Friday, January 23, 2009

SSPX Rehab Gets "Gassed"

While the imminent lifting of the excommunications of the four schismatic bishops of the Society of St Pius X will make for an ad intra earthquake on numerous fronts, the lead storyline beyond the church's walls is likely to be the move's potential impact as a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations.

Early last year, after Jewish leaders protested the wider permission for the celebration of the 1962 Missal over the rite's Good Friday prayer that God "lift the veil from their hearts" and remove their "blindness," Pope Benedict responded by revising the prayer and wiping out the controversial passages. This time around, however, the record of Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre's heirs having referred to Jews as, among other things, being responsible for "engineering the destruction of the church" and working "to prepare the anti-Christ's throne in Jerusalem," an SSPX reconciliation will be a more difficult decision to edit.

Yet as if the backdrop didn't provide enough grist for a charged scene, leaks of a deal being struck began circulating just as a new interview appeared in which the most outspoken of the four excommunicated prelates -- the Cambridge-educated English convert Richard Williamson -- repeated one of his more controversial assertions: namely, his belief that "there were no gas chambers" in the Nazi concentration camps and questioning "what is widely believed today about the quote-unquote Holocaust."

Taped in November, the comments aired on Swedish television Wednesday night. In Germany, however, moves are afoot to have Williamson charged with Holocaust denial weeks after the SSPX's head there caused an initial wave of outrage in the Jewish community by writing, according to wire reports, that "Jews today share in the guilt of the decision" to crucify Jesus -- a position the Catholic church definitively repudiated in Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council's declaration on other religions.

As of this writing, Pope Benedict is still tentatively scheduled to visit Israel in May.

Williamson's observations aren't limited to history; in a letter to the Society's members, the Lefevbrist prelate once wrote that The Sound of Music had "all the elements of pornography... just waiting to break out," along the way referring to the classic's star, Julie Andrews, as "one rolling canine female."

In a 2008 interview with Britain's Catholic Herald during which he denied being an anti-Semite, the cleric deemed reconciliation between the Holy See and the SSPX impossible as a result of Vatican II -- which, he said, turned Catholicism into "the religion of man, of man put in the place of God.

"Deep down," he added, "what it means is that it's a new religion, dressed up to look like the Catholic religion, but it's not the Catholic religion."

Bottom line: no wonder the coming of a Lefevbrist restoration has brought the hills alive.