John Allen’s take on the SSPX excommunications

Check John Allen’s piece on the SSPX thing going on.

My friend the nearly ubiquitous John L. Allen, Jr. is, of course, the fair-minded columnist for the ultra-lefty National Catholic Reporter.

Let’s look, with my emphases and comments.

In the meantime, lest you miss this because you are impatient …

I want to put all this on the record, because I don’t want to be accused of over-simplification or partisanship when I submit the following: The way this decision was communicated was a colossal blunder, and one that’s frankly difficult to either understand or excuse.

To be clear, my point has nothing to do with whether the excommunications should have been lifted in the first place. There’s legitimate debate on that front, and not just due to its implications for Catholic/Jewish relations. There’s also intra-Catholic discussion about what it means for the interpretation of Vatican II, and for the broader direction of the church. Instead, my argument is that even granting that the aim of restoring unity in the church justifies this step, its presentation was stunningly inept.

 

But let’s go back to the top.

The Lefebvrite case: What was the Vatican thinking?
By John L Allen Jr Weekly
Created Jan 30 2009 – 12:58

On the lecture circuit, I’m sometimes asked for my opinion about the Vatican’s communications strategy. My glib answer generally is, "As soon as they have one, I’ll be glad to tell you what I think of it.[He got it right.]

The line usually draws a few chuckles. However, this week’s furor over the lifting of the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, including one who’s a Holocaust denier, offers a reminder that the lack of PR savvy in Rome is actually no laughing matter.

The story has followed a familiar arc, which one might call the "Regensburg syndrome." The pope says or does something obviously destined to set off fireworks; nonetheless, the Vatican purports to be surprised by the reaction; then, damage control follows[The premise is that they are not doing this on purpose.]

The containment strategy this time featured a Jan. 27 apology [2] from Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the traditionalist Fraternity of St. Pius X, for the incendiary comments of Bishop Richard Williamson, who denied in an interview with Swedish television that the Nazis used gas chambers and asserted that no more than 300,000 Jews were killed in World War II. In a statement released by the Vatican, Fellay also said that Williamson has been barred from further comment on political or historical subjects.

The next day, Benedict XVI recalled the deaths of "millions of Jews" in the Nazi death camps, and expressed his "full and indisputable solidarity" with the Jews. He also said that lifting the excommunications was an act of "paternal mercy" which he hopes will lead the traditionalists to embrace full communion in the church, including acceptance of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

As welcome as those statements obviously are, they’ve come only in response to a crisis that clearly should have been anticipated. Claims that the Vatican was caught off-guard don’t cut it; well before Williamson appeared on Swedish TV, he had a public record of Holocaust denial and antagonism toward Jews which a 30-second Google search would have unearthed. [right]

At the outset, let’s stipulate several important bits of nuance:

    * First, Benedict XVI sees himself as a friend of the Jewish people, and has no sympathy whatsoever for anti-Semitism or attempts to deny or diminish the Holocaust.
    * Second, Williamson’s views don’t represent the whole traditionalist movement. The vast majority of ordinary Catholics attracted to the Latin Mass, or who harbor reservations about doctrinal innovations in the church, are neither bigots nor crackpots.
    * Third, the motive for lifting the excommunication is the noble end of fostering unity in the church, striving to heal the only formal schism in the wake of Vatican II.
    * Fourth, lifting the excommunication does not mean the Lefebvrites have been "rehabilitated." Canonists say the four prelates remain suspended a divinis, which means they can’t legitimately ordain anyone, establish parishes, and so on. The Fraternity of St. Pius X still has no juridical status. The bottom line, in the words of a Jan. 25 statement from French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, a member of the Vatican’s "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, is that this marks "not the end, but the beginning of a process of dialogue."
    * Fifth, part of Benedict’s strength as a leader is that he’s not shackled to the short-term considerations of tomorrow’s headlines. No one should expect him to shrink from making a decision simply because some people might misconstrue his motives.

I want to put all this on the record, [HARK] because I don’t want to be accused of over-simplification or partisanship when I submit the following: The way this decision was communicated was a colossal blunder, and one that’s frankly difficult to either understand or excuse.

To be clear, my point has nothing to do with whether the excommunications should have been lifted in the first place. There’s legitimate debate on that front, and not just due to its implications for Catholic/Jewish relations. There’s also intra-Catholic discussion about what it means for the interpretation of Vatican II, and for the broader direction of the church. Instead, my argument is that even granting that the aim of restoring unity in the church justifies this step, its presentation was stunningly inept.

I take at face value the assurances of Vatican officials that they were unaware of Williamson’s interview, but they hardly needed Swedish television to alert them that something was amiss. In 1989, Williamson narrowly escaped prosecution in Canada for praising the writings of Ernst Zundel, a German-born Canadian immigrant whose works include The Hitler We Loved and Why and Did Six Million Really Die?, both mainstays of Holocaust denial literature. All this was documented in press coverage at the time. In 1991, Williamson published an open letter referring to "the false messianic vocation of Jewish world-dominion, to prepare the Anti-Christ’s throne in Jerusalem." In 2000, Williamson went on record asserting that the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" are legitimate. His reputation was so well-known that in 2008, Shimon Samuels, director of international relations at the Simon Weisenthal Center, told the Catholic Herald in England that Williamson is "the Borat of the schismatic Catholic far-right."  [Remember that whole Google search part?]

Further, it’s not as if the Vatican can claim to have been surprised by Jewish reaction. In September 2006, Benedict set off a similar firestorm in the Muslim world with his lecture at Regensburg, in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor to the effect that Muhammad had "brought things only evil and inhuman." Regensburg should have brought home the lesson that when the pope does something likely to cause alarm in another religious community, you have to see the train wreck coming in order to avert it.  [Unless, of course, they did it on purpose that way.]

What might a more effective communications strategy have looked like[A valid question.]

Rather than dropping this decree on an unsuspecting world, the Vatican could have called a press conference to present it, with senior officials such as Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews — so that the interpretation would be simultaneous, not after-the-fact. At that time, four key points could have been made:

    * This move is not an endorsement of the personal views of these four bishops. In particular, in light of Williamson’s past comments, the pope wishes to clearly repudiate any attempt to diminish or deny the horror of the Holocaust.
    * Catholicism’s commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, and to good relations with the Jewish people, is unchanged.
    * Lifting the excommunication gets the traditionalists in the door, but it does not mean they have arrived. If they are to be fully reintegrated, they must accept official Catholic teaching, including religious freedom and respect for other religions.
    * The pope feels he’ll have more leverage to nudge traditionalists in this direction by opening a dialogue, rather than keeping them on the outside.

That might not have been enough to short-circuit all the negative reaction, but it surely would have softened the blow. All four points were implied in the Jan. 25 statement from Ricard, as well as the Jan. 28 comments by Benedict XVI, but coming only in the wake of negative public reaction they inevitably smack of spin.

In short, the Vatican under Benedict XVI still has not learned the lessons of Regensburg. The terrible irony of these meltdowns is that they’re a boon for people hostile to the pope or the church, who can cluck about how "I told you so," while they fall hardest on those most inclined to be sympathetic[He has a point.]

Of course, if this cycle continues, there may not be many people left in that second category to worry about. [ouch]

* * *

As noted above, Williamson’s views should not be used to discredit every Catholic who feels the tug of classical liturgical forms, or who takes a traditional doctrinal stance. Many of the people drawn to the Society of St. Pius X, or any of the various traditionalist groups already in communion with Rome, are simply Catholics hungry for a clear sense of spiritual identity in a rootless world.

On the other hand, it would be equally misleading to style Williamson as a "lone gunman," an isolated crank with no connection to broader currents of thought in the traditionalist world.

The folly of that view was illustrated on Thursday by Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz [5], a well-known priest of the Society of St. Pius X in northeastern Italy, who gave an interview to an Italian paper in which he defended Williamson. Abrahamowicz said he wasn’t sure that gas chambers had been used by the Nazis for anything other than "disinfection," seemed to cast doubt on the number of six million Jews killed, complained that the Holocaust has been exalted by Jews at the expense of other acts of genocide, and called the Jews a "people of deicide," referring to the death of Christ.

The fact that Abrahamowicz would voice these sentiments even after Fellay had apologized, and after Fellay insisted that the Society of St. Pius X has no competence to speak on anything other than faith and morals, illustrates how deeply entrenched they are in some quarters of traditionalist Catholicism.

