Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Vatican: Traditionalists Must Profess "Full Recognition of the Second Vatican Council"

In its first real concession to Catholic progressives since the papacy of Benedict XVI began, the Vatican said today that the ultra-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X cannot be reconciled to the Catholic Church until its members profess "full recognition of the Second Vatican Council"--and that until that time the society "does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic church" and the four bishops whose excommunications were rescinded will not be allowed to function as Catholic bishops.

After criticism from the Chancellor of Germany, the Archbishop of Vienna and the U.S. Catholic Bishops among others, the Vatican also said that Bishop Williamson in particular cannot resume episcopal functions unless and until he repudiates his denial of the Holocaust "in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion."

The following is the National Catholic Reporter's translation of the Vatican statement:

NOTE OF THE SECRETARIAT OF STATE, February 4, 2009

Following the reactions generated by the recent Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, with which the excommunications of four prelates of the Society of St. Pius X were rescinded, and in relation to the declarations denying or minimizing the Shoah on the part of Bishop Williamson of this same society, it is regarded as opportune to clarify certain aspects of this affair.

1. Remission of the Excommunication

As has already been published, the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, dated January 21, 2009, was an act with which the Holy Father kindly responded to repeated requests on the part of the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X.

His Holiness wished to remove an impediment that prevented the opening of a door to dialogue. Now he is waiting for equal openness to be expressed by the four bishops, in total adhesion to the doctrine and discipline of the church.

The extremely grave penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, which these bishops incurred on June 30, 1988, which was then formally declared on July 1 of the same year, was a consequence of their ordination by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The lifting of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a most grave canonical penalty, but in no way has it changed the juridical situation of the Society of St. Pius X, which, in this moment, does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic church. Also the four bishops, despite removal of the excommunication, do not have any canonical function in the church and do not licitly exercise any ministry in it.

2. Tradition, doctrine and the Second Vatican Council

For any future recognition of the Society of St. Pius X, a full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition.

As was already affirmed in the Decree of January 21, 2009, the Holy See will not fail, in ways judged opportune, to purse the questions which are still open with the interested parties, thus to be able to reach a full and satisfying solution to the problems that gave rise to this painful fracture.

3. Declarations on the Shoah

The positions of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked this past January 28, when, referring to that brutal genocide, he reconfirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brothers who received the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide must lead “humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart,” adding that the Shoah remains “a warning for all against hate, against denial or reductionism, because violence against even a single human being is violence against all.”

Bishop Williamson, in order to claim admission to episcopal functions in the church, must distance himself in absolutely unequivocal and public fashion from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were not known by the Holy Father when the excommunication was lifted.


The Holy Father asks accompaniment in prayer from all the faithful, that the Lord may illuminate the path of the church. May the commitment of the pastors and all the faithful grow to sustain the delicate and weighty mission of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, who is the “custodian of the unity” of the church.

1 comment:

Terence said...

At last - some good news coming out of the Vatican. I think there are two, possibly three, hopeful aspects to this. First is the substantive content - up to now it has appeared as though the concessions were all one-sided. Now it appears that SPX is being asked to yield considerable ground of their own, and to acknowledge the authority of Vatican II; second, is the clear implication that the Vatican has been forced to respond to harsh public and internal criticism, in adjusting so far from its original stance.

Is this a sign of a long overdue shift in the balance of power, of a weakening of the autocratic papacy, and the start of a pendulum swing back to the spirit of the Council?

Let us pray!