Being "Right Wing" is not a heresy

Yesterday, I read this in our morning edition of The Age: “Pope clears right-wing bishops: One of Four is a Holocaust Denier” (the subtitle isn’t on the web edition – I’ll get to that in a moment).

Saturday’s report was just a rumour at that stage – although one with good basis (the article was written by a journo from The Age citing Andrea Tornielli), but the reports this morning are coming in that the act has been accomplished: Pope Benedict has lifted the excommunication on the four Society of Saint Pius X bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre. (If you like your papal announcements hot off the internet and in Italian, here is the link for the Holy See’s official Bulletin: REMISSIONE DELLA SCOMUNICA LATAE SENTENTIAE AI VESCOVI DELLA FRATERNITÀ SACERDOTALE SAN PIO X , 24.01.2009 (and in English HERE on WDTPRS.comsee here for further comment by Fr Z.).

Now, as Brother Martin would have said, “What does this mean for us?”

I think the very first thing to note is that this is NOT a restoration of full communion between the Catholic Church and the Churches of the Society. It puts the Fraternity in a relationship with the Catholic Church which is in almost exact parallel to the relationship of the Orthodox Churches. You will recall that at the end of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras recinded the mutual excommunications of the Churches within one another’s communions. Forty years later, full communion has still not been established between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches – but the relationship is at least one of fraternal brotherhood seeking full communion.

So, the removal of the excommunication does not mean there are not still issues of great disagreement between Rome and the Society. Those differences include differences with regard to how the teachings of the 2nd Vatican Council is received. THAT includes questions of the relationship of the Church to other world religions, and especially to the Jews. And THAT brings up the question of “Holocaust denial”.

The Age report claimed that “One of four is a Holocaust denier”. The evidence for this claim is in this interview given here in Sweden:

Whatever the evidence may or not be for the Holocaust, there is no doubt about one thing: the evidence that Bishop Williamson is a “holocaust denier” is undeniable. In response to this interview, Bishop Fellay (the head of the Society) has issued this letter (thanks to Fr Ray Blake via Fr Z.)

Bishop Fellay states that a bishop has no magisterium to declare on such matters of history. He clearly distances himself and the society from Bishop Williamson’s ideas – but note (in line with his position that a bishop should have no position on this issue) that he does not take the opportunity to reject Bishop Williamson’s claims outright.

Make no mistake about these guys: they are what The Age and other liberal media outlets would definitely call “right wing” and “ultra-conservative”. But The Age journalist fails to exercise any distinction between the “crimes” of these right-wingers. It is, for instance, one thing for a Latin Christian to exercise their right and perogative to “conduct Mass solely in Latin”. It is another thing to “categorically reject the validity of any other religions” (at least for a given meaning of “validity”). It is yet another thing completely to deny the historical veracity of the Shoah.

In her article, The Age journo tries to lump Pope Benedict into the same basket as the SSPX chaps by describing him as “energetically conservative”. An interesting adjective, “energetically”. Yes, for an 81 year old, the Holy Father is certainly “energetic” – but compared to the SSPX bishops, he is decidely “liberal”. I don’t think you would find either Bishop Fellay or Bishop Williamson ever visiting a synagogue, let alone ever offering a moment of prayer in a mosque…

The lifting of the excommunication does not mean that there are not still serious issues between the Society of Saint Pius X and the Catholic Church. It does not mean that the Catholic Church (or Pope Benedict) endorses the extreme and false opinions of some of these bishops. But being “conservative” and “right-wing” as such is not an offence against the Catholic faith.

And Bishop Fellay is right about one other thing too – we can only distance ourselves from the controversial and shameful opinions of holocaust deniers. The denial of the Holocaust is not offence against the Catholic faith – although it is an offence against the Jewish people, history and right reason. As such Holocaust deniers deserve censure, not excommunication.

Update:Fr Z. on the fact that juridcally “very little has changed” in regard to the SSPX

Update:Damien Thompson at the Daily Telegraph thinks the Bishop Fellay letter looks like a fake. And note well, Thompson has it wrong. The lifting of the excommunications do not mean that Fellay and Williamson now belong “to the same Church” as himself (except in the broader sense of being baptised members of the one Church of Jesus Christ). They are still in schism from the Catholic Church.

