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James Martin, S.J.February 04, 2009

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State has issued an official statement on the Society of St. Pius X this morning here.   It has a clear message: The acceptance of Vatican II and the authority of the last five popes is an "indispensable" condition for full communion for the group.  Per un futuro riconoscimento della Fraternità San Pio X è condizione indispensabile il pieno riconoscimento del Concilio Vaticano II e del Magistero dei Papi Giovanni XXIII, Paolo VI, Giovanni Paolo I, Giovanni Paolo II e dello stesso Benedetto XVI. 

These are strong words, and it will be interesting to see how a group whose raison d’etre is the rejection of Vatican II will react.  

Also, Bishop Williamson is directly noted in the statement, which is a rarity for such documents.  He is instructed that he must "absolutely and unequivocably" renounce his position on the Holocaust, which was "not known by the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication."  Il Vescovo Williamson, per una ammissione a funzioni episcopali nella Chiesa dovrà anche prendere in modo assolutamente inequivocabile e pubblico le distanze dalle sue posizioni riguardanti la Shoah, non conosciute dal Santo Padre nel momento della remissione della scomunica.

Father Joseph Komonchak, of Catholic University, over at Dotcommonweal, highlights three points:

"1) While the lifting of the excommunications relieves the four from a very serious canonical punishment, “it has not altered the juridical situation of the Society of St. Pius X which, at the moment enjoys no canonical recognition by the Catholic Church.” In addition, the four bishops “have no canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise a ministry within it.”

2) Any future recognition of the SSPX has as an “indispensable condition a full recognition of the Second Vatican Council” and of the last five popes.

3) For him to be admitted to episcopal functions in the Church, Bishop Williamson must repudiate absolutely unequivocally and publicly his positions with regard to the Shoah, which, the Note says, were not known to the Pope when he lifted the excommunication."  --Komonchak

Meanwhile, Sandro Magister, the Italian journalist, has a piece on his site that speaks of the "double disaster" of the Vatican: governance and communications.  (H/t to Dotcommonweal.)  And Father Thomas J. Reese, SJ, former editor in chief of America, and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, weighs in on the controversy, in an article entitled Benedict is Destroying his Legacy.  Here’s Reese:

"The sad thing is that Pope Benedict is saying and doing many great things, but these media disasters are undermining his papacy. His words about peace, justice, refugees and the economic crisis are not being heard. Benedict wants to be a pastor and teacher, but he needs people who know how to run an organization and communicate in the 21st century, and he does not have them. The Vatican’s model for the papacy is still the absolute monarchies and royal courts of the past. That model simply will not work today. "  --Reese

James Martin, SJ


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14 years 4 months ago
'He is instructed that 'he must absolutely and unequivocably' renounce his position on the Holocaust, which was 'not known by the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication.' This is really, really hard to believe. The 'lies, lies, lies' remark has been common knowledge for years to anyone who as been following developments with the SSPX. Perhaps Benedict is not quite as bright and on top of things as is commonly assumed. Leo Boff was taken aback by how misinformed Joseph Ratzinger was concerning the focus and crux of his work too. If this is true, Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos should be sent packing from Rome as soon as possible. Perhaps the Cardinal would serve the Church better by dropping his obsession with the Latin Mass and concentrating more on what he can do for his suffering laity in Colombia, struggling under the narco-state it has become.
14 years 4 months ago
Father Martin might have noted that this new clarification by the Vatican came only after a great deal of arm-twisting, especially arm-twisting by fellow Germans of the Pope. No fewer than seven German bishops, including at least one cardinal, have publicly expressed their consternation at the Vatican's handling of the SSPX matter. But perhaps even more important than these opinions of German prelates, there was Chancellor Merkel (daughter of a Protestant pastor), in a most unusual move, who asked the Vatican to explain itself. Of course it's better late than never, but, it seems to this outsider, why did it take intensive arm-twisting before the Vatican did the right thing here?
14 years 4 months ago
This is not a small matter. Williamson has not just publicly denied the Holocaust, he is a card-carrying member of the lunatic fringe. He claims that the jews created the holocaust story to assist in the creation of and continuing support for the state of Israel. He claims that 9/11 was engineered by the U.S. Military and that women should not be educated. The vatican P.R. folks can't spin Benedict out of this one. The Pope's decision to rehabilitate Williamson is nothing less than outrageous. You have an obligation to say at least that in your publication rather than just bland news stories about how the ''pope seeks to allay Jewish concerns.''(Feb 9)

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