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Lefebvrites & Judaism. (UPDATED)

Just posted by John Allen at NCR:

When the Vatican lifted the excommunication of four traditionalist Catholic bishops Jan. 21, its entirely possible Rome was unaware that one of those bishops, an Englishman named Richard Williamson, had just given an interview to Swedish television in which he denied that the Nazis had used gas chambers and asserted that no more than 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had died during the Second World War.In retrospect, however, it would be disingenuous for anyone to feign surprise.A troubled history with Judaism has long been part of the Catholic traditionalist movement associated with the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre beginning with Lefebvre himself, who spoke approvingly of both the World War II-era Vichy Regime in France and the far-right National Front, and who identified the contemporary enemies of the faith as Jews, Communists and Freemasons in an Aug. 31, 1985, letter to Pope John Paul II.Reacting to the furor over Williamson, the Vatican has stressed that lifting the excommunication is not an endorsement of his views on the Holocaust, and has repeated its firm commitment to Catholic-Jewish dialogue and to combating anti-Semitism. The popes outreach to traditionalists should instead be seen, spokespersons said, as an act of peace intended to end the only formal schism in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).Canonical experts also point out that, technically speaking, Holocaust denial is not heresy. Its a denial of historical truth, not a truth of the faith, and hence repudiating it is not inconsistent at least from a strictly logical point of view with the Jan. 21 decree from the Congregation for Bishops ending the excommunication of the four Lefebvrite prelates.Thats a fine distinction, however, likely to be lost on much of the world, especially given that Williamsons comments hardly came out of the blue.

Read the rest right here.Update: John Allen reports today that the Vatican has released a statement from SSPX head Bishop Bernard Fellay, who apologizes for Williamson's offenses. It reads, in part:

Its clear that a Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesiastical authority except on questions that regard faith and morals. Our Fraternity does not claim any authority on other matters. Its mission is the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine, expressed in the dogmas of the faith. Its for this reason that we are known, accepted and respected in the entire world.The affirmations of Bishop Williamson do not reflect in any sense the position of our Fraternity. For this reason I have prohibited him, pending any new orders, from taking any public positions on political or historical questions.We ask the forgiveness of the Supreme Pontiff, and of all people of good will, for the dramatic consequences of this act. Because we recognize how ill-advised these declarations were, we can only look with sadness at the way in which they have directly struck our Fraternity, discrediting its mission.This is something we cannot accept, and we declare that we will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and to administer the sacraments of grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Shrewd move, as far as it goes. I would have preferred something stronger ("ill-advised" doesn't begin to describe what Williamson spews), sooner (why did it take so long for Fellay to publicly condemn Williamson's unhinged views about the Shoah when he has been repeating them for years?), and less, well, huffy (yes, yes, you're respected the world over, but why not name the Jewish people in your apology to the pope and to "all people of good will"?). And P.S.: the Fraternity isn't the only one that suffers as a result of this train wreck. But at least Fellay seems to have an inkling of the gravity of Williamson's transgressions.Interesting, too, that the statement was releasd by the Vatican.

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Holocaust denial is not ground for excommunication, but in my view, it undermines the person's authority. Williamson cannot be accepted back and given a status that would give him any kind of authority. Perhaps the members of the Lefebvrist movement could be accepted back but forbidden to speak out or do any teaching in the name of the Church, until they have, let's say, purified their views?

For more background, check out the "Against the Sound-Bites" page of SSPX.org (the website of the American society). Designed to help believers "refute various modern errors and 'sound-bites' that are bandied about," it includes a helpful section on Jews and Anti-Semitism, with articles like "What Really Is Anti-Semitism?" ("Even more so then when it was written in 1950, such a clear distinction is needed today") and "Are the Jews Guilty of Deicide?"

