I got home from retreat and received several emails from friends concerned about the Pope’s decision to revoke the excommunications of four schismatic bishops.

The short story from the NY Times:

But while the revocation may heal one internal rift, it may also open a broader wound, alienating the church’s more liberal adherents and jeopardizing 50 years of Vatican efforts to ease tensions with Jewish groups.

Among the men reinstated Saturday was Richard Williamson (right), a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that six million Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers. He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.

The four reinstated men are members of the Society of St. Pius X, which was founded by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in 1970 as a protest against the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, also called Vatican II. Archbishop Lefebvre made the men bishops in unsanctioned consecrations in Switzerland in 1988, prompting the immediate excommunication of all five by Pope John Paul II.

Here’s my take on this. It’s really apples and oranges. These men who were ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre were excommunicated because they were not properly ordained and more importantly because the entire movement was refusing to recognize the changes of the Second Vatican Council. They were not excommunicated because of their views on Jewish-Catholic relations in particular (I doubt that the Pope may even know of the one Bishop’s thoughts at all on the holocaust and his other absolutely ludicrous positions).

Still, I agree with many critics who have a hard time believing that the Vatican didn’t vett this group deeply enough and now are in another public relations nightmare. The headline they were probably expecting was something like: Pope Benedict heals only schism in the Catholic Church in the last century.

One of the critics, Theologian Hans Küng had a good quote in the NY Times as well:

Father Küng agreed. Benedict “does not see that he is alienating himself from the larger part of the Catholic Church and Christianity,” he said. “He doesn’t see the real world. He only sees the Vatican world.”

Indeed. Benedict sees this as healing a theological rift and nothing more. However, I would (if I were the head of Vatican Public Relations) hope that he would come forward and explain the real reason for the reconciliation and then publicly denounce the position of Richard Williamson who I will not dignify by adding the title Bishop to his name. His views are extremely stupid and more importantly dangerous.

Let us pray today that Pope Benedict might have some good advisers who might suggest that he makes a public statement denouncing Williamson’s views.

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