The Abrahamowicz interview prompted the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, to go on Vatican Radio to say that "whoever denies the fact of the Shoah knows nothing of the mystery of God, nor of the Cross of Christ." Holocaust denial is "even more serious," Lombardi said, when it "comes from the mouth of a priest or a bishop, meaning a Christian minister, whether or not he’s in union with the Catholic church."

Meanwhile, Fr. Pierpaolo Petrucci, a prior within the Society of St. Pius X, told reporters on Thursday that traditionalists still believe that many aspects of Vatican II "contradict the teaching of previous popes." In particular, Petrucci said the Lefebvrites remain "scandalized" by Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 trip to Turkey, in which the pope paused for a moment of silent prayer in the Blue Mosque alongside the Grand Mufti of Istanbul. Petrucci said that popes before Vatican II had rejected inter-religious relations as a matter of principle, implying that Benedict XVI (like John Paul before him) is some sort of apostate.

In the wake of all this, the leadership of the Society of St. Pius X in Italy has canceled an upcoming national meeting, in order to avoid "further polemics and confusion." Translation: the leadership wasn’t sure it could keep a lid on what might be said on the floor of the meeting, or around the edges[good thinking]

What recent events make clear is that there are two camps in the small universe that rotates around the Society of St. Pius X. The first, represented by Fellay, is composed of traditionalists whose concerns are solely liturgical and doctrinal, and who see the future of their movement as a leaven within the formal structures of the church; the second, represented by Williamson and Abrahamowicz, includes people for whom theological traditionalism bleeds off into far-right politics, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories, and who are far more suspicious of any "deal" with the post-conciliar church. 

Benedict XVI’s calculation seems to be that the former represent the majority, and that the best way to isolate them from the latter is to open the door wide enough that only the real intransigents will refuse to walk through it.The risk, of course, is that the outside world won’t see the pope trying to steer the traditionalists toward moderation; it will instead see the pope rolling out the red carpet for a group that includes Holocaust deniers and hate-mongers.

All the more reason that somebody in the Vatican must think now about how to present the next act in this saga, rather than waiting for misunderstanding and heartache to erupt before cranking into motion.

The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is jallen@ncronline.org

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102 Responses to John Allen’s take on the SSPX excommunications

  1. EDG says:

    “In short, the Vatican under Benedict XVI still has not learned the lessons of Regensburg. ”

    Sorry, I have to disagree. The Vatican is going to be attacked no matter what it does and what it says, and I think BXVI is well aware of this. He responded quickly but was simply taken off guard by the direction of the attack, and I honestly don’t see how one can foresee where the attack will come from. At Regensburg, a fairly modest occasion, he said nothing that could be disputed, but the leftist press immediately went off to find the embers of hatred among the Muslims and fan the flames. The left is simply hanging over the Church, like Snoopy the vulture in his tree, waiting to drop. Heck, to attack the SSPX reunion, they had to rely on an irrelevant interview with a Swedish TV station done months ago. But it was almost as if they had it ready and waiting for this moment.

    The only way to avoid having this happen is to say nothing, and this Pope is not willing to do that. And he shouldn’t. We’ve had too many years with people saying nothing in the hopes that our enemies would love us. It has only confused Catholics and obscured the truth.

  2. Timothy says:

    The last few paragraphs of the article are pretty incisive. What kept me away from the traditional Mass were the several people I knew who attended. I wondered why they kept talking about Jews and Masons. It did seem like a kind of group paranoia and I wanted nothing to do with it, however sympathetic I was (and I was!) to traditional liturgy. (I almost joined the Orthodox Church over that issue in 2000.)

    Thank God for Summorum Pontificum. It rescues the Extraordinary Form from that milieu. I do acknowledge that the persistence of the Society of St. Piux X was probably a significant factor in bringing us to Summorum Pontificum. I also believe that the “exile” of the traditional Mass may be seen in hindsight to have preserved it, whole and entire, for this new period and into the future. It is ironic that Bishop Williamson quoted Jonah, because that is how I see this situation: the traditional Mass was swallowed by the whale and has been brought up on the shores of the 21st century, out of the hands of the consilium and the experts.

    I now attend the Extraordinary Form at Our Lady of Lourdes in Philadelphia. I intend to visit Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin, NJ for High Mass when I return from visiting my parents every month or so at their home on the Jersey Shore. This Holy Mass is changing my life, more than I ever expected. I am a Traditional Catholic!

  3. Rick says:

    I think Allen has a point here. There has to be consideration of such moves. Naturally those who hate the Church will disagree with whatever B16 says, but it seems that a leader should make sure to plan out his strategy for the acceptance of his proposals. (For example, Ben 16 did a great job on Summorum Pontificum). I think there needed to be a bit more context and explanation given as to why the action took place and what exactly it meant.

  4. MenTaLguY says:

    PR certainly shouldn’t be the first or only consideration (as you say, people are going to be upset with the Church no matter what), but this still could have been handled better. A modest effort to anticipate some of the difficulties which would have arisen even without a specifically hostile press really would have been in order in this case.

  5. scholastic says:

    No doubt the Vatican doesn’t follow a slick PR strategy. But then, maybe they don’t think PR is their job.

    If the Pope had pursued the strategy Mr. Allen outlined, it might not have been a bad thing. But I wonder how much that would have lessened the criticism. I also wondered why Mr. Allen didn’t bring Cardinal Martino into this. Cardinal Martino recently compared Israel to Nazi Germany, I believe. Is the real issue for some people traditionalism, not antisemitism?

    Personally, since Bishop Williamson said he was open to hearing evidence proving the Holocaust, I would like to see that opportunity be given to him. He could be given a full tour of the Holocaust and education about it.

    If both sides truly have good will, this could be a win/win situation.

    I find Bishop Williamson’s opinion’s despicable, but do people not deserve to be given the chance to learn and be forgiven?

    I think this could be a great solution for both sides.

  6. Allen’s piece assumes an ability on the part of Rome to predict what everyone is going to do at any given moment with whom it deals. It also assumes that the excommunications have anything to do with anything else, and/or that the Vatican is in a position to do damage control for the SSPX. The Jews aren’t expected to know better. Allen is. That’s what makes this pathetic.

    Allen’s one of the better writers at NCR. We’re not seeing him at his best right now.

  7. Franzjosf says:

    He makes some legitimate points. But, how about another article on nuns supporting female priests, wiccan, and the rest. It would include,

    “…bleeds off into far-left politics.”

    “After John Paul II said that it is to be held by all Catholics that the Church has no power whatsoever to ordain women, only the real intransigents refuse to obey.”

    Or something like that.

  8. David says:

    whoa! wait a sec!

    “Lifting the excommunication gets the traditionalists in the door, but it does not mean they have arrived. If they are to be fully reintegrated, they must accept official Catholic teaching, including religious freedom and respect for other religions.”

    That is just plain condescending. I consider myself a bit more moderate than the SSPX (and the SSPX is moderate!), but on this Mr. Allen simply goes too far.

    What does he mean? Traditionalists in the door? fully reintegrated?

    How am I supposed to take that? Why should “traditionalists” such as myself feel un-integrated? I thought we were all supposed to feel as though we are fully integrated into the lives of our parishes and dioceses?

    Is this a slip? Did he mean to say the bishops and priests of the SSPX?

    If not, if he meant traditionalists in general, then I have something to say to Mr. Allen, and it’s not polite enough to relate here.

  9. rljfp says:

    My 2 cents worth,

    I am of the opinion that the Holy Father does indeed have a someone as head of PR–the Holy Ghost! I think I remember a passage from the New Testament where Jesus made some extraordinary pronouncements to His disciples. Pronouncements that were outrageous for people at that time and that went against EVERYTHING the Torah taught. Didn’t all but 12 leave when He had finished? It seems Jesus said things that made everyone mad and angry and where was His PR rep and why didn’t He get one. If you don’t think our Holy Father Benedict XVI isn’t intuitive enough to see what reactions will come from his pronouncements then maybe, just maybe, HE DOES INDEED KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTS TO SAY and how he wants to say it. Do any of us have the right to question his motives especially in the areas of Faith and morals? I don’t!! I seem to recall 20 years ago it would have been almost heretical to question any of John Paul II’s speeches, etc.

  10. Joe says:

    I agree with some of the points made by Mr Allen and by posters above. One assumes that there are very intelligent people working in the Vatican who could have foreseen some of the reaction.

    I think, though, the lesson from Regensburg is that some people will use anything to forward their own agenda, no matter how ludicrous. If the Pope quoted Psalm 14 and said “the fool said in his heart, there is no God”, someone somewhere will excerpt it as “the Pope says ‘there is no God’”.

