Saturday, January 24, 2009

History is Made: Pope Lifts Four SSPX Bishops' Excommunications

Today, Saturday, January 24, 2009 A.D., on the very octave of Our Lady of Pontmain, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the 20+ year excommunications of four SSPX bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the SSPX, expressed his gratitude to the Pope, stating that the decree would assist the whole Church. "Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world," stated Bishop Fellay.

As is usual when the pope makes a just move on the Church's behalf, the critics are making themselves heard. Due to remarks made by Bishop Richard Williamson in regard to the Holocaust (and which were made public within the last few days), the gratitude of Bishop Bernard Fellay is in danger of being overlooked.

According to an AP report, "the pope acted on behalf of the Church despite an outcry from Jews that one of the four bishops [Williamson] was shown in a Swedish state TV interview this week saying that historical evidence 'is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed.' The report prompted Rome's chief rabbi to ask the Vatican to halt plans to rehabilitate (sic) him."

May it be noted, however, that the lifting of excommunications is not a question of "rehabilitation" for either Bishop Williamson or, for that matter, the other SSPX bishops. Rather, it is the first step to justly settling a very serious interior Church conflict, one which ultimately centers on preserving the Church's perennial Tradition. The 1988 excommunications, as many have long contended, were never licit. Unfortunately, this imperative fact is again overshadowed by the current cacophony against Bishop Williamson's remarks.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi stated, "Bishop Richard Williamson's views had no impact on the decision to lift the excommunication decree." It seems that neither did Rome's chief rabbi's opinions on Bishop Williamson's subjectivity bear any weight in the Holy Father's decision. The ANSA news agency reported Rev. Lombardi as also clarifying that the Pope's decision in no way implies "sharing [Williamson's] ideas or his comments, which will be judged on their own."

Bishop Williamson's comments may be offensive and erroneous, said Monsignor Robert Wister, Professor of Church History at Immaculate Conception School of Theology at Seton Hall University in New Jersey (United States), but they are not an excommunicable offense. Monsignor Wister also stated, "To deny the Holocaust is not a heresy, even though it is a lie. The excommunication can be lifted because he is not a heretic, but he [Williamson] remains a liar."

Unfortunately, Monsignor Wister is misinformed regarding Bishop Williamson's denial of the Holocaust. It seems the Bishop does not deny the Holocaust; what he disagrees with is the total number of Jews massacred, just as he also questions the very existence of the Nazi death camps' gas chambers.

That said, Bishop Williamson's individual viewpoints in regard to the World War II Holocaust - made during an interview made public earlier this week - displayed either a fumbling faux paux of incredible proportion or an appalling lack of charity, wisdom and prudence. Like the deplorable remarks (or actions) made by liberal or "neo-con" bishops on a variety of subjects, it still remains that Bishop Williamson's personal opinion on the Holocaust (or any topic, for that matter) has nothing to do with the eternal Church's doctrines, dogmas or disciplines. To his credit, Pope Benedict XVI grasped the difference between an individual's subjectivity and the Bride of Christ's objectivity.

Bishop Williamson, on the other hand, should have foreseen the impact of airing his personal conjectures. By doing so, he recklessly and needlessly incensed those who are always seeking to force the Pope's hand.

Supernatural grace, time and experience should have taught His Excellency that, as one of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Meyer, his words and actions are carefully watched, both by adherents of Church Tradition and by Tradition's enemies. Above all else, a priest's duty (and a bishop's) to God and to His Church means praying and working to be a holy priest - for the sake of his own soul, for the lambs to which he is responsible, and for those souls who might be ready to hear and accept the Faith.

The absurdities issuing from the mouths of some clerics today should remind us why we must pray for all priests: Just because a man has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders does not immediately transform him into a saint, much less a man possessing knowledge on a variety of subjects, or a even a man of human wisdom. Yes, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a man becomes another Christ, - not because he is immediately transformed into a Christ-like character, but because he holds certain powers given to him by God to save souls. A priest can consecrate and effect the miracle of Transubstantiation, absolve confessed sins, etc. But he, too, must work out his own salvation in fear and trembling. Above all, that is why all clerics, irregardless of rank, must be doubly careful in what they say and do, whether inside a parish church or not.

"As long as Christ is served first," St. Joan of Arc was wont to say. To return to this particular case, Bishop Williamson should have foreseen that his very position as an SSPX bishop granting an interview to a man who is no friend to tradition jeopardized not only himself but the Church. As an SSPX bishop, he should have known that a long and loud outcry would result from airing his personal conjectures over the Holocaust history.

For that reason, Bishop Williamson should have known that his remarks would rally unjust charges of anti-Semitism [which means hatred of Jews], charges made not only against himself but against the Church and especially against traditional Catholics. He should have known that he would unfairly open the Church, the Pope, and the SSPX to malicious and undeserved scrutiny. Objectively speaking, it cannot be denied that, whatever the bishop was thinking, he did not place the honor of Christ and His Church's needs first.

Nor can it be denied that WW II, and its aftermath, cut short the lives of millions - lives that were precious to God, Who wills the salvation of all souls. The exact count of any one people or of all the people, and the specific methods by which they suffered and died, is a grave matter. And yet, the greatest tragedy is that WWII could have been avoided. It follows that all the evil and wrong-doing since that time would have also been avoided.

The means were given to the Pope and the bishops by Our Lady of Fatima. World War II would never have happened if Christ's Steward at the time, Pope Pius XII, had ordered and led the Collegial Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a solemn consecration for which Our Lady asked in 1929, ten years before the war's outbreak. In the 1950's, the Virgin Mother told Sr. Lucia to inform the Holy Father (at the time, Pope Pius XII) She is always awaiting the Consecration. She still awaits it. Pope Benedict XVI possesses the duty, the right, and the authority to do what Pope Pius XII should have done. Even now, it is not too late.

That is what Bishop Williamson could and should have said when questioned about the Holocaust.

Again - "As long as Christ is served first." In all we think, say or do, we Christians should always keep that truth in mind.

And may we all pray at least one Rosary as our Te Deum (Thanks be to God!) for the good which Pope Benedict XVI has done for the Church this day. May God and His Virgin Mother preserve and protect him!

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