Here is the conclusion of an editorial in tomorrow's L'Osservatore Romano:Dall'accettazione del concilio discende necessariamente anche una limpida posizione sul negazionismo. La dichiarazione Nostra aetate, che segna la pi autorevole svolta cattolica nei confronti dell'ebraismo, deplora "gli odi, le persecuzioni e tutte le manifestazioni dell'antisemitismo, dirette contro gli ebrei in ogni tempo e da chiunque". Si tratta di un insegnamento non opinabile per un cattolico. Gli ultimi Papi, compreso Benedetto XVI, hanno esplicitato questo insegnamento. In decine di documenti, gesti e discorsi. Le recenti dichiarazioni negazioniste contraddicono questo insegnamento e sono pertanto gravissime e incresciose. Rilasciate prima del documento di revoca della scomunica, restano - come abbiamo gi scritto - inaccettabili.To summarize: it states that from the acceptance of the Council, including Nostra aetate's deploring of all manifestations of antisemitism, there follows a clear position regarding Holocaust-denial. Thus the recent statements [clearly referring to Williamson], contradict the Council's teaching, and thus are very serious, embarrassing, and unacceptable. As Cardinal Ricard states (in the quote I gave in my prior post) we are at the very beginning of a process.

I think that the denial thing is less some sort of sheer ignorance and more Williamson's desire to put a better spin on a counter-modernist political movement i.e. national socialism. So while we are getting a Holocaust denier with him, we are also getting a radically anti-modernist branch of the Church as well.There may be a plus side to this. We tend nowadays to take modernism for granted. And yet it seems to me that the Church has never really come to terms with capitalism or liberalism (in its 19th century sense). Instead we have seen a sort of cafeteria style accomodation to it that expresses itself in our modern political conservatism and liberalism. While I am not in any way condoning this group of people or their position, sometimes it is good to have a hard line viewpiont like this around. It can help clarify things a bit.

"In retrospect, however, it would be disingenuous for anyone to feign surprise."Perhaps we should admit that Benedict plays to his own trumpet more times than we care to admit. He panned one of the greatest ecumenical events in modern time; The prayer of John Paul II at Assissi with other church leaders. .By the way, we should not get into what canon law says about excommunication. Contempt for other people, in this case the Jews, is measurably worse than ordaining bishops without permission. Process is certainly a valid concept. At the same time process has to be intellible and not denote ignorance of obvious contempt for the horrendous treatment of a people. I mean we have videos of this. Benedict continues to give us more and more reasons why we should be wary of his position on matters of importance. As the Imitation of Christ warns it is what is said that is important, not who says it.

John Allen may say that lifting the excomunication is not an endorsement of his views on the holocaust. This may very well be true, and probably is, but to the Jewish commubity, it may very well be one of those instances when we use those expressions like, "I can't hear your words, because your actions are making to much noise."

counter-modernist political movement i.e. national socialismI think it's called Naziism.

"I think its called Naziism."Not exactly. People seem to talk about SSPX as though they are going to come in and remake the Church in some sort of pre-Vatican 2 fashion. But Williamson's various remarks are disturbing for their political content. So what sort of politics would these people want?These kind of people used to want the restoration of royalty. It would be interesting to know what kind of government (as opposed to religion) Williamson thinks would be needed to oppose the modernism that he hates. The kings are dead. Since the 1930's, some sort of radical nationalism has become the approved alternative. We can perhaps see this even here in the United States, where our own home grown brands of radical nationalism seem to the place where our right wingers and these people would intersect.No levity intended, but the Holocaust gave national socialism a bad name. I don't think that most Holocaust deniers are trying to say that Jews weren't massacred as such. They generally seem to be trying to say that they were not massacred as an inevitable result of national socialism as a philosophy of government. Holocaust deniers have a number of different "explanations" for the Holocaust aside from the idea that it didn't happen at all. They also say that it may have happened but the central government didn't know about it; or that Jews died in massive numbers (but so was everyone else) from diseases and such that accompany the war, etc. If Williamson dislikes modernism, then he is almost bound to also dislike modern democracy, which is based upon the pluralism that he believes is "the sum of all heresies". So what kind of politics would he like to see?As I mentioned before, the inclusion of this splinter group into the wider Church may prove interesting because it may change our own discussions about modernism. We don't often directly address the question. The "conservatives" seem to say that there are certain things that they like about modernism (such as libertarianism and free market capitalism) and certain things the don't like (cultural individualism). But they seem to take as given the "naturalness" of the free market and the "obviousness" of modern liberty without any longer addressing the question of whether one is really able to only embrace part of modernism without embracing all of it."Liberals" seem more inclined to embrace cultural individualism and less inclined to embrace free market capitalism and in some ways seem to be the flip side of conservatism (and garner the same sort of problem). But "liberals" also run into the problem of relativism that someone like Williamson would probably say is at the heart of the problem of modernism itself.While Williamson seems to me to be a product of some sort of philosophical inbreeding that one might expect in an organization like SSPX, questioning the affects of modernism on the Church and identifying it as a key problem for us in this age is very useful (even if Williamson is a rotten spokesman). So while it probably won't come to anything as various people use SSPX as proof for their the fulfillment of their own fears, I for one welcome these people back.