    I think too that if it is incumbent on the Vatican to have better press office skills, it is incumbent on other organizations such as the Rabbinate of Israel or very influential individuals like Elie Wiesel to think before they act. Their and some other reactions this week are not worthy of people who have as much access to the internet, let alone offices in the Vatican, as anybody else.

  11. Patrick says:

    A man is not called to the priesthood because he holds the accepted views of secular history, but because he holds the ORTHODOX Truth of Salvation [History].

    The fact that some people might disagree with +Williamson on how many Talmudists were murdered by the National Socialist German government doesn’t make his views any less legitimate than my opinion that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets won the College Football National Championship in 1990. I would EXPECT a fan of the Colorado Buffaloes to reject my opinion on the matter. That doesn’t mean that either of us are right or wrong, it simply makes in conflict about something concerning secular history.

  12. Joe bis says:

    Patrick, the question of who won the CFNC in 1990 can be resolved by consulting reference books – it is not a matter of opinion. The problem comes when you say “but the reference books you use are biased and wrong. Look, here’s my own book.” I look at your book and find out that no-one else thinks your book has any historical or scientific credibility. No journalist, no historian of football, no resident of Georgia, says that what is in your reference book is correct.

    That does not mean that your reference book is wrong, but it means that a reasonable person who is not omniscient will reasonably go with the majority opinion. This is what reasonable people do all the time. It might not be a question of right or wrong (or even of opinion), but of what constitutes a community of people who have enough reference points in common to have what they will consider a reasonable opinion. That is why I will not say Bishop Williamson is crazy, or any of the other easy epithets that get thrown at him, but I will say that people I have had some experience with who share his opinion on the Holocaust are unreasonable.

    Of course the unreasonable person might be right, and we will find out one day that he or she was the sane one. As Yeats said, “Bred to a harder thing/Than Triumph, turn away/And like a laughing string/Whereon mad fingers play/Amid a place of stone/Be secret and exult,/Because of all things known/That is most difficult.”

  13. chironomo says:

    Unless, of course, as Fr. Z seemed to hint at, this “bungling” is actually done on purpose. Perhaps there is an effort to demonstrate that this is an issue of relevance to the Catholic Church, and only the Catholic Church, and like Summorum Pontificum, it really doesn’t concern other faiths at all. To step gingerly around an issue to avoid drawing the ire of those who really have no say on the matter is a sign of weakness. Do the right thing, not the thing that will please your critics…

  14. Luigi says:

    As reported by Zenit: http://www.zenit.org/article-24955?l=english

    According to Father David Neuhaus, the Jesuit secretary-general of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Vicariate in Israel, \”Together with a sense of solidarity with the state of Israel, the Shoah defines who many Jews are in the world, how they define themselves.\”

    He is, of course, correct, and this is part of the problem.

    The state of Jewish-Vatican relations would be made much easier if the Jewish people as a whole were more inclined to define themselves based upon their relationship with God and less inclined to base their identity upon worldly and passing concerns, albeit relatively important ones like the Shoah and the secular state of Israel.

    The sad fact of the matter is, outside of the Orthodox communities which happen to be a minority even in Israel, a Jew can publically espouse atheism and still be considered a Jew in good standing. When the real basis for common ground between Catholics and Jews is removed from the equation, namely the covenantal relationship with God, is it any wonder it takes relatively little to upset the applecart?

  15. Mark says:

    Overall a well thought out and nuanced article.

    I share the conviction that there are two ways to be a Catholic Traditionalist – one intelligent, and one falling short of that mark. In my mind, the former is embodied by the FSSP, and we just had the opportunity to examine the latter.

    I sincerely hope that after this scandal dies down, the leadership of the SSPX will take time to take at closer look at themselves and their followers.

  16. Cathguy says:

    I think Allen’s piece is incredibly bad.

    Lets look at the facts.

    The SSPX is home to a fair amount of anti-semitism. There is no denying that there are a fair amount of anti-semitic traditional Catholics. This must be condemned.

    So long as they remain in schism, these serious problems with anti-semitism seem to get worse. The more the Pope call on us to love our Jewish brothers and sisters, the more the anti-semites rebel.

    BUT, by lifting the excommunications, look at what has occurred just thus far. Bp. Fellay has silenced Bp. Williamson on matters outside of faith and morals. Williamson, a man who has never felt the urge to apologize for anything, has apologized for something. AND, faithful SSPXers (if the Angelgqueen blog is any indication) are inclined to distance themselves from Williamson’s stupidity.

    THUS, this Pope may well be combating anti-semitism with this action rather than stoking it.

    And Allen is DEAD WRONG to call Regensburg a mistake. It was one of the best actions of this Pope’s pontificate. I have family members who are Muslim, and JP II did NOTHING to encourage them to repent and convert. This Pope started the first honest Catholic Muslim dialog I think we have ever had… and he did it with that EXCELLENT speech in Regensburg.

    My take? The Pope is smarter than Allen… and probably Fr. Z as well.

  17. tim mccarthy says:

    Just for the record Simon Weisenthal said that the 5 Million Jews killed in the camps was an exaggeration. He also was the single person to see the historical record from the nazis, and became an expert on the subject. This 5 Million figure comes from the day the camps were liberated and not from scholarship. Just in case you think I am one of those holocaust deniers I am not. I had delusions of joining the Israeli Armed Forces in 1967 as a young man after the six day war. And I suggest that you re-take a look at the video, because what his Lordship call into question is not the holocaust but the gas chambers as the means of killing so many.

  18. Malta says:

    “The pope says or does something obviously destined to set off fireworks; nonetheless, the Vatican purports to be surprised by the reaction; then, damage control follows.” Well, true, but I don’t think the Pope needs to pass Truth through PR reps before saying or publishing them. The onus is on the secular world to say how what the pope says is wrong, not on the pope to pass every line through speech police to tell him his lines are un PC.

    LOL!

    Allen’s article is all about how the world views the Church, and not about how the Church views the world. This is typical modernist thought. Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

    Who gives a rat’s ass how the world views the Church! How much has the great Vatican II spirit of ecumensism benefitted the Church. Dialogue after dialogue, year after year, decade after decade,and then Pope Benedict XVI lifts the “excommunications,” and all “progress” is thrown out the window in one day! You see, certain groups don’t care about “dialogue,” they only care about the Catholic Church conforming and contorting to their singular mind-set, and when the Church, say, says Christ was God, even gently, they clamor, and bang their heads against the wall!

    Dialogue is one way: Gently, kindly, telling the world that there is only one way to get to heaven: BY GOD’S SON. That’s it! That is true ecumenical dialogue. But the Jesuits waver, and even now the Franscicans, because of Medjugorje, are beginning to waver. No wonder Pope Benedict is eager to coddle the only mass group still upholding Church teaching on all her fronts: SSPX.

    Yeah, I know, Weigle or Allen might have clever arguments to the contrary, but use your God-given mind and think about the statistics and the reality: Only 30% of Catholics believe in the True Presence, 95% of fertile Catholics use contraception (arguably a mortal sin) catholics abort and divorce at the same level of protestants. Yet, some neocatholics have the gall to judge certain Catholic traditionalists who are battening down the hatches in this grave crises we’re living through. They laugh at our veils, our strictures, our admonishments as though we’re like the pharisees! Funny, that! Christ even said, “if you look at a woman lustfully, you commit adultery.” Christ Himself set high standards. And, yet, SSPX is viewed as being strange for setting standards that Christ Himself imposed!

    People choose the lazy, lustful way. Christ taught us to choose the hard way; the way of Gethsemane. We, as Christians, are called to love Sacrifice and die, that is it. Bishops too often think their calling is to fill their bellies, go from pleasant meeting to pleasant meeting; from meal to meal, given their status. St. Francis (as well as Jesus) was love because of his renunciation of pleasure. Any Bishop who may read this would do well to renunciate all pleasure, in the mold of St. Francis, to give an example to souls of Christ. A great philosopher said: “Example isn’t one way to convince a person, example is the only way to convince a person.”

  19. Athelstane says:

    On the whole, I think this was a fair essay by Allen.

    The issue isn’t that Regensburg or the lifting of the excommunications were “mistakes” – I agree that they were not. But the Vatican utterly failed in each case to anticipate the likely reactions, and to prepare the ground accordingly. I don’t think it’s fair to just dismiss that as “public relations.” Or complain that the press is hopelessly ignorant/biased against the Church (which it is).

