Society of St Pius X & Vatican II

Dialogika Resources

Statement on the revocation of the excommunication decree

The following statement was issued by theology faculty members at Münster where during the Second Vatican Council Joseph Ratzinger was also a member. The use of the term "rehabilitation" is not meant in a canonical sense, but in everyday usage. "Lifting of the excommunication" should be understood as the intended meaning.

Statement concerning the revocation of the excommunication decree against the bishops of the "Priestly Societyof St. Pius X" and the statements of Bishop Williamson

In the past few days, the revocation of the excommunication decree pronounced against the bishops whom Archbishop Lefebvre had consecrated without the permission and in defiance of the then pope in 1988 as well as the statements relating to the Holocaust made by one of these bishops has caused considerable public uproar. We comment on this as follows:

  1. We are aware that these two incidents are to be kept apart in principle. Announcements like "Pope rehabilitates deniers of Holocaust", which are frequently heard at present, establish a connection that was not intended in this way, although the statement itself is factually correct.

  2. We appreciate the Pope's efforts for the unity of the church. The notion of the office of St. Peter as serving ecclesiastical unity, which the theologian Joseph Ratzinger has always espoused, becomes manifest here. If the generosity and openness currently shown vis-à-vis the "Priestly Society of St. Pius X" had equally been applied towards other groups and individuals who, on account of their behaviour or teaching, are no longer part of the community of the church, many divisions and schisms could also have been healed.

  3. As professors of the Faculty of Catholic Theology of Münster, we firmly stand on the ground of the Second Vatican Council. Joseph Ratzinger was a member of our faculty in the years of the Council. As an advisor he was among those who exerted decisive influence upon many of the texts. The principles of an open encounter with the present-day world and culture, freedom of religion and conscience, the appreciation of both the ecumenical dialogue and the inter-religious exchange form the basis of our theological work.

  4. Hence it fills us with concern; we are dismayed by the fact that it is bishops expressly rejecting many of these principles and, consequently, key tenets of church doctrine who should be rehabilitated. This incident does substantial harm to the credibility of the church. It also undermines our efforts to implement the council in our theological work. The fact that even after the lifting of the excommunication the "Priestly Society of St. Pius X." continues to reject major parts of the council and also of the Motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" worsens the situation substantially.

  5. The reflection on the relationship between the church and Judaism is a central aspect of our work, which is also part of the reception of the Second Vatican Council. Many of our active and emeriti colleagues have been committed to a renewed relationship between the church and Judaism and have achieved scientific and social recognition for it. Hence, the denial of the Holocaust, which Bishop Williams expressed in the interview mentioned, is likewise diametrically opposed to these theological efforts of ours.

  6. A bishop who, forging the historical truth, is well aware that he will not only incur general social indignation, but also commits an offence that is liable to criminal prosecution in Germany must not be rehabilitated, but reprehended. In so doing, he puts himself into a state of ignominy incongruous with the dignity of a catholic bishop. It is upsetting that the only public reaction of the Holy See so far has consisted in verbally distancing itself from his statements.

  7. Our concern for the development of the church has led us to comment publicly on the incidents. However, we are also planning to voice our misgivings to Pope Benedict XVI. himself in an appropriate form.

Münster, January 28, 2009

Signing professors:

Antonio Autiero
Thomas Bremer
Giancarlo Collet
Martin Ebner
Reinhard Feiter
Alfons Fürst
Karl Gabriel
Reinhard Hoeps
Clemens Leonhard
Klaus Lüdicke
Johann Baptist Metz
Klaus Erich Müller
Thomas Pröpper
Klemens Richter
Clauß Peter Sajak
Dorothea Sattler
Udo Fr. Schmälzle
Stefan Schreiber
Marie-Theres Wacker
Harald Wagner
Peter Weimar
Jürgen Werbick
Annette Wilke
Hubert Wolf
Erich Zenger
Reinhold Zwick