FaithWorld

Pope clarifies Vatican stand four days after lifting SSPX bans

January 28, 2009

(Photo: Pope Benedict at his weekly Vatican audience, 28 Jan 2009/Tony Gentile)

Pope Benedict clarified a crucial point in the Vatican’s dispute with the rebel traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) during his regular weekly audience today. Apart from the issue of Bishop Richard Williamson and his denial of the Holocaust, which has angered Jewish leaders and caught most of the headlines, the decision to lift the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops raised serious concerns among many Catholics because it seemed to signal a departure from reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council. Specifically, by lifting the bans without demanding the SSPX bishops first recognise all Council reforms, it looked like Benedict was not trying to defend these Church teachings against their most implacable critics. Benedict has long been a champion of a conservative re-interpretation of the Council so any concessions he makes to the SSPX go beyond the narrow issue involved.

The Second Vatican Council was a major and complex event (well explained in the new book What Happened At Vatican II by Georgetown University Professor John W. O’Malley pictured at right). Its reforms include the opening to Jews, Muslims and other religions and a commitment to religious freedom. They replaced earlier teachings that Jews were Christ-killers, that all other faiths were deeply in error and that democracy and the separation of church and state were modernist aberrations. Many Catholics would not be able to recognise their own Church if it went back to those notions. Some would even leave if it did.  But the SSPX officially rejects these reforms as grave errors and it refused to agree to them as a pre-condition for having the excommunications lifted.

The fact that Benedict agreed to lift the bans without gaining this concession from them (which the Vatican was demanding as late as last June) prompted speculation that he would fudge this condition in the negotiations due with the SSPX to regularise their status within the Church. SSPX Superior General Bishop Bernard Fellay fuelled this suspicion by writing a triumphant letter to his followers clearly stating he had not made this concession (the Vatican statement was not clear on this point). Statements from the Vatican in reaction to the uproar about Williamson have been curiously defensive. Church officials have said his views were unacceptable and not related to the excommunication issue. Those statements were fine as far as they went. But they never shifted to the offensive and said, “And what’s more, we’ll demand that they sign up to all Vatican II documents.” The whole episode led Catholics to ask, as did blogger David Gibson, “Why so much for this group?”

This point was not lost on Catholic bishops elsewhere. On Monday, the German bishops’ conference said the SSPX must accept Vatican II, especially the document Nostra Aetate that set relations with Jews on a new basis. On Tuesday, the bishops’ conference in Switzerland — where the SSPX has its headquarters — said the same thing, also citing Nostra Aetate. Today, the French bishops’ conference joined in, saying that “The Second Vatican Council is not negotiable at all. No Church group can take the place of the Magesterium,” the overall teaching of the Church. While none of these statements criticised the Vatican directly, they were stage-whispered shouts of concern to Rome that the Vatican was going too soft on the SSPX.

At his audience today, Benedict made three special announcements. The first hailed the election of Metropolitan Kirill — a friend of the Vatican — as the new patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The third repeated Benedict’s condemnation of the Holocaust and solidarity with Jews — a well-known position he would not have had to repeat if this whole episode had not been presented so poorly in the first place.

(Photo: Pope Benedict speaks with Holocaust survivor at Auschwitz, 28 May 2006/pool)

The second announcement concerned the lifting of the SSPX excommunications:

“I hope that this gesture of mine will be followed by the desired commitment on their part to take the further steps needed to achieve full communion with the Church, thereby showing true loyalty and true recognition of the Magisterium and the authority of the pope and of the Second Vatican Council.”

That still doesn’t mean the SSPX will follow through. There is good reason to expect the coming negotiations to be extremely difficult and the SSPX will try to deconstruct this statement to the point where they don’t have to make any concessions. But at least now, after four days of vagueness, Benedict has given the impression of drawing a line in the sand. Let’s see how it holds up when the SSPX starts negotiating with Rome.

What do you think? Will Benedict stand up for Vatican II? Or is he using this as another way to re-interpret it in a more conservative way?