  20. “whoever denies the fact of the Shoah knows nothing of the mystery of God, nor of the Cross of Christ.”

    This is a stunning claim. Denying the Holocaust might be a sign of ignorance of history; but is the Holocaust really tied to the mystery of God and the Cross of Christ? Really? My knowledge of the mystery of God and the Cross of Christ is zero if I don’t affirm a particular set of historical claims about the Holocaust? What if I believe that only 5.5 million Jews died? Does this make me a heterodox Christian? If my memory serves me, Father Abrahamowicz does not deny the figure 6 million, he merely doubts the commonly accepted account of the use of the gas chambers. Is this a failure on his part to understand the mystery of God and the cross of Christ?

    Again, like many liberals, Allen emphasizes Vatican II as the test of orthodoxy. But what about the rest of the sum total of Catholic teaching? Surely one must affirm all sorts of other things besides the teachings of VII (assuming that one can even come up with a clear and uncontroversial list of these teachings) in order to be fully orthodox. Would he agree to a check list, one that would be applied to liberals and traditionalists equally, such that if you fail to affirm some number of doctrines on the list (Allen can pick an arbitrary number) you’re out? Does he honestly believe that his clerical colleagues at NCR are more orthodox than the SSPX-ers?

    Fifteen Catholic theologians at Tubingen just signed a statement criticizing the Holy Father’s decition to lift the excommunications. They object that “there is now in the Catholic Church bishops who reject freedom of religion and conscience, show an openness to an anti-ecumenical understanding, representing a clerical image of the Church within which the common priesthood of all believers has little meaning, and who deliberately underestimate the Conciliar Church.” (quoting from cathcon)

    This reflects a typical liberal (and, unfortunately, mainstream) Catholic understanding of the faith. It consists of a selected set of “Spirit of Vatican II” ideas: freedom of religion, toleration, ecumenism, Jesus loves everyone so much that he wants most of them not to be Christians. Everything else…well let’s not get too hung up about that stuff; you never know when that will change. That pretty much sums up my education in post-VII Catholic schools.

    That new liberal orthodoxy is what pushed the SSPX out in the first place. Let’s hope that we’re seeing its last gasps. It sure isn’t attracting people to the CHurch, though it may make non-Catholics happy.

  21. Christopher says:

    Peace be with you!

    Some commmentary:

    “The first, represented by Fellay, is composed of traditionalists whose concerns are solely liturgical and doctrinal, and who see the future of their movement as a leaven within the formal structures of the church; the second, represented by Williamson and Abrahamowicz, includes people for whom theological traditionalism bleeds off into far-right politics, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories, and who are far more suspicious of any “deal” with the post-conciliar church.”

    Picture this: Volcano, sspx priest wielding a lightsaber, and Obi-wan Kenobi. All that is heard over head of the rising lava and geothermal explosions is the voice of a young Jedi knight shouting, “You were the chosen one! You were to bring balance to the force! You were suppose to destory the Sith, not join them! I loved you … !” That’s all I see here in this paragraph.

    “is that the outside world won’t see the pope trying to steer the traditionalists toward moderation; it will instead see the pope rolling out the red carpet for a group that includes Holocaust deniers and hate-mongers.”

    In a certain sense, there is a distinctiveness that says, this may be true, and there is a concern on how the Holy Mother of us all, the Church, is seen vicibly to the world, for She is indefectible by nature, but her efficacy is often indeterminate by our sight.

    May God bless you.
    Holy Mary protect you.
    In ICXC,
    -Christopher

  22. Christopher says:

    Peace be with you!

    Some commmentary:

    \”The first, represented by Fellay, is composed of traditionalists whose concerns are solely liturgical and doctrinal, and who see the future of their movement as a leaven within the formal structures of the church; the second, represented by Williamson and Abrahamowicz, includes people for whom theological traditionalism bleeds off into far-right politics, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories, and who are far more suspicious of any \”deal\” with the post-conciliar church.\”

    Picture this: Volcano, sspx priest wielding a lightsaber, and Obi-wan Kenobi. All that is heard over head of the rising lava and geothermal explosions is the voice of a young Jedi knight shouting, \”You were the chosen one! You were to bring balance to the force! You were suppose to destory the Sith, not join them! I loved you … !\” That\’s all I see here in this paragraph.

    \”is that the outside world won’t see the pope trying to steer the traditionalists toward moderation; it will instead see the pope rolling out the red carpet for a group that includes Holocaust deniers and hate-mongers.\”

    In a certain sense, there is a distinctiveness that says, this may be true, and there is a concern on how the Holy Mother of us all, the Church, is seen vicibly to the world, for She is indefectible by nature, but her efficacy is often indeterminate by our sight.

    May God bless you.
    Holy Mary protect you.
    In ICXC,
    -Christopher

  23. Therese says:

    Mr. Allen gives it a pretty good try but misses the point: Father Benedict is in the business of restoring souls to the Catholic Church. Yet again he has out-foxed the rancorous voices and kicked a goal. Williamson’s apology is nothing short of a miracle–albeit one gained by much pressure on the wrist and elbow. What else do these people want? That he part the Red Sea?

    That’s been done.

  24. Priscianus says:

    Dear Fr. Z.,
    I wonder whether the ultimate goal and motive of Mr. Allen’s article was the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.

  25. Jeff says:

    ” Lifting the excommunication gets the traditionalists in the door, but it does not mean they have arrived. If they are to be fully reintegrated, they must accept official Catholic teaching, including religious freedom and respect for other religions”.

    Respect for other religions?

    I can respect the people who are attached to a false religon, but not the religion itself.

    Should we show respect to Baal in order to be fully intergrated?

  26. David says:

    I had to fire off a response:

    Mr. Allen,

    Greetings!

    I read your piece entitled The Lefebvrite Case: What was the Vatican thinking?, and quite frankly, I’m somewhat disturbed. I’m not disturbed so much by your main point, that the Vatican did a horrible job with public relations. That is quite clear, and I agree with your points wholeheartedly. What disturbed me was your connotation regarding “traditionalists”.

    First, you made it appear that the SSPX is a radical group that needs to be steered toward moderation. It is quite possible that you don’t associate with us traditional Catholics on a regular basis, and you may not realize that in the realm of “traditionalists” the SSPX represents a moderate group. After all they obviously recognize papal authority and the authority of the Magisterium and accept Vatican II as a legitimate Ecumenical council, unlike countless sedevacantist groups and others who claim that the pope is a heretic.

    Secondly, you seem to imply that “traditionalists” are at the door, but haven’t arrived. Perhaps you meant to write that the “Society” is at the door but they have not arrived, because I can assure you, Mr. Allen, that as a traditional Catholic, I’m not only arrived, I am taking a full active part in my parish and diocese. Traditional Catholics have done so for quite some time, but perhaps you haven’t noticed. Allow me to remind you about the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, or the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, or the Canon Regulars of St. John Cantius, or the Institute of the Good Shepherd, or the countless diocesan priests who offer the Traditional Latin Mass for more and more groups of faithful attached to the usus antiquior. No, Mr. Allen, here’s a news flash for the journalist, we have arrived!

    Third, I’m perplexed that someone of your intellectual vigor would glibly reduce traditional Catholics down to those “Catholics hungry for a clear sense of spiritual identity in a rootless world”. A traditional Catholic isn’t, sir, a “seeker” for identity or roots, as you would portray him. Rather, the traditional Catholic is, I can assure you, a man or woman, fully committed and stable, who has found the profound and breathless beauty of the Catholic faith in all it’s richness. The traditional Catholic seeks to delve the breath and depth of our Catholic heritage, but, at the same time, the traditional Catholic is firmly rooted in that heritage. Our faith doesn’t assuage our anxieties, as your glib analysis seems to imply. Rather we know anxiety has been conquered by the God/Man, Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, He Whom we try to give fitting worship.

    I will pray that you might come to know and understand traditional Catholics better. I humbly invite and request that you join our small Latin Mass Community here in South Bend, at St. Patrick Catholic Church. The best way to understand us, is to come and spend some time with us.

    Also, I must point out, actively participating in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite brings the soul to the heights of Catholic worship. Live as a traditional Catholic for just three months, and you will desire nothing else.

    God Bless!

