Friday, January 30, 2009

The Long Shadow of Schism

For purposes of clarity, the Pope's relevant text on the week's big story, in full, from Wednesday's audience:
In the homily delivered on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my pontificate, I said that the "call to unity" is an "explicit" duty of the pastor and I commented on the Gospel passages about the miraculous catch of fish, saying: "Though there were so many fish, the net did not break." I continued after these Gospel words: "Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn!" And I continued, "But no -- we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. … Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!"

Precisely in fulfilling this service to unity, which determines in a specific way my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I decided some days ago to concede the remission of the excommunication incurred by four bishops ordained without pontifical mandate in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre. I have carried out this act of paternal mercy because repeatedly these prelates have manifested their sharp suffering in the situation in which they found themselves. I trust that following from this gesture of mine will be the prompt effort on their part to complete final necessary steps to arrive to full communion with the Church, thus giving testimony of true fidelity and true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope and the Second Vatican Council.

In these days in which we remember the Shoah, my memory turns to the images taken in during my repeated visits to Auschwitz, one of the concentration camps in which was carried out the brutal massacre of millions of Jews, innocent victims of a blind racial and religious hate. As I renew with affection the expression of my total and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, I hope that the memory of the Shoah moves humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart.

May the Shoah be for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all. No man is an island, a well-known poet has written. May the Shoah teach especially, as much the old generations as the new ones, that only the tiring path of listening and dialogue, of love and pardon, leads peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the desired encounter of fraternity and peace in the world. May violence never again humiliate the dignity of man!
That said, as the freshly de-excommunicated head of the Society of St Pius X moved to keep his controversial confrere on the sidelines...
We have learned of an interview given by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of our Society of Saint Pius X, to Swedish television. In this interview, he comments on historical questions, particularly the question of the genocide of Jews by the National Socialists.

It is obvious that a Catholic bishop can only speak with ecclesiastical authority about matters concerning faith and morals. Our Society claims no authority on other matters. Its mission is the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine, set forth in the dogmas of the Faith. It is for this that we are known, accepted and esteemed throughout the world.

We are deeply grieved to see how much harm the violation of this mandate can do to our mission. Bishop Williamson’s statements do not in any way reflect the position of our Society. This is why I have forbidden him, until further notice, to make any public statements on political or historical issues.

We ask forgiveness of the Sovereign Pontiff and of all people of good will for the dramatic consequences of such an act. While we recognize how inappropriate these declarations were, we can only note with sadness that the incessant accusations against our Society are also obviously intended to discredit it.

This we cannot accept, and we declare that we will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and administer the sacraments of grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
...yet another member of the Lefevbrist fraternity made waves by backing the latter up:
[A]nother leader in the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has questioned whether the Nazis used gas chambers for anything other than “disinfection,” and said that people who hold revisionist views on the Holocaust are not anti-Semites.

Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz, a pastor and spokesperson for the Society of St. Pius X in northeastern Italy, also referred to Jews as “a people of deicide,” referring to the death of Christ, and suggested that the Jewish Holocaust has been “exalted” over what he called “other genocides,” such as the Allied bombing of German cities and the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip.

On the other hand, Abrahamowicz insisted that the traditionalist movement founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is not “anti-Semitic.” Among other things, Abrahamowicz said, he himself has Jewish roots on his father’s side....

Reacting to protest in Italy over the Abrahamowicz interview, the Italian superior of the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Davide Pagliarani, issued a press release saying that the society confirms Fellay’s earlier statement on Williamson and “reproves every single word inconsistent with it.”

Abrahamowicz is himself a well-known figure in Italy. In 2006, he gave a television interview in which he said that Erich Priebke, a German SS officer convicted of war crimes for a 1944 massacre in Rome, in which 335 Italian civilians were killed in reprisal for the deaths of 33 German soldiers, should not be seen as an “executioner” but rather a soldier who acted “with regret and a heavy heart.” In 2007, Abrahamowicz celebrated a Latin Mass for Italian politician Umberto Bossi, leader of the far-right Northern League party. Bossi and his party have sometimes been accused of xenophobia, particularly towards Muslim immigrants.

In 2008, after Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan had expressed support for Muslims seeking to open new mosques in Italy, Abrahamowicz said on Italian radio that Tettamanzi was an example of “infiltrators” attempting to “subvert the church from within.”

Meanwhile, in the country where the global reaction to last Saturday's "remit" of the 1988 sanctions has, arguably, run strongest -- Germany -- the lead council of Jews has followed the lead of Israel's chief rabbinate and cut its Vatican ties... all while the Neo-Nazi community there has found itself a new "hero," but making sure it hails him within the confines of the country's Holocaust-denial laws.