I deliberately make this a separate thread from the one just below.Rocco Palmo is reporting rumors in Rome that the Pope is going to lift the excommunications of the four bishops who head the Society of St. Pius X, the group founded by Archbishop Lefebvre. Some even think this might be done this Sunday, the 50th anniversary of Pope Johns announcement of his intention to convoke an ecumenical council.He also reports, however, that one of the four excommunicated bishops, Richard Williamson, by far the most outspoken and the most opposed to Vatican II, has churned up new controversy by denying the Holocaust. He faces prosecution in Germany where denial of the Holocaust is regarded as a crime.All this at this point is still only rumor.It's no longer rumor. The decree lifting the excommunications is dated Jan. 21, 2009. Thanks to Paul below for the link to rorate-caeliThe text speaks of the hope that this step will "be followed by the prompt accomplishment for full communion with the Church of the entire Fraternity of Saint Pius X." This implies that "full communion" is not yet accomplished. Are the four bishops whose excommunication has been lifted are not yet in full communion? Or does it refer to other members of the Fraternity? The text implies that there is a process going on, and that this is only one step. Fr. Lombardi, however, press secretary of the Vatican, said that full communion already exists in virtue of this act.I note that nothing is said about the Second Vatican Council, except implicitly in references to their accepting the Church's teachings and to the teaching authority of the Popes, the last five of which have endorsed and promoted the Council's teachings. I wonder if the doctrinal authority of the Council is one of those "still open matters."The President of the German Bishops Conference concludes his brief comment by observing that the Pope hopes for the return to full communion with the Catholic Church and leaves no doubt that the decisions of the Second Vatican Council are an unconditional basis for the life of the Church." http://dbk.de/aktuell/meldungen/01814/index.htmlThe Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Vingt-Trois, in an interview remarked: "I rejoice any time the Church can lift a penalty. It is an opportunity, an open door, to permit Christians to recover the fullness of communion with the Church. On the condition that they desire it or accept it. Its a gesture of mercy and of openness to strengthen the Churchs unity." He said that it is difficult to know how things will change concretely. "The lifting of the excommunication is a juridical act. I cant know in advance how people will react and behave following the juridical act.." He concluded the interview with this remark: "The ministry of Benedict XVI cant be reduced to dealing with the Fraternity of St. Pius X. Yes, the Pope is exercising his ministry of communion in this particular area, just as he did, for example, in the letter he sent to Chinese Catholics last year with the intention of helping them to find full unity."http://www.eglise.catholique.fr/actualites-et-evenements/actualites/levee-des-excommunications-interview-du-cardinal-andre-vingt-trois.html
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.