    Sincerly,

  27. Happy wife says:

    Fr. Z., can John Allen do no wrong in your eyes?[What a strange question. He writes more thoughtful and articulate things than most of what I read on the blogosphere, web or comboxes these days. Can you write better? Have better insights than him? Get to work! Send it to me and let's have a look! o{]:¬) ]

  28. As usual, Allen is spot on. Although I think there is a difference between this event and Regensburg. While perhaps Benedict didn’t anticipate the level of violence his Regensburg speech would elicit, I feel certain he expected it to be controversial, and in that regard it brought to the surface exactly the sort of attitude he wished to discuss. And since that speech there have been more discussions between the Church and various Muslim leaders regarding the relationship between faith and reason, and in particular the implications this relationship has on violence in the name of God, than probably there ever has been in the history of the Church. But this feels different. This feels like the Vatican really screwed up on the PR front. A commenter above said that perhaps PR isn’t the Vatican’s job, and maybe he’s right. However, when the Vatican is doing something that is necessarily going to be controversial – right as it may be – and while it is going to touch upon some very sensitive subjects and perhaps even recall a painful history of an entire people, having greater concern for the means of communicating this decision certainly seems to be most prudent. I believe the Pope was right and merciful in lifting the excommunications, and that there still remains great work to be done before full communion can be restored between Rome and SSPX. But this news was communicated most poorly, and Allen is right, in my opinion, it is almost inexcusable.

  29. Nicknackpaddywack says:

    It is hard to believe that Allen would require assent to the whole range of Catholic teaching for full integration into the Church of anyone other than traditionalists, as he postulates the Vatican should have said upfront. Religious liberty is important, but so are contraception and women’s ordination and many other issues where his liberal buddies run afoul of the Church’s teaching authority. I am not entirely convinced that this article is free of the motive to keep traditionalists out of the Church unless they adhere to all the Church’s newer and more liberal doctrines and, considering the source, I find this hypocritical. Otherwise, it is the usual Allen insight and good reporting.

  30. Martin says:

    Other than the fact that Mr Allen’s article summarizes quite well the essence of modernist errors, I do not see what would make it interesting.

  31. JayneK says:

    I recommend that people read the interview with Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz and decide for themselves if his comments have been fairly represented. It is available here: [url]http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=node/3191[/url]
    This priest said “No, I don’t cast doubt on the numbers. There could have been more than six million victims.” How does this seem to cast doubt on the numbers?

  32. Matt Q says:

    Overall, what is the point of Allen’s article? Yes, we understand the Vatican needs a more diplomatic and pro-active approach, some PR campaign–I suppose their own Spin Zone as Bill O’Reily is wont to loathe, but beyond that, so what? The timing of this, a statement on that… what? Is it merely because of the Williamson issue and his absurd **opinion** on various topics, and timing? What would the timing be and what would it affect? Is Allen implying Bishop Williamson alone could derail the Vatican/SSPX reconciliation?

    I would also like to add that we must all pray for Bishop Williamson, as Father Z asks. We all need prayers and this bishop is no different, no matter our attitude or his. If the bishop is as unwell as Father Z believe him to be, then it would a tremendous gift if His Excellency offered his life for the reconciliation of the Society with the Church as well as the great graces he would earn for himself as any of us would should we know the end is near.

  33. Kradcliffe says:

    *He responded quickly but was simply taken off guard by the direction of the attack, and I honestly don’t see how one can foresee where the attack will come from.*

    Um, no. I don’t agree with this at all. We ALL predicted this would happen as soon as the rumors hit the blogosphere. We even guessed what the headlines would say.

  34. Braadwijk says:

    I have to take exception to what Allen is saying. Firstly, the Vatican should not make PR its number 1 priority for the sake of being pleasing to everybody. It will be attacked regardless of what it says on the issues. Secondly, I question why Regensburg would be the starting point to make a point about a legitimate problem at the Vatican. There have been plenty of things the popes did from Paul VI to John Paul II in the age of mass media that scandalized many of the Catholic faithful, not just the outside world. Why is this now suddenly an issue? Also regarding Regensburg, what was wrong with what the Pope said and how he said it? Mohammed brought nothing but suffering to the world, and he unleashed an anti-Christianity that in addition to being an outer darkness of the West brings out the worst possible aspects of fallen human nature. He knew exactly what he was doing and telling a Europe dangerously in peril of being devoured by that darkness what it needs to be told.

    What I find most interesting is the assumption that the Pope is not aware of these problems. He has been a friend and sympathizer of people in traditionalist circles far longer than nearly anyone at the Vatican. He is well aware of these problems, and he’s doing it this way for a reason. Notice with John Paul II everything was behind closed doors. He never reached out to them publicly much and never really called them to account for their actions. Benedict is aware of the rot in the SSPX just as much as he is of the rot in the Church as a whole, and he is not making an attempt to cover it up in hopes it will go away. He airs the dirty laundry. However, unlike many in the episcopacy, he has compassion for the people who are traditional for all the right reasons and suffered many ills for it. He’s merely separating the sheep from the goats. The whirlwind is stirs up is what will do it and I applaud him for putting people like Bishop Williamson on the spot and challenging them to prove what they’re all about. There is also the obvious. Do people really think that the Pope, as a German who personally witnessed the horrors of the Nazizeit, really isn’t aware of Williamson’s abhorrent views on the subject and the backlash of extending an olive branch to him? Stop and really think about it for a minute. Benedict is a holy man who truly takes to heart the desire for the salvation of all.

    The negative reaction to the lifting of the excommunication underlies a greater fear, chiefly that there is the distinct possibility that people who thought they were orthodox all these years were wrong. Benedict is showing them that perhaps Vatican II is not the super dogma it was made out to be, that the problems in the Church couldn’t be covered up and ignored by the mantra of a ‘New Springtime’ (not something I see really mentioned anymore. Anybody else notice this?), and that the way they treated their fellow Catholics who were troubled by these attitudes was anything but Christian. There was a lot a negative backlash against the Holy Father for SP on the more “conservative” side of the Church as well, if you remember. The Holy Father is challenging the status quo in the Church in a much broader sense. It isn’t a surprise that the people most threatened are the ones who thought they were they were the most orthodox all along.

  35. Father Bartoloma says:

    Very good article as usual. The last part struck me as being an insightful hypothesis:

    “What recent events make clear is that there are two camps in the small universe that rotates around the Society of St. Pius X. The first, represented by Fellay, is composed of traditionalists whose concerns are solely liturgical and doctrinal, and who see the future of their movement as a leaven within the formal structures of the church; the second, represented by Williamson and Abrahamowicz, includes people for whom theological traditionalism bleeds off into far-right politics, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories, and who are far more suspicious of any “deal” with the post-conciliar church.

    Benedict XVI’s calculation seems to be that the former represent the majority, and that the best way to isolate them from the latter is to open the door wide enough that only the real intransigents will refuse to walk through it.The risk, of course, is that the outside world won’t see the pope trying to steer the traditionalists toward moderation; it will instead see the pope rolling out the red carpet for a group that includes Holocaust deniers and hate-mongers.”

  36. John G says:

    “Lifting the excommunication gets the traditionalists in the door, but it does not mean they have arrived. If they are to be fully reintegrated, they must accept official Catholic teaching, including religious freedom and respect for other religions.”

    David,
    He is referring to the specific bishops in question. It says “Lifting the excommunication…” and “If they are to be fully reintegrated…” which make it obvious that he’s only referring to them, not all traditionalist Catholics and you. As much as you really want to be offended, he most likely wasn’t thinking of you.

    Jeff,
    I don’t believe you are required to follow a religion to respect it. I think the definition for respect that he’s using relates to “not spitting on” other religions.

    Overall, I thought that the article had some decent points. “30-second Google search would have unearthed. [right]” Yes. And I don’t believe he is saying that PR should be the number one priority. He’s mostly saying that the whole thing could have been communicated in a better manner. No argument from me on that point.

  37. steve jones says:

    I am not sure what the point is of employing spin doctors? Cardinal Murphy O’Connor used them in England after his disastrous start to his tenure and it was a waste of money. Just yet more scandal with his bizarre choice of personel. These ‘media’ stories last 2 weeks maximum then the press move on elsewhere. Silence Williamson? Better PR? Be careful what you wish for. As I write, we are seeing in the UK (and France) at the moment, the rise of economic nationalism as in the 1930′s. I recall an English cricketer warning an arrogant opponent with whom he was arguing on the field: “this game has a funny habit of biting you in the @ss”.

  38. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    With respect, John Allen is one of the most articulate journalists covering the Vatican from the English-speaking world. He appears on several major channels, and is one of the few “Catholic” commentators with no axe to grind, unlike many ex-priests who show up to comment on Catholic events.

