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SSPX head apologizes.

I updated my post below, but just in case people aren't checking that thread, here's the latest development in the Williamson saga.John Allen reports today that the Vatican has released a statement from SSPX superior Bishop Bernard Fellay, who apologizes for Williamsons 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 doesnt begin to describe what Williamson spews), sooner (why did it take so long for Fellay to publicly condemn Williamsons unhinged views about the Shoah when he has been repeating them for years?), and less, well, huffy (yes, yes, youre 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 isnt the only one that suffers as a result of this train wreck. But at least Fellay appears to have an inkling of the gravity of Williamsons transgressions.Interesting, too, that the statement was released by the Vatican. Given Fellay's reticence to condemn Williamson's outrageous views--as recently as yesterday--it seems likely that Fellay felt some pressure from Rome to issue his statement.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Maybe some good will come of this. People now realize more than ever that these are not just nostalgic traditionalists who want to be respected, but are are bunch of loons with odious opinions. After all, despite Fellay's deft attempt at deflection, Williamson's views on the Jewish people did exactly come out of a vacuum. I think the way forward is quite claer: completely accept the validity of the twenty-first ecumenical council or (to borrow Williamson's upper-class English accent) "bugger off"...

Rather anemic response to Williamson's reprehensible comments.And, of course, we're reminded --- once again --- of the SSPX mission: "the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine."'Nuff said.

I wore myself out trying to look for an actual apology or condemnation in statements like this: "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."This boils down to "We don't claim to know absolutely everything... That's part of what makes us so well-liked!" He's not so much distancing himself from Williamson's conclusions as saying it's okay not to listen."We declare that we will continue... to administer the sacraments of grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ."Isn't that what they're not supposed to do?

Hello All,In charity I'll assume that Bishop Fellay's apology is genuine and that Williamson's views are not representative of the membership of the SSPX. But at least part of what Fellay says has me puzzled:"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."If this is literally true then the members of SSPX would evidently be committed to rejecting some of the teachings of councils and/or popes before Vatican II, although the SSPX explicitly rejects only Vatican II. As some of our fellow participants here have reminded us, Vatican II defined no new doctrines, and did not repudiate any previously defined doctrines. In fact the Roman Catholic Church has never repudiated any defined doctrine. So if what Fellay says is literally true, then I conclude that the SSPX must reject some previously defined doctrines as inauthentic. Maybe the SSPX rejects the doctrines concerning the infallibility of the pope, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary, which were defined as recently as the 19th and 20th centuries but before Vatican II?Okay all, I will admit it. I'm not being entirely serious - I suspect that Fellay has a very peculiar understanding of the term "doctrine", just as he has an odd understanding of what it means to be "known, accepted and respected in the entire world.".

It would be interesting to know what other Bishops throughout the world think of this matter; even more interestring to know if any Bishops were consulted when the Pope made his decision about the SSPX. According to one report in the secular press even Cardinal Kasper who leads the Vatican's efforts at Christian Unity was in the dark.I ran into this group in 2003 at a church, the name of which I forget, near rue des Bernadins in Paris. Listening to a few of them was stunning. A couple of them said that whether I knew it or not I was Protestant if I supported Vatican11.

Thank you for your comments, Grant. I did check Fellay's interview yesterday in which he says:- [Patricia Briel, Le Temps:] Do you condemn the negationist declarations of Bishop Williamson?- [Fellay:] It does not belong to me to condemn them. I do not have the competence for (t)his. So, Fellay, the head of the SSPX, is not competent enough to be able to condemn denial of the Holocaust. This speaks volumes about the group. Unity is wonderful, but depending on who and what you are unifying with.I thank God for the outcry, at least from the laity, that forces some response from officials. What a testament to indifference or worse, if this whole thing had gone unremarked beyond rarefied theological discussions. Abstraction is fine to a point, but Christianity involves the Incarnation, God in the flesh, understanding that matter matters. And the flesh and blood reality of the Jewish people with their acute pain on this issue should not be bartered for anyone's doctrinal comfort or accommodation.Truly, the offense is beyond understanding. All Benedict really sees is the Vatican world --- thank you, Hans Kung in the NYT. There must be some remove, some ether that accompanies episcopal ordination. Passive-voice non-apology apologies become the currency of speech. I am reminded of the spin of US Catholic bishops who described the sexual abuse nightmare as an abstract "passion of the Church" where they were the "victim," instead of the painful scarring of innocent flesh and the real human suffering they caused. All the same pattern of deflection, evasion and refusal to be accountable.

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.)

And, of course, were reminded once again of the SSPX mission: the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine.Well, yes, one would hope that this is what a Catholic would want for a mission. The debate is over what *is* authentic Catholic doctrine. Which I grant also begs the question of whether it needs to be restored. Fr. Schmidberger's statement is the strongest and most welcome - and not surprising given that he works in Germany, perhaps. Nonetheless, even Fellay's statement, pressured or not, represents an unprecedented step within the SSPX. So we're left to pray that we see more positive movement in this direction. That can only be a good thing.

