The National Catholic Review
It was no accident that Pope Benedict XVI chose the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to lift the excommunication of the four bishops illicitly ordained in Ecône, Switzerland in 1988 by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The lifting of the ban was a step toward healing the breach between Rome and the traditionalist association of clergy known as the Society of Pius X. Reconciliation among Christians is always in order, and faithful Christians ought to regard the pope’s initiative in that light. But there is no denying that this unilateral papal act is also perplexing to many bishops who opposed it and even to members of the curia who appear not to have been consulted.

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, the archbishop of Bordeaux, president of the French bishops’ conference and a member of the Pontifical Commission "Pro Ecclesia" assigned to deal with the problems presented by the Society of Pius X, offered the most satisfying commentary when he said, "The lifting of the excommunication is not the end, but the beginning of a process of dialogue." The status of the Society of Pius X remains unresolved, and the assent of the bishops and other Lefebvrists to the teachings of Vatican II on liturgy, religious freedom, ecumenism and interreligious relations is unclear. Reconciliation to the magisterium must include unambiguous acceptance of the teachings of the Council.

The lifting of the excommunication against British-born Richard Williamson has produced particular dismay because of his denial of the Holocaust. Not everything that touches on Judaism is a properly a matter for Jewish concern, but at a time when Catholic-Jewish relations are sorely strained, especially in Italy, it is hard to comprehend how this particular schismatic could be reconciled without candid explanation to the church and the world.

Drew Christiansen, S.J.

Comments

Anonymous | 1/27/2009 - 10:24pm
Re-reading and researching what I wrote above I errored in that Eli Wiesel and his father were in 5 different concentration camps from April 1944 to March 1945. So, about one year. The father died of illness in Buchenwald before the liberation of it. Also, the term "holocaust denier" seems commonplace and preferred to "revisionist" in that a holocaust denier seems to work from an ideology whereas a revisionist works from historical data; at least according to Wickipedia;It might be noted that the curator of Auschwitz did lower the estimates of the killed from 4 million to 1.5 million recently. In the case of Bishop Richard Williamson and his statements, it appears they are made mostly as a result of stupidity; my point about Eli Wiesel and his father is that by reading even survivor's stories, one can wonder about the facts. As far as the Carmelites in Oswiecim, they were driven out of their monastery by international Jewish pressure. That is, Rome caved in and ordered them moved as many feared for their safety.
Anonymous | 1/27/2009 - 12:54pm
Well, I would certainly hope I haven't any anti-Semitic bone in my body; I certainly wasn't raised that way. I feel sadness and compassion for all that the Jews have suffered through history; and anger and disgust that they or any group suffer racial prejudice. It certainly has been a just and wise thing to change any words in the liturgy that might cause misconceptions and have caused suffering for the Jews in the past. This said, there seems to be an outcry over words perceived as anti-semitic that far exceeds the outcry over actions by Israel that all the world can see as unjust - the taking of lands, destruction of agriculture, blockading of necessities, cutting off of water and electricity, and other actions against the Palestinians. I was also told that actions speak louder than words. Let those Jews who want get rid of anti-semitism act in such a way that the world sees their generosity and care and justice for all peoples. The actions of the present government of Israel are anti-Semitic! Why is it that the war parties seem to always get their way? Perhaps supporting the Zionists and a state of Israel was all a mistake. Still, at this point in time what can be done? What can be done needs to be done to establish peace and security for all. Also, inflammatory headlines like, "holocaust denier" as used by the New York Times or even the writer of this article don't help either. I have read the autobiography "Night" of Elie Wiesel, and from that one can wonder how he and his sick father continued to work and to suffer for many years in the concentration camps. The suffering is horrific, but the fact that they wern't put in a gas chamber in that case is quite puzzling too. On the other hand, the Catholic convert Edith Stein was definitely gassed the day she got there but the outcry by Jews about a Carmelite monument to her at Oswiecim was hurtful to me and others despite their apparent justification that it took away attention from the holocaust.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 4:29pm
I am glad that the pope lifted the excommunications. In my opinion the Society has been very faithful to traditional and historical Catholic teaching. They may be schismatics but they certainly are not and never have been heretical. If anyone could be accused of heresy and historical revisionism it would be the drafters of the documents of Vatican II which went too far to the left and towards Protestantism. Additionally, Bishop Williamson doesnt deny the Holocaust. He denies the extent of the crime committed and number of victims. But to me this has nothing to do with Anti-Semitism or Holocaust Denial. I think those are false accusations against him. He accepts that the Holocaust happened. He just has a different view of history.