    This article, like most of his writing, is nuanced, considered, and thoughful. Nor, as he makes clear, does he try to discuss the whole issue of the SSPX. He is only looking at one facet of it, which is his prerogative. Nor is this view related to the SSPX. Mr Allen has criticised the Vatican’s media style for years, echoing Fr Z’s phrase “Yesterday’s media relations today!”

    The one point I do think he missed, and has been suggested here is that there might be some purpose to this. I sometimes think that the Holy Father purposefully kicked off a firestorm at Regensburg, knowing that it would give a chance for dialogue (proper, Benedictine dialogue NOT syncretism) because the eyes of the world were on the whole issue and Muslims. Maybe the same will happen here. After the apologies, which have already started, Jewish groups will feel public pressure to recant some of their recent accusations.

  39. LeonG says:

    There he goes again with the “Lefebvrist” label. This only demonstrates his ignorance about what SSPX stand for. If they did not represent Catholicism in a distinct and unambiguous manner Pope Benedict XVI would never have dealt with them in the way he has, for one thing and, for another, it illustrates his lack of in-depth research on the Confraternity. Lamentable!

  40. David says:

    John G, he uses the term “traditionalists”, lumping them all into the same camp.

    Oh, and internet anonymity has probably saved you a couple of broken noses, huh?

  41. I disagree with him, the world will hate the Church no matter what she does, as is shown when they deliberately misrepresent everything they possibly can about the Church every single time, and if there is nothing happening then they simply resort to complete lies, Da Vinci Code anyone?

    Thankfully we have a Pope who seems to have the right attitude to what the respect of the world is worth rather than a fawning one who just wants to be loved by everyone, the Church is finally starting to have some self respect, its been a long time.

  42. Mark says:

    Malta:

    You exclaim, somewhat rhetorically: “Who gives a rat’s ass how the world views the Church!”

    I think it would be rather difficult for us to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the world under the “Holocaust denier” flag. In such a situation, we would have no credibility with the world, to the detriment of our mission. It’s not a matter of conforming our mission to the world’s ideas, but of us acting so as to predispose them to hear the good news of our Lord.

  43. Mark says:

    Thank you so much for posting this article and articles like it, Father. Recently a discussion had been developing in my blog about this topic as well, and I find it a reassurance that there are people who are able to put things into words far better than I ever can. Mr. Allen is one of those. Personally, I too have found it hard to see the sense in the Vatican’s way of dealing with the media uproar, even though I believe that lifting the excommunications was a good decision, and I hope and pray that the SSPX may soon enter full communion with the Church.

  44. Matt says:

    I find it facinating that so much attention is paid to the Jews who were murdered during WWII. What about everyone else who was murdered? Catholics, etc. were also killed, yet where is the constant uproar about that.

    I watched the interview with The President of Iran and Peter Jennings. Mahmoud made a good point. He said he did not deny that many Jews died. What he had a problem with is that the other 55 million people are never remembered. What about all of the Catholics, Muslims, non-partisan civilians who were bombed, etc.

    I too think we need to stop all of this interfaith non-sense of worrying about who is offended now. By making all of these public statements we are making fools of ourselves. Every group of any type has members with out there views. By focusing too much attention on them we present the whole group as somehow having those views. The Vatican should have said nothing. Fellay’s inital statement was perfect and the whole matter should have been ignored after that.

    The post VII church needs to stop all of this inter-faith dialog and get back to preaching the true faith. The Jews are were called to be the chosen people. They failed in their calling. It is up to us as Catholics to bring them into the Catholic church and not to have tea and crumpets and discuss common beliefs.

    People young and old are attracted to traditional catholic teaching because it provides a firm rooting in what we need to do to get to heaven and how we do it. It is a strong bullwark against the evils of modernism. So many in Church today think we need to be pals with Muslims, Jews, Protestants, etc. This thinking needs to change. Whenever you read any article where the writer refers to “traditional” catholics he is marginalizing them. This will usually be followed up by stating that “traditional” catholics need to return or accept VII. What is the opposite of traditional teaching??????? Think about it.

    PAX

  45. Kevin V. says:

    “What recent events make clear is that there are two camps in the small universe that rotates around the Society of St. Pius X. The first, represented by Fellay, is composed of traditionalists whose concerns are solely liturgical and doctrinal, and who see the future of their movement as a leaven within the formal structures of the church; the second, represented by Williamson and Abrahamowicz, includes people for whom theological traditionalism bleeds off into far-right politics, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories, and who are far more suspicious of any “deal” with the post-conciliar church. ”

    This is a false dichotomy spawned out of the modernist belief that religion is separable from politics. Then of course there is the pat, leftist swipe at traditionalist political perspectives as “xenophobia and conspiracy theories”… blah, blah, blah.

  46. Kevin V. says:

    \”What recent events make clear is that there are two camps in the small universe that rotates around the Society of St. Pius X. The first, represented by Fellay, is composed of traditionalists whose concerns are solely liturgical and doctrinal, and who see the future of their movement as a leaven within the formal structures of the church; the second, represented by Williamson and Abrahamowicz, includes people for whom theological traditionalism bleeds off into far-right politics, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories, and who are far more suspicious of any \”deal\” with the post-conciliar church. \”

    This is a false dichotomy spawned out of the modernist belief that religion is separable from politics. Then of course there is the pat, leftist swipe at traditionalist political perspectives as \”xenophobia and conspiracy theories\”… blah, blah, blah.

  47. Mark says:

    Matt:

    The uniqueness of the Holocaust consists of the fact that for the first time in recorded history, a state (Nazi Germany) had an official policy to exterminate every single man, woman, and child of a defined group, with no exceptions. What further exacerbates this fact, is that the culture under this state was thought to be incapable of allowing such evil and barbarity.

    While it is true that the Nazis also murdered people of other groups, they had no policy of murdering every single individual belonging to these groups, “only” the majority of them. For example, the Slavs were thought to be subhuman, but also capable of performing simple tasks for the benefit of the “master race”. Nazi Germany policy toward the Slavs was to exterminate their intelligentsia and the majority of their numbers (thru outright murder, planned malnutrition, sterilization, and promotion of diseases), but also to keep a number of them as slaves.

    As you can see, no such “mercy” was shown to the Jewish people – hence the uniqueness of the Holocaust. We’re taking about different levels of hell.

  48. tertullian says:

    Excuse my being picayune, but my head explodes every time I read about these matters referring to the “Vatican”. The Vatican is a secular state comprised of a series of buildings situated on a few hundred acres of previously Italian soil, created under a secular treaty.

    The Holy See is responsible for matters,such as this controversy, relating to the RCC. And as far as disseminating a pr message on behalf of the Church, Fr Z does a better job of it from his computer on the Sabine Farm.

  49. John says:

    Would Mr. Allen take a job in the Vatican, say as assistant to Fr. Lombardy? Jusk asking.

  50. Patrick says:

    I recall the implementation of the changes in many aspects of Church life in the late 1960′s and 70′s. I do not recall any overtures being made to ensure that our sensibilities and comfort were part of the “reformers” schemes and equations. They acted, we conformed or left. That simple. Anyone timorous enough to object was painted with the brush of chauvinism or worse and that was that.

    The “reformers”, “progressives”, whatever label that you try to make up for those more interested in a hermeneutic of discontinuity never worried about asking permission. “It is better to beg forgiveness (not necessary if you win” than to ask permission”. was (and still is) their watchword.

    So now, in my opinion and my opinion only, perhaps we have the beginnings of the return to a hierarchy that is interested in stating the truth and acting upon it, and not trying to sugarcoat things.

    Look at the run up to the Summorum Pontificium, and after, heels dug in, rants about returns to prehistoric liturgies and theologies, admantine refusal to obey in many quarters!! If the Holy Father had not decided to act with courage and resolution where would we be today? If he called Schillebeeckx, Kung, or Martini what advice do you think he would have received? What kind of “leaks” to the Ecclesiaphobic media would have spun the story?

    Truth is the conformity of the mind to reality. I daresay our Holy Father has a firm grasp on reality, and as such, will always seek to present the truth, act on the truth, and guide us in truth. He does what he needs to do, and he does it well.

  51. BobP says:

    Very disappointing article. So what exactly does John Allen suggest would be better? Break off talks with the SSPX altogether and let the SSPX churchgoers suffer forever? Helpful criticisms would be far better.

  52. RJS says:

    These are the same people who would instruct all to “trust where the Holy Ghost is leading the Church” as it drifted father and father off course. Where is their “trust in the Holy Ghost” now that things are turning around?

  53. prof. basto says:

    Very good article.