What Allen shows, it seems to me, is that anti-antisemitism isn't a problem of one rogue bishop in this movement. He suggests that it is is pervasive.The repudiation of modernity seems to be key, so it's not surprising that groups whose options have most expanded as a result of modernity (Jews, women--I wonder what he's said about races) come in for the most vitriol.The rejection of modernity is pervasive. An important point of Vatican II was recognizing the good aspects of modernity. It seems to me these people see no such thing. So I think politically, they are quite dangerous. ON a related topic, I think someone ought to shed light on the Church's connection to fascist movements--Franco. I still want to read about that.

Someone named Father Z (with the sideways miter) seems to say "save the liturgy, save the world." I assume he's working off some idea of lex orandi-lex credendi --lex agendi.But here's a question--hasn't the old liturgy, at least in the hands of the pius x people, spawned some astonishingly ugly factual, moral, and political views?Not as simple as it seems.

I dont think that most Holocaust deniers are trying to say that Jews werent massacred as such. They generally seem to be trying to say that they were not massacred as an inevitable result of national socialism as a philosophy of government. Williamson is a little of both, I guess. But whatever alternative theory a negationist puts forth, it includes an accusation (even if it's left unspoken) that the "quote-unquote official account" is a lie perpetrated by some nefarious cabal bent on discrediting socialism/Christian theocracy/whatever. They may be trying to rehabilitate socialism, but in the process they're endorsing a tangle of ugly conspiracy theories about how the modern world works and who "runs" it.hasnt the old liturgy, at least in the hands of the pius x people, spawned some astonishingly ugly factual, moral, and political views?My favorite explanation for Benedict's decision to "liberate" the Tridentine Mass was that he wanted to liberate it from groups like this one who had claimed it and then paired it with all these other objectionable views. But now I don't know if I still believe that.

Cathy, The important question is how to save the liturgy. I believe the efforts after V2 were attempts to save the liturgy as a way to save the world. What little I have seen of Fr Z's efforts seem more like "Save the form, hide from the world", which is no where near as catchy. Of course, HEROES has not produced so catchy a slogan in a while either.