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0 Responses to Being "Right Wing" is not a heresy

  1. matthias says:

    Thanks for this clarification as I was quite concerned that a known Holocaust denier and Anti-Semite was back within reach of the Curia.
    Denial of the holocaust is not a offence against the Catholic Church,the Lutheran Church or the Baptist churches,however if we Worship a Risen Lord who was born Jewish,who attended the Synagogue ‘as was His custom” ,then we as Christians need to be ever vigilant against the evils of anti-semitism and the denial the Holocaust.
    Perhaps I am strange,but I do not tolerate david irving or frederick tobin both holocaust deniers,nor do I listen to Wagner,given the association of his music with the nazis.

  2. Schütz says:

    No, and I am not suggesting that we should tolerate them – only, to deny an historical event, or to be conservative or even “right wing” in one’s political views, is not a heresy deserving of excommunication.

    Now, that isn’t to deny that anti-Semitism is a sin. It is. It is a variety of “racism”. And certainly that is against the Catholic faith, such that were an individucal promoting anti-semitism in any extreme manner, that could be grounds for excommunication – depending on how any particular bishop thought it best to exercise discipline in such a case.

    And it is against the Catholic faith as such to (for eg.) deny that Jesus and his blessed Mother and the apostles were all Jews, or to suggest or teach that God has abandoned his people and forsaken his covenant with them. Public extreme teaching along those lines might also earn someone a disciplinary excommunication.

  3. Louise says:

    I thought the bishops had been excommunicated, but that the members of the SSPX in general were not. Did I misunderstand something you wrote, or do I just have wrong info?

  4. Salvatore says:

    “The lifting of the excommunications does not mean that Fellay and Williamson now belong “to the same Church” as himself…”

    I wonder about this. The Code describes schism as “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him”, but says nothing about schism as “setting up ones own church”. We tend to think of it as such because of the Great Schism, but the difference is (it seems to me) the Orthodox Churches really are separate Churches, and were so before the schism. The SSPX is not (or at least not yet) a Church in that sense. It some ways it’s closer to the situation of a religious order going into schism.

    Which is (perhaps) why the laity – who are not strictly members of the SSPX but simply attend their chapels – were specifically exempted from the excommunication.

    In any event I don’t think Mr Thompson needs to get into too much of a flap about running into Bishop Williamson at parish functions; I really doubt whether the later gentleman has any intention of submitting to the Holy See. There was always going to be a splinter from the Society determined to reject the Holy See’s overtures and Williamson was always going to be the leader of that party.

  5. Cardinal Pole says:

    Mr. Schütz,

    Firstly, I note that your headline and subsequent remarks suggest a failure to grasp what Msgr. Williamson stands for; he is neither ‘right’ nor ‘left’ since he rejects (as all Catholics should) the entire spectrum of liberal democracy.

    Secondly, your assertion that

    “It puts the Fraternity in a relationship with the Catholic Church which is in almost exact parallel to the relationship of the Orthodox Churches.”

    is false. The S.S.P.X. Bishops have not erected schismatic Churches, they have not rejected the Pope’s authority and they have not usurped any other Ordinary’s authority. The Orthodox, on the other hand, are pretenders to jurisdictions to which they have no rightful claim. Furthermore, they have brought anathemata on themselves by rejecting defined Catholic teachings. Meanwhile, the S.S.P.X. Bishops uphold all the Catholic defined teachings, including the ones that most, in fact almost all, other Catholics would rather forget e.g. the condemnations in Quanta Cura. And of course it is for the fact that Msgr. Williamson upholds Quanta Cura and the Syllabus for what they are–the foundational documents in Catholic social doctrine–that his enemies most despise him, not for his questioning of the Holocaust.

    “They are still in schism from the Catholic Church.”

    That is TOTALLY false, and you ought to update this post and correct that. The ‘schism’, if ever there was one (which there wasn’t), is over.

  6. Schütz says:

    No it isn’t, your Emmyness. Full communion has yet to be restored with the Society.

    Re the status of the Orthodox Churches, your ecclesiology is about as dodgy as your political science. But then, that’s no excommunicable offence either, I guess.

  7. Son of Trypho says:

    One figure completely demolishes questions about the gas chambers and the Holocaust:

    St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – martyred, 9 Aug 1942 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

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