other rites offered more stability than the politically-chainging Roman Rite?
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 5:59pm
I believe it is Bishop Williamson and not Robinson.