Comments
9 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Will Benedict stand up for Vatican II? Absolutely. Full Communion with the Catholic Church is impossible for anyone who does not accept all that the Catholic Church holds as true in regard to faith and morals. The Pope will make no concessions on this because he cannot make any concessions on this. As I have said before, the lifting of the excommunications (not “bans”) is the first step to allow the dialogue to begin. As you demonstrate, Bishop Williamson may not be very keen on taking those discussions anywhere. If they do not reach a satisfactory end – ie. complete acceptance of all that the Catholic Church teaches etc. – there will be no “prize” at the end. On the other hand, if the statement from Bishop Fellay is anything to go by (his apology and “gagging” of Williamson) he is far more interested in the success of these talks. For the moment, however, the lifting of the excommunications means that very little has changed. The Society is still “suppressed” and these bishops are still “suspended”.

 

The pope is doing the right thing. Lifting excommunication is hardly welcoming the group back into the church. Obviously, his clarifying comment at the end of your article makes it clear there is still long way to go before that happens; a long way from the standpoint of the SSPX that is. Benedict is “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee” far above the sophomoric labeling common in today’s media. He’s doing an awesome job trying to meet issues on all sides in a world of “Babble”-ing, that’s also once again deteriorating into rubble!

Posted by Pedro | Report as abusive
 

Vatican II was written by modernist and liberals against what has been taught and handed down for 2000 years of church doctrine and dogmas, we as catholics have to profese the true faith and refuse the hereitcal priciples of Vatican II which are, religious freedom, collegiality and false spirit of ecuminism. “Out side of the catholic church there is NO salvation”. If you deny this dogma you are not a catholic! You are a modernist! The bishops who are tradional and profess to all catholic beliefs and truths are the one’s you are perscecuting. These Bishops are justifyed to be lifted of the excommunicatoion. Deo Gratias

Glen Ocana

Posted by glen ocana | Report as abusive
 

AS USUAL REUTER (NEVER A FRIEND OF CATHOLIC CHRISTENDOM) DISTORTS THE EVENTS, NAY, HISTORIC EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE WITH THE EXCOMMUNICATION OF THE FRATERNAL SOCIETY OF ST.PIUS X IN 1988 BY JOHN PAUL 2.AND AS USUAL REUTER HAS IT’S HEAD UP IT’S ZEISTGEIST. WITH THAT BEING SAID I DOUGHT THIS BLOG WILL SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY, LIBERAL MODERNITY HAS A WAY OF CENCORING VOCAL OPPOSITION IN THE NAME OF A POLITICALLY CORRECT FREE PRESS. DO THEY MENTION THE VERBAL RAPE BY THE POST VATICAN 2 LEFTIST INTERPRETERS (THEOLOGIANS AND PRELATES) OF ANYONE WHO DARED TO PREFER THE ANCIENT LITURGY IF ANYONE DARED TO CRITISIZE THE POST VAT 2 ANTICS IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH THEY WERE AND STILL ARE SILENCED, RIDICULED AND MARGINALIZED AT LEAST BY THE 60′S ERA PRIESTS AND PRELATES, IT’S A QUITE DIFFERENT STORY WITH THE YOUNG CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MILLIONS OF CATHOLIC YOUTH WHO ALTHOUGH BORN POST VATICAN 2 DESIRE BY THE MILLIONS WITH THEIR FEET AND HEARTS THE USES ANTIQITOR THE 1600 YEAR OLD CATHOLIC DIVINE LITURGY CODIFIED IN THE 16TH CENTURY AT THE GREAT COUNCIL OF TRENT. IN CLOSING LIKE THE VAST MAJORITY OF CATHOLICS I AM SICKENED BY THE HOLOCAUST (SHOAH) DENIER BISHOP WILLIAMSON, I SUGGEST HE VISIT DAUCHAU, TREMBLINKA OR AUSTWICH, 6 MILLION SOULS PLUS WERE BUTCHERED BY THE NAZI’S BECAUSE OF RACE AND RELIGION JUST AS THE MARXIST SOCIALISTS ARE EQUALLY GUILTY OF ALMOST 75 MILLION DEATHS IN THEIR BRUTAL 70 YR REIGN OF TERROR IN RUSSIAN AND EASTERN EUROPE.TO THE HOLOCAUST DENIERS I SUGGEST YOU LIVE IN IRAN YOU’LL FEEL QUITE AT HOME. AS TO THE JEWS ,JOHN PAUL 2 SAID YOU ARE OUR SENIOR BROTHERS IN FAITH—WHICH YOU ARE. FOR A CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN TO HATE JEWS IS TO THIS BLOGGER THE SAME AS HATING JESUS CHRIST, HIS MOTHER, THE APOSTLES AND ALMOST EVERY IST CENTURY CHRISTIAN, MOST OF WHOM WERE JEWS—SHALOM–BARUCH HASHEIM

