- Category: Priestly Society of St. Pius X
- Created: January 27, 2009
- Written by Swiss Bishops Conference
On the 21st of January 2009, Pope Benedict XVI, by means of a decree of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, has canceled the punishment of excommunication against four bishops of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X. The decree is an expression of the pontifical desire to end the existing schism with the Society, which worldwide numbers several hundred thousand followers and 493 priests. Despite this action, the four bishops are also suspended. It is legally prohibited for them to exercise the episcopal office.
In various reactions, great apprehension about this step has been expressed, with the Holy Father extending the hand of reconciliation. It must be unmistakably understood, however, that according to the law of the Catholic Church the removal of the excommunication is not yet reconciliation or rehabilitation, but rather the opening of a path toward reconciliation. This act is not the end, but rather the start of necessary discussions about debatable questions. In view of the extensive differences, this way may be long.
Reason for increased concern was given by the interview one of the four bishops under the excommunication that was broadcast on Swedish television shortly before the lifting of this church punishment. In it, Bishop Richard Williamson maintained that there is no historical evidence for the existence of gas chambers or for the murder by the Nazis of six million Jews, but rather for [only] 200,000 to 300,000 Jews. The Catholic Church can never accept this explicit denial of the Holocaust. A spokesman for the Holy See has also published a statement against the absurd allegations of Bishop Williamson, calling his position "totally unacceptable". We Swiss bishops also make this judgment ourselves, and apologize to the members of the Jewish communities in Switzerland for these irritations of recent days. Anyone who knows Pope Benedict XVI and his positive attitude toward Jews knows that he would never tolerate such untenable out-of-bounds statements as those of Bishop Williamson.
The Swiss bishops have noted that the Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has criticized with strong words the interview statements by Bishop Williamson. However, the four bishops have in the past repeatedly made clear that they and the Society of Pius X do not respect the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council on the Relations of the Catholic Church to Non-Christian Religions and in particular to the Jews. We Swiss bishops expect that during the conversations that according to the decree are necessary before the establishment of full communion and therefore also lifting the suspensions of the four bishops, these bishops need to credibly state their support of the Second Vatican Council and especially of the positive attitude toward Judaism in the declaration Nostra Aetate.
+ Kurt Cook
President of the Swiss Bishops Conference
Solo Thurn, 27th of January 2009