Cathleen said: "ON a related topic, I think someone ought to shed light on the Churchs connection to fascist movementsFranco. I still want to read about that."The Spanish Civil War might not be a good thing to discuss in this context because contrary to how it looks to most people now it was an extremely complicated event. Political argumentation tends to take the form of "the best from my side versus the worst from the other side" and the Spanish Civil War has something for everyone, from ultra-Royalist restorationists to ultra libertarian anarchists. Since everyone committed attrocities everyone can claim that their favorite side was fighting for the right cause.Of course, people like Williamson are going to probaby prefer some kind of right wing government. We know that far right governments have serious problems from a Christian point of view just as Williamson knows that liberal democracies do.The issue is really the eternal issue of the theory of the relationship of human liberty to a transcendent moral order and the question of what kind of government is best for our theory is secondary to this. SSPX offers a theory of the relationship of liberty to moral order that the mainstream thinks is extinct, made so by Vatican 2 if not World War 2.But the issue (and therefore the competing theories) are still there. There have been definite failures in liberal society (perhaps identified differently by the left and the right) that the Church has yet to come to terms with. The question is not only still open, but it may be open to even the radical degree that SSPX suggests.Mollie said "They may be trying to rehabilitate socialism, but in the process theyre endorsing a tangle of ugly conspiracy theories about how the modern world works and who runs it."As I mentioned, SSPX shows signs of being inbred and this is one of them. Something "outside" is causing the problems and if people on the inside think that the situation should be self evident to anything who is reasonable like themselves, then the outside force must be manipulating information and fooling the reasonable. So bringing them back in may help here too.

Cathleen says; 'ON a related topic, I think someone ought to shed light on the Churchs connection to fascist movementsFranco. I still want to read about that.'It's a 90 year history; Franco is way back 70 years . De Gaulle was sick about the Hierarchal co=operation with the Vichey government. Roncalli was sent as nuncio to 'clean up' the collaberating bishops. Argentina is closer with a big Jew hating component. When the fascists loaded up the middle and upper class youth, unconscious so they could dropped in the So. Atlantic and disappear, they had no trouble finding clergy to 'bless' the live bodies before the dump. The youth's babies were doled out to military families 'because babies are innocent'.Another contingent blew up Jewish buildings. Now that the last of the 'Reds' fell into a rabbit hole, the churchy fascists will concentrate on Jews. Fascists need a hated enemy.

Those who are interested in the relationships among modernism, liberalism, libertarianism, relativism and Nazism should read Alaisdair MacIntyre's After Virtue and his A Short HIstory of Ethics if you haven't already done so.

People seem to talk about SSPX as though they are going to come in and remake the Church in some sort of pre-Vatican 2 fashion. But Williamsons various remarks are disturbing for their political content. So what sort of politics would these people want?Should I care? To me, the issues are how far the Magisterium is willing to go to accomodate SSPX and whether or not the Church ought to provide a mantle of legitimacy for their views. If they want a pulpit to preach from, I'm sure there are any number of media outlets that would provide them with one ala Fr. Coughlin.

Ecclesiastical weasel-wording at its best (worst?):http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=node/3182Statement of His Excellency Bernard Fellay, Superior of the Fraternity of St. Pius XBecause we recognize how ill-advised these declarations were Oh, ill-advised indeed! How about wrong-headed, unhistorical and biased?And why is Fellay called Bishop? Wasnt his ordination illicit?

Jimmy Mac, the ordination was illegal but valid according to Rome.

Antonio said: "Should I care? To me, the issues are how far the Magisterium is willing to go to accomodate SSPX and whether or not the Church ought to provide a mantle of legitimacy for their views. If they want a pulpit to preach from, Im sure there are any number of media outlets that would provide them with one ala Fr. Coughlin."No, you shouldn't care. But that's my point.

Note of the District Superior for Germany of the SSPX(Rorate Caeli Translation)"As District Superior of the Society [of Saint Pius X] in Germany, I am very troubled by the words pronounced by Bishop Williamson here in this country. "The banalization of the genocide of the Jews by the Nazi regime and of its horror are unacceptable for us."The persecution and murder of an incalculable number of Jews under the Third Reich touches us painfully and they also violate the Christian commandment of love for neighbor which does not distinguish ethnicities."I must apologize for this behavior and dissociate myself from such a view."Such dissociation is also necessary for us because the father of Archbishop Lefebvre died in a KZ [concentration camp] and because numerous Catholic priests lost their lives in Hitler's concentration camps."Stuttgart, January 27, 2009Father Franz Schmidberger(Father Schmidberger was the Superior-General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X at the time of the consecrations of 1988.)