Posted by John | Report as abusive
 

If people are going to post comments, they should:

1. Know what they’re writing about
2. Be able to spell, use proper grammar, and know what words to capitalize (unlike Glen Ocana’s posting).

I am a former member of a traditional Catholic parish in Colorado. I left for a number of reasons, one of them being that I felt that particular parish was turning into a cult. Every Sunday I waited for someone to pass out poisoned Kool-Aid.

Posted by Sally Johanson | Report as abusive
 

Why should the Catholic Church take orders from those of the Jewish religion? Do Catholics tell rabbis what is permissible for them to believe or even speak?

I do not believe that even Bishop Williamson denies that an enormous number of Jews were persecuted and murder by the Nazis. He merely questions the number murdered, and believes that those of other races/religions were also sent to their deaths. Certainly, one can criticize Bishop Williamson’s bad timing and unnecessary frankness, but he was asked a direct question on Swedish radio and decided to answer it honestly. Why is his opinion (free speech) not allowed, no matter how some may be offended. While people are protected under the phrase “free speech” when they desecrate things holy to other faiths, merely expressing doubts about a point of secular history draws 100% intolerance and cries of “racism” in the case of the holocaust. Who are the real racists? Are the racists those who use their race and a historical injustice to demand special treatment racists, perhaps?

Posted by Joseph | Report as abusive
 

Pax
The pope is doing the Right thing by bringing back the sspx the traditionalist the Orthodox.see the faith its high jacked. the roman catholic faith grew before Vatican II. we dried of morality. its Good the Holy father is the saviour of our faith.
Benedictine Oblate

Posted by benedictine | Report as abusive
 

The Catholic Church dogma has ALWAYS been, “There is no salvation outside the Church.” Vatican II had nor has no authority to change that. That’s the way it has been and always will be, no matter how often the modernist, ecumenical Vatican II lovers try to convince everyone otherwise. Christ said to Peter, “Upon this rock I build My church.” Christ’s church IS the Catholic Church, not Jewish synagogues, nor Buddhist temples, nor Muslim mosques, nor the thousands of protestant churches around the world. Vatican II’s sole purpose was to destroy Christ’s Church, but as long as there are Catholic Traditionalists, i.e., The Fraternal Society of St. Pius X, this will NEVER happen. And Pope Benedict XVI knows in his heart and soul this is true.

Posted by IvaJoyce | Report as abusive
 

I love Pope Benedict’s wisdom, truly conforming to that of Christ the Lord, I claim by faith. By lifting the excommunication imposed upon the SSPX, the Pope, on behalf of the Church, is exemplifying our Lord’s boundless offer of mercy, forgiveness and restoration of the SSPX.

This very papal act signifies also our Lord’s unconditional love not only for them, if I may add, but also for all infidels, for all sinners who include all of us, as our “sins are always before us”.

We should not forget why and how Jesus founded the Church: He did it on the Cross so that we, sinners, all of us, may have eternal life, the Church being Christ’s very Sacrament by and through which He continues to pour our His Grace upon us until the end of age. This is very clear from the kenotic sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

It is up to the SSPX now, by divine opportunity and grace, to discern what they ought next to do from this very positive step that our dearest Pope Benedict has heroically taken, an act that is trusting and affirming, totally casting away any ill-feeling and condemnation for our brothers and sisters from the SSPX.

If, they still stubbornly refuse to heed the Magisterium, the Pope need not even issue another condemnation or excommunication; they would be doing it on their own!

Posted by buckleph | Report as abusive
 

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