February 5, 2009

Vatican-Lefebvrists affair: who is to blame?

Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to the episcopal functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah.

That’s the statement the Vatican issued a few hours ago with regard to the traditionalist bishop who denies the Holocaust. It’s a good news, a very good news—welcomed by Germany’s Central Council of Jews—as much as German chancellor Angela Merkel’s call upon Pope Benedict XVI to issue a clear statement of opposition to Holocaust denial was, in my view, fully justified.

But, at this point, a question comes naturally: who is to blame for what went wrong in the whole thing? Both within and outside of the Curia, says Italian vaticanist Sandro Magister, many have been blaming the pope for everything, but they are wrong. Ok, it was his decision to offer the Lefebvrist bishops a gesture of benevolence, and it is also certain that the lifting of excommunication followed other previous gestures of openness, such as the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum,” dated July 7, 2007, with the liberalization of the ancient rite of the Mass. But it’s also true that, for one thing,

[t]he lifting of this excommunication […] did not by any means heal the schism between Rome and the Lefebvrists, just as the lifting of the excommunications between Rome and patriarchate of Constantinople – agreed on December 7, 1965, by Paul VI and Athenagoras – did not by any means mark a return to unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of the East. In both cases, the dropping of the excommunication was intended to be simply a first step toward reversing the schism, which remains.

But little or nothing of this, complains Magister, was stated in the decree issued on January 24 by the Holy See. At the point that, “in the “vulgata” diffused by the media, with this decree the Church of Rome was simply clasping the Lefebvrists to its bosom.” Which is simply false.

Benedict XVI was left practically alone, and the curia was abandoned to disorder 

As it was not enough, eventually there came the uproar over the shameful interview with bishop Richard Williamson. But the interview, argues Sandro Magister, even though recorded on November 1, 2008, was broadcast on January 21, that is to say the same day on which the decree was signed revoking the excommunication of the four Lefebvrist bishops, Williamson included.

So, in the media all over the world, “the news read as follows: the pope clears a Holocaust denier bishop from excommunication, and welcomes him into the Church.” What followed—the tremendous tempest which scattered the Church—is well known. Well, Magister asks, “was all of this really inevitable? […] Or was the disaster produced by the errors and omissions of the men who are supposed to implement the pope's decisions?” What follows in the article is a very harsh critique of “the offices of the curia from which the Vatican press office and its director, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi receive their orders. These offices of the curia converge in the secretariat of state.”

A thorough reading of the entire article is highly recommended.