Thursday, January 22, 2009
More SSPX News: Bishop Williamson opens mouth and inserts...
I remember Bishop Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X from my own days in the SSPX (mea culp mea culpa). Back then he was still Fr.Williamson. My impressions of him were that he was a remarkably well spoken gentleman, congenial with a very British dry wit, and a complete loon. Over the many years since I last saw him (it's probably been over 20 years now) he has continued to pop up in various news reports here and there. And almost without fail he continues to confirm my earlier impressions. Now he is at it again on the eve of the most dramatic step towards regularizing the SSPX that has thus far occurred (he has been deeply opposed to reconciliation with Rome).
In an interview with a European television crew (see above) he repeats his longstanding views that the Holocaust is mostly a myth and that there were no gas chambers. Of course Holocaust denial is one of the pet causes of radicals in the tin foil hat crowd. But it is also a bit more serious than that for a few reasons.
First is that this is a glimpse into the weird subculture of Trad Catholics. Not all by any means, but a large number of them are hard core right wingers. Anti-Semitism may not be an article of faith for the SSPX, but its pretty widespread among both the laity and the clergy. I could fill several pages with anecdotal experiences that send shivers down my spine just thinking about them. But it is sufficient to note that this has been so widely reported that it is not seriously contended except by the society's apologists.
Secondly it demonstrates the grave risks that must attend the lifting of the excommunications from a group that has in no way softened its opposition to the so called hermanuetic of continuity espoused by Pope Benedict. The SSPX is a group that has long seen itself as the last bastion of true Catholicism and their obstinate refusal to tow the Vatican's line has won them many supporters among the fringe. Most remain completely unreconciled to Vatican II and they are likely to see this as a de facto surrender by the Vatican as are many more moderate and liberal Catholics who will wonder what this says about Benedict's views on Vatican II.
And finally it will without doubt further damage the already frayed relations between Rome and the Jewish community who are almost certainly going to be alarmed by the readmission of a hardcore Holocaust denier like Williamson to communion with the Roman Catholic Church. And to be honest I won't blame them. There will be no way to interpret this as anything less than a huge slap in the face. I have been a big fan of B-XVI, but if he does this without first silencing Williamson he will be making a huge mistake that will seriously damage his reputation.
The question which this begs is, have Rome and the SSPX reached an agreement on the serious points of divisions? I have long feared that Pope Benedict, who felt keenly and personally the failure to prevent Archbishop Lefebvre's schism in 1988, would undertake a rush to reconciliation with the SSPX. No doubt reconciliation and the healing of schism is a much to be desired thing. But is this a true reconciliation or a modern false union of Florence?