The situation arising from the lifting of the excommunications of the four bishops of the Society of St Pius X at the same time as one of the bishops made remarks that amount to holocaust denial continues to cause confusion and scandal for the Catholic Church. On Tuesday, both the current Superior General and the past Superior (now District Superior in Germany) issued apologies and repudiations of the ideas proposed by Bishop Williamson.
The two letters are given in full below. (Thanks to Andrew Rabel for these texts).
First, it is appropriate that the leadership of the Society, rather than authorities within the Catholic Church, deal with this issue, as the Society has not yet been received back into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Second, this vindicates Pope Benedict’s act of lifting of the excommunications in order that dialogue aimed at the restoration of full communion may be commenced. The leaders of the Society have understood that the process of reconciliation with the Catholic Church will be jeopardised if the anti-Semitic opinions of some of its leaders and members (see here for more history from John Allen at NCR) are allowed to continue without condemnation.
Communiqué of the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X,
Bishop Bernard Fellay
It has come to our attention that Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of our Society, granted an interview to a Swedish network. In this interview, he also commented on historical issues, especially on the genocide of Jews by the National-Socialist regime. It is obvious that a bishop speaks with religious authority solely on matters of faith and morals. Our Society claims no authority over historical or other secular matters.
The mission of the Society is the offering and restoration of authentic Catholic teaching, as handed down in the dogmas. We are known, accepted, and appreciated worldwide for this.
We view this matter with great concern, as this exorbitance has caused severe damage to our religious mission. We apologize to the Holy Father and to all people of good will for the trouble it has caused.
It must remain clear that those comments do not reflect in any way the attitude of our community. That is why I have forbidden Bishop Williamson to issue any public opinion on any political or historical matter until further notice.
The constant accusations against the Society have also apparently served the purpose of discrediting our mission. We will not allow this, but will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and to offer the Sacraments in the ancient rite.
Menzingen, January 27, 2009
+ Bishop Bernard Fellay
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, 2009
Father Franz Schmidberger
District Superior of the Society [of Saint Pius X] in Germany
(Previous Superior General of the Society)