    It is good that the Vaticanistas and commentators in the mainstream press are starting to comment on the inefficiency of the Holy See Press Office in terms of policy presentation and PR. Perhaps now the Vatican will do something about it.

    Since the start of the latest Pope-Bashing earlier this week, I have been writing here to point out that the Vatican Press Office needed to have been more pro-active in explaining and defending the Pope’s action.

    Of course there are those who simply want to exploit an opportunity to attack the Church; but others really do not understand the several complexities (canonical, and otherwise) of this situation. An efficient and pro-active PR-strategy would help the Vatican put its message out, pre-empting a defense against the attackers (and perhaps even defusing the attacks), and also better explaining its actions to those that genuinely do not know what to make of it.

    I’m not saying that the Vatican Press Director should go to talk-shows; but there should have been a Press Conference; there should have been a briefing, so that the questions posed by representatives of the media were officially answered; there should have been a better press release, explaining the whole situation, and perhaps a second press release to explain the Church’s position on Williamson’s views.

    Instead, the Vatican Press Office stood still for 72 hours, and only then the Church did the damage control job, with the Pope Himself explaining his action. But the Church’s Press Office people cannot yeald the floor of public opinion for whole 72 hours. That’s a lot of time in current standards. If the Vatican has a press office then I assume that the people there are supposed to handle the Press and defend Church policy. That’s their job. They need to start doing it right. Only us here in blogs explaining and defending the Pope’s actions won’t suffice. The Church needs to have official apologetics of its actions.

  54. Chris says:

    As someone who does PR for a living, I think John may be missing something. What if the Holy Father doesn’t care about the PR, in a good way?

    What if he doesn’t care about the 24-hour news cycle and the punditry? What if he doesn’t care about the chattering class? What it, gasp, he doesn’t care about John Allen???

    May, just maybe, he’s blindly doing the right thing and the heck with everyone else. You can’t please them, so forget about them.

    It would be a refreshing change from the PC antics of the past.

  55. Cathguy says:

    The press coverage of this is stunning.

    Absolutely no one is acknowledging the fact that the Pope’s actions could well help us combat anti-semitism. No one.

    And it should be relatively clear. Just as Regensburg’s historical significance will be felt for years (in a positive way) so too will these lifted excommunications be felt.

    Regensburg resulted in the first REAL Muslim Catholic dialog we have ever seen. It resulted in the truth being proclaimed to Muslims by the Pope in a clear way that we never saw during the pontificate of J.P.II.

    Furthermore, this event seems to be having a cooling effect on the fires of anti-semitism that admittedly seem a little out of control in the traditionalist Catholic movement.

    Consider again: what are the fruits of the Pope’s actions? Williamson has been silenced by Bp. Fellay. The laity who worship at the SSPX seem to be distancing themselves from Williamson. Williamson himself has apologized (in a way… it is hardly sufficient) and that is a rare thing to be sure.

    By healing this rift, the Holy Father is building the capital necessary to combat anti-semitism in the traditionalist movement, should he chose to do so. I think it is clear that he will.

    Trust the Holy Ghost people. Where the traditionalists are right, their return will be a tremendous gift to the Church. Where they are wrong (antisemitism) unity means the possibility of correction on the part of our Pope.

  56. Athelstane says:

    I watched the interview with The President of Iran and Peter Jennings. Mahmoud made a good point. He said he did not deny that many Jews died. What he had a problem with is that the other 55 million people are never remembered. What about all of the Catholics, Muslims, non-partisan civilians who were bombed, etc.

    Achmadinjead doesn’t give a damn about the others who were murdered.

    He’s an anti-semite zealot.

    And the fact is: too many of the people who spend any time doing serious questioning Holocaust numbers or scholarship have deeper issues with the Jews.

    And it’s possible to say that without buying into any of the indifferentist theologies that have been spun out of Nostra Aetate: Christ came to save all of us, not just the Gentiles.

    If you go to Auschwitz, I think you’ll find that the park officials do a fair job of providing a balanced picture of who was incarcerated and killed there. Lots of Jews. And lots of Poles. And lots of other groups (but fewer homosexuals than is generally assumed, the park director emphasized).

    P.S. I agree with Prof. Basto’s very sensible post above. “The Church needs to have official apologetics of its actions.” Amen.

  57. dcs says:

    The uniqueness of the Holocaust consists of the fact that for the first time in recorded history, a state (Nazi Germany) had an official policy to exterminate every single man, woman, and child of a defined group, with no exceptions.

    It wasn’t the first time in recorded history – the Ottoman Turks had the same policy with respect to the Armenians.

  58. Michael says:

    John Allen: “The way this decision was communicated was a colossal blunder, and one that’s frankly difficult to either understand or excuse.”

    And what John Allen would have done if he were the pope: a “press conference”, in which “four key points could have been made”. Even that “might not have been enough to short-circuit all the negative reaction, but it surely would have softened the blow.” And so what?

    If Mr. Allen is old enough to remember the publication of the Humanae Vitae, he should also remember Msgr. Lambrushini’s blunder at the press conference at which the Prelate was supposed to present the Encyclical to the media in a favourable light, while, in point of fact, he managed to undermine it.

    He took no notice that BVI has merely met the second SSPX’ requirement for a continuation of the process of reconciliation, and thus threw the ball back to them – nothing more. The media do not matter: they would caricature that too. If the SSPX are really Catholic they should be able to realize that their opposition to the Council must be abandoned as theologically untenable, and negotiate, rather, the terms of a hierarchy-independent existence in a full communion with the Church. With such a status they would be beyond the reach of the leftist establishment of the kind reported by IVO DE NORTHFIELD (fifteen “Catholic” theologians at Tubingen who are “in” the Church while they doctrinally differ from the pope much more than the SSPX do) and would turn out to be an indispensable help to the pope in his endeavours to put the whole Church on a right path.

    The blessing they would bring to the sanity of the Novus Ordo would be beyond imagination.

  59. ssoldie says:

    I would like to know if John Allens opinion of the Vatican’s ‘communications stragety’ has always been the same, or is it just since Pope Benedict XVI has been our Holy Father? My opinion is I have no problem with the Pope’s address at Regensberg or any other decesion he has made,all have been truthful, and ‘setting off fireworks’ has needed to be done for a very long time. Opinions are just that opinions, they are like nose’s, every one has one, but truth of ‘faith’ and ‘morals’ belong to the teaching of the Holy Father. Why has the lifting of the excommunication of the SSPX Bishop’s spawned so much, unrest in the post Vatican II person? Where does this almost ‘hatered’ for the pre Vatican II person’s documents, and tradition come from?

  60. Eric says:

    a colossal blunder, and one that’s frankly difficult to either understand or excuse.

    its presentation was stunningly inept.

    I have no doubt if Allen was alive 2000 years ago and reporting, he would have reported the same on the public life of Christ.

    \”After this many of His disciples went back; and walked with Him no more\” John 6:67

  61. David says:

    “After this many of His disciples went back; and walked with Him no more” John 6:67

    Good point, Eric.

  62. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    I would like to know if John Allens opinion of the Vatican’s ‘communications stragety’ has always been the same, or is it just since Pope Benedict XVI has been our Holy Father?

    Mr Allen has been making this point for years, including prior to the current pontificate. Having read his articles for years, and wishing every time that he changed to another publication, I think Mr Allen truly loves the Church and only raises this point because he sees that the calumny heaped upon Her could be avoided without diluting Her message. He is, I suspect, no “spirit of Vatican II lefty” but simply an honest reporter (who knew any were left?) trying to do his job.

  63. The reference is John 666, not 6,67.

    There were excellent reasons for the Holy Father doing what he did in Regensburg just the way in which he did them, just as was the case for the baptism of Magdi Allam, just as was the case for this move with the lifting of the excommunications.

    Thank God we have a Pope who governs with fatherly solicitude, a fatherly care which wants that fatherly solicitude to speak for itself to a world which has no idea of what fatherhood means — and that makes for a very powerful statement.

    A faithful son is to think that his father has good reason to act with governance, and gives him the benefit of any doubt. A father acting like a father, even with the unexpected solicitude of love (for the world rarely see that) is just the way to wake the world up to fatherhood with the governance of love. Thanks, Holy Father. Thanks for governing with unexpected love.

  64. Martin T. says:

    Matt:16
    Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.

    There’s nothing wrong with asking yourself, “What will my enemies do with this”?

    Fr. Z for PR Director!

  65. John says:

    The Pope is behaving as Jesus would: he is willing to sit down with sinners, if Bp.Williams et. al., are the sinners some people insist they are.

    Peter advised Jesus not to go to Jerusalem. But the Lord said in reply: “Get behind me Satan.” He did the hard and necessary thing. The Pope also seems to say it is better to save souls than to earn the respect of the secular world.

    Surely the Pope is as smart as Mr. Allen? No? I find that hard to believe.

    Mr. Allen makes sure that we know he is aware of all the nuances of the situation. Then why look at the problem as any secular journalist would? Personally, I can not think of any friendly motive for it. Mr. Allen’s article is a secular critique of the Pope. Another occasion for him to do so. What is so clever about that?

  66. tim kearney says:

    Who cares what the Weisenthal Center says, when they defame Pope Pius. From their web site:

    “The facts are that Pius XII was the best informed leader on what was happening in Europe during the Holocaust. Yet unlike many priests and bishops who risked their lives and showed great courage in defying Hitler, the Pope sat in stony silence as millions of Jews were murdered in the death camps, Hier added” Rabbi Hier is the center’s founder.

  67. Eric says:

    The reference is John 666, not 6,67

    In the Douay-Rheims, which is the translation I used, it’s 6:67

  68. JayneK says:

    Mark claims, “The uniqueness of the Holocaust consists of the fact that for the first time in recorded history, a state (Nazi Germany) had an official policy to exterminate every single man, woman, and child of a defined group, with no exceptions.”

    I think that 1 Samuel 15 counts as recorded history.

    “`Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ [...] Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.”

  69. Robert Medonis says:

    I thnk Mr. Allen made a good point about bad PR policy. My favorite example of good PR is the article from Catholic World Report in Sept 1993 about the “Catholic guy” who was a youth group leader who went with his group from camera to camera at the World Youth Day presenting young people faithful to the Faith.

    However Mr. Allen should remember the Dilbert Principle ie senior management at any organization contains many incompetent people. I am not saying the Pope is but the Cardinals and other bureaucrats are. Also 90% of senior managers in 2009 over the age of 50 have no clue about the internet here in the USA and in countries such as Italy the level of internet savy for all age groups is lower. You compare Estonia and Finland with southern Italy and you will see a difference.

    As for the argument that the Holocaust takes primacy over all else because the National Socialist’s PR policy singled out the Jews for destructions is wrong. The Gypsies and all the Slavic nations were also to be destroyed. Also at the practical level did Tito, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao wish the existence of the Catholic church given their policies? This distinguished group also wished the destruction of many ethnic groups. 55 million people starved to death during Mao’s collectivation of agriculture in the PRC from 1955-1960 and there are 453 or so ethnic groups in the PRC (Peoples Republic of China).
    Stalin deported whole nations to Central Asia-tiny Finnic ethnic groups such as the Ingrians and Khotians from the St. Petersburg area. I do not thnk Stalin wanted them to continue as a nation.

    Robert Medonis
    Los Angeles CA

  70. Gail F says:

    John Allen is right about PR — Rome needs a better PR system. Not to “spin” things (the popular — and sometimes true — impression of PR) but to effectively COMMUNICATE. Is this unimportant to the Pope? Maybe. However I assume it is because of the Holy See’s very small staff and lack of training in this area. And the consequences is going to be just what it is.

    I must say that I am surprised by all the strong feelings expressed over the SSPX, which seem to me to be out of proportion for what has happened. This issue certainly stirs up extreme emotions and so, apparently, touches a nerve in a lot of people concerning far more than one group of people. We all need to get out of the grip of our emotions and look at this as TWO separate issues: The SSPX itself (up to 600,000 souls who are the Church’s lost sheep) and the other issues that this has brought up. They have to be solved separately. And those issues seem to be quite varied — Vatican II, the abandonment of the old liturgy and of consideration for the feelings and sensibilities of many faithful Catholics who loved it, anti-Semitism, the new liturgy and consideration for the feelings abd sensibilities of many faithful Catholics who love it, international politics, and on and on.

  71. I am not Spartacus says:

    Rather than dropping this decree on an unsuspecting world…

    I’m sorry. The decree was intended for the world? I thought it had to do with matters specific to The Catholic Church.

    I really wish the Pope would just laugh and shrug his shoulders whenever enemies of the Catholic Church pitch their perpetual fits.

    I say pouring indifference of their semipternal petulant parades is the best way to deal with these enemies. Don’t take them so seriously.

    Man-up, and do the job with masculine truthfulness. That is what Our Sweert Jesus on Earth did.

    Mr. Allen thinks this event was a failure? Not in my eyes. I LOVED it.

    Pope Benedict KNOWS what he is doing. HE is the example-setter, not a well-intended scribe for such a scandalous rag.

  72. Joe says:

    Some time ago, perhaps even before he became the Pope, Ratzinger said something like “I believe the Church will become much smaller in the future.” It is certainly possible to disagree with the way Benedict XVI’s Vatican has handled the reintegration of the SSPX. However, it must be recognized that ultimately God has allowed the reintegration to transpire in this way. Of course, we cannot know exactly why. Yet we can watch the consequences for the Church. Those will inform us regarding God’s motives for permitting what has been permitted.

  73. Eric: John 6:67 Yep, sorry. I was slumming with the Greek New Testament. The Douay-Rheims is wonderful, soaked in the blood of the Tyburn martyrs.

    I am not Spartacus: I LOVED it. I guess you love unexpected fatherly governance and pastoral solicitude that some of us have come to expect and love coming from our Holy Father, our wise and Supreme Pontiff.

  74. Mark says:

    dcs and JaneK:

    While there are similiarities between the Armenian and Jewish situations, there are also very significant differences. Nazi Germany had an official ultimate goal to murder every single Jewish person on the Earth, both within its direct reach, and without, if possible. That is, Nazis declared that no Jewish person, no matter where he or she is, has a right to live. A similiar case may be claimed for the Ottoman Empire, except that their policy was not global, as the Nazi policy was. Their policies were bound by the boundaries of their empire. Other significant differences can also be cited. The internet contains many websites comparing these two, and other related genocides;

    JaneK:

    Sometimes the obvious has to be stated – my reference was to a state (Nazi Germany), yours is to God. I don’t see the equivalence here.

  75. Joseph Ravago says:

    I disagree with the article. The Pope knows how the world will react both with the Regensburg statements and with lifting the excommunications. Regardless of how it was reported, the Holy Father does things both intentionally and systematically. I think either Fr. Z or on another wrote an article or commented on the methods of the holy father. The result of the Regensburg situtation was dialogue between the Holy See and Islam. I think the result of this will be dialogue. The Holy Father is more intelligent and strategic than people may give credit.

  76. DoB says:

    Mr Allen is wrong as usual. The Pope’s duty is to follow Christ and the world will always hate him for it. I think the timing is very fortunate and the events could not have unfolded in a better way. Given the

    1) conflict in Gaza
    2) Obamanation’s funding of the holocaust of children in the womb
    3) the pathetic and sad showing of Catholics at the polls despite being aware of the policies of holocaust
    4) Bishops failing to teach and preach the Faith (a far greater charge than questioning the questionable unquestionable 6m)

    Who can throw the first stone without sin?

    Mr Allen comes across as very worldly and consequently quite thick in this piece. It is not the first time. Sure, like Ragensburg there is a furore when the patient gets the injection. Like Ragensburg, there is a time for reaction and a time for reflection afterwards. It’s the rod and staff business. In the end it brings light, knowledge, truth, wisdom and comfort. Patience Mr Allen and for goodness sake have just a little Faith.

  77. Robert Medonis says:

    Mark,

    I took a Holocaust Seminar as an undergrad at Kenyon College in 1988 and I do not recall there policy being that. The Jewish Holocaust does not deserve primacy. This is off-topic so send me the websites you mention.

    Robert Medonis
    rmedonis@yahoo.com

  78. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    The Pope handled it correctly. Could you imagine having a press conference with “we no longer believe in the theology of return” Kasper?! If they had had a press conference, questions would have come out about what is going to be expected of the SSPX. This decision has not been made. Cardinal Ricard is blowing smoke when he pretends he knows what the conditions are going to be. A press conference would have made Ricard’s views official, and undermined the talks with the SSPX. Allen is American, and Americans (of which I am one) think predominately in the short term. They might look a decade ahead for long term planning. The Pope has to look ahead a couple hundred years. In 200 years no will know about Bishop Williamson’s view of the holocaust, but all Catholics will be influenced by what Benedict does to salvage Vatican II. Allen