The ongoing debate over Pope Benedict’s decision to lift the ban of excommunication on four bishop-members of the Society of St. Pius X has been split into to general discussions. First, the (currently) more explosive issue of the reception of Bishop Williamson into full communion with the Catholic church in light of his absurd comments on the Holocaust, which the Vatican has rejected and Cardinal Kasper termed "gibberish." (This is the issue that has been receiving more media attention.) Second, the more complex question of why the pope would move to lift the ban on a group that has as its raison d’etre the rejection of the Second Vatican Council. The first, you might say, is a more political-historical question; the second a more ecclesial-theological one.
But the two issues are linked. For one thing, a rejection of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which includes a rejection of "Nostra Aetate," means that is more difficult for members of the Society to engage in dialogue with Jews, to respect Jewish history and to understand Jewish concerns, as well as to reflect on the sad history of Christian anti-Semitism.
Still, the question remains: Is anti-Semitism a pattern that pervades the Society of St. Pius X, or is it simply a bigotry expressed by only a few members?
The Society’s website indicates the former. This appalling article, entitled "The Mystery of the Jews," is still on their official American website, as of this morning (Saturday).
It includes these comments, which read less like a contemporary theological reflection on the Jewish faith and more like passages Mein Kampf. For the record, the article was written in 1997:
"It is public knowledge that the Jewish sector, relatively small compared to the Gentile sector which devotes itself to the creation of wealth, controls especially the financial power that is exercised through banks."
"Then these Jews, in the name of their Law, their Torah, and to serve the material interests of their nation and race, demanded the blood of Him who had been promised them as their blessing. They stirred up the Gentiles against Jesus. Using them to carry out their plans, they crucified the One who was to be raised up as a "sign of contradiction".
"Judaism is inimical to all nations in general, and in a special manner to Christian nations."
"Catholics are not to enter into commercial, social, nor political relations which are bound hypocritically to seek the ruin of Christendom. Jews must not live together with Christians because this is what their own Jewish laws ordain and also because their errors and material superiority have virulent consequences among other peoples."
Bishop Williamson is one thing; an anti-Semitic tirade appearing on the group’s official website is quite another. At this time, it is important to remember that in official Catholic teaching anti-Semitism is a sin, and, in the words of Pope John Paul II, an "evil."
James Martin, SJ