I have refrained from writing about Pope Benedict XVI’s recent lifting of the excommunication of leaders of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), the spiritual children of French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, because it was connected with their repentance for non-canonical episcopal consecrations, a fairly esoteric, intra-Catholic issue.
Since the Pope’s action was announced, it has come out that one of the SSPX bishops, Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier. That’s bad, but it isn’t an excommunicable offense (while I think anti-Semitism is, Holocaust denial, technically speaking, isn’t anti-Semitic per se, though it may be a sign of mental illness as well as historical illiteracy, and in fact most Holocaust deniers are anti-Semites).
But the more I’ve read about SSPX, the more I think that the Pope made a big mistake by seeking to reconcile this radical traditionalist schismatic sect to Rome. I’ve taken a look at their Web site, and been disturbed by some of what I’ve seen (I’m not suggesting that all members, or leaders, of the Society are anti-Semites, by the way). For instance, there’s the article entitled “The Mystery of the Jewish People in History,” which jumps from the rejection of Jesus by most Jews to extremist views of Jewish-Christian relations and Judaism specifically:
Judaism is inimical to all nations in general, and in a special manner to Christian nations. It plays the part of Ishmael who persecuted Isaac, of Esau who sought to kill Jacob, and of Cain who put Abel to death….
Christendom and Jewry are destined inevitably to meet everywhere without reconciliation or mixing. It represents in history the eternal struggle of Lucifer against God, of darkness against the Light, of the flesh against the spirit….
If the Gentile people now considers this genuine greatness of the medieval age as gloomy or obscurantist, and wishes to be great with the material greatness of Babylon, then it can have it: but only as a servant of Judaism. In the domain of the material, it is the Jewish people who have the superiority. History tells us (Werner Sombart) that the renowned greatness of English and American Capitalism is only a Judaic creation. While Capitalism fulfills its promises and is unquestionably of incomparable material greatness, it compromises the work of millions of Christians for the benefit of a much smaller number of the Jewish people….
The relations of Christians and Jews cannot be governed by the common law of Christians, but only by an exceptional legislation which takes count of the theological status of the Jewish people. The Catholic Church’s teaching is that they should neither be eliminated from among us (as antisemitism seeks) nor given equality of rights, which leads to their superiority (as is advocated by liberalism or philosemitism).
In an article with the title, “Are the Jews Guilty of Deicide?”, from a 2004 edition of the SSPX magazine Angelus, the response is given:
The Jews were consequently directly responsible for the crucifixion. Deicide is the name given to the crime of killing the person who is God, namely the Son of God in His human nature. It is those persons who brought about the crucifixion who are guilty of deicide, namely the Jews.
Apparently Pilate, who had Jesus executed despite thinking Him innocent, had no responsibility for his actions.
There’s more, but the point is that there are real questions that can be about a strain of thinking (or non-thinking) in the Society of St. Pius X that makes the Vatican’s efforts to reconcile with it a questionable policy, not simply from the standpoint of relations with Jews, but as a matter of theological and moral integrity.
UPDATE: Williamson “apologized” to the Pope today in a letter to Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos–not for Holocaust denial, but for bringing it up when he did, and for the grief that has caused Benedict and Cardinal Hoyos:
Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.
I hope it isn’t uncharitable of me to say that, as apologies go, that’s pretty pathetic.