All Benedict really sees is the Vatican world thank you, Hans Kung in the NYT. I really don't know what the Pope sees. But I think it's an open question whether an academic sinecure at Tubingen is any less isolated from the wider world than the Vatican is.

Benedict's myopia and stuffy reactionary conservatism have weighed heavily on the Catholic world for decades now. Is it any wonder that according to a Pew report a third of US Catholics are ex-catholics (even factoring in the huge influx of immigrant Catholics)?

Re: "Nonetheless, even Fellays statement, pressured or not, represents an unprecedented step within the SSPX."That is depressing beyond measure, in light of what a dissembling mess of a statement Fellay signed. Seriously, is he that exalted in the group's mind?I fear the old world of unbounded deference to hierarchy still lives, where "Father says" is the final judgment of all. It's not healthy for Father or infantilized adults or vulnerable children. We've already got bells back and more Latin. What next?

Since Bishop Fellay publicly asked for forgiveness, I think this gives us a good opportunity for an examination of conscience. Do we discredit, dismiss, downplay, or speak less than forceful condemnations against any holocausts of innocents in our day? Do we speak of classes of human beings as not persons whose killing is something less than murder and to some degree justified? Are we claiming the mantle of Catholic or of liberal inclusion for positions which soft-peddle extreme slaughter and massive social injustice? Do we tolerate such equivocation from our friends, colleagues, and co-workers? Miserere nobis.

This thread is not about abortion. Nor will it become one about abortion.

I'm not going to raise any specific issue, Grant. We have a profound situation here, where the Church extended mercy, intolerant statements were made, forgiveness was publicly requested, and reparations offered. As Christians this presents us with an important opportunity to reflect on something we must all internalize: there, but for the grace of God, go I. Any one of us, myself included, could be in the holocaust-denying shoes of Bishop Williamson or worse, and maybe without even knowing it. Without such an examination of conscience, we will be incapable of praying "forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".

The comment posted at 8:27 smacks of censorship or, if not censorship, then a certain sensitivity which could be read to reflect how close to home the earlier commenter hit. No matter what your view, it seems like a reasonable point, especially for someone to make in the particular forum of comments to a blog post.

It's not censorship. This is not a street corner. This is not a public park. It's a blog. We have just shy of a thousand threads on abortion--please don't insult my intelligence by suggesting the comment was not about abortion--and I do not want to see the debate rehashed here.If you want to talk about the insufficient apology offered by Fellay, by all means do. If you want to talk about abortion, pick another post. Off-topic comments will be deleted.

Grant that is an interesting point, and I do appreciate you leaving my comments up for reflection. I think the issue of whether and how we as Christians can stand and judge the apology to be insufficient is the issue I am raising, and how our judgment on that issue is affected if we humbly examine our conscience about our own blindnesses and weaknesses and stated views on other social injustices.


David's newest post includes this quote from Pope Benedict, in which the Pope draws a lesson from the Holocaust that is not dissimilar from the point I am trying to make here:"May the Shoah be a warning to everyone against oblivion, denials or reductionism."

I must admit I'm a bit surprised at the shock at the view of Bishop Williamson. The SSPX is clearly anti-Semitic. Just read some of their essays on Jews on their web site, although I notice some of the more awful ones have recently been removed from there. Their basic approach is that all Jews are guilty of deicide and they are trying to take over the world. But the SSPX says they're not anti-Semitic because they don't hate individual Jews. I mean really, they put it out there for everyone to see.Williamson is doing us all a favor. The SSPX is not just some folks nostalgic for Latin. They reject everything about Vatican II, everything, not just liturgical reforms. Nosra Aetate is a document of Vatican II, so why be surprised to learn that they reject what that document teaches? The favor Williamson does for us is to show us, in the ugliest way possible, where we would be without the Council. Perhaps there can be no greater service on the 50th anniversary of the Council's inception than to provide such a dramatic contrast, proving the wisdom of John XXIII.

Matt - keep in mind that B16's action is about 4 bishops. A big issue is the fact that bishops are not "laicized" so what do you do when a bishop or a group of bishops goes their own way?How do you forgive? How do you re-incorporate them into the church? What happens if you offer an olive branch and they adamantly are convinced that their way is the "true" way?You have clerical office, ordination, etc. impacting this discussion in terms of trying to parallel or compare to issues such as abortion, ordination of women, gay marriage, etc.

"How do you forgive? How do you re-incorporate them into the church? What happens if you offer an olive branch and they adamantly are convinced that their way is the true way?"Bill, thinking about these questions, I'm imagining the four SSPX bishops attending their national bishops conference meetings. Zoinks!Your question reminds me of the troubles roiling the Anglican Communion - what is the nature of the relationship between local churches that seemingly do not share the same creeds? I know many Catholics look with some satisfaction upon our well-honed juridical structures that - theoretically at least - allow these questions of intrachurch relationship to be handled with nice, clean, sharp distinctions. Yet this SSPX situation seems to be "shades of grey". They're not excommunicated ... yet they're not in communion. What *is* the nature of the relationship, and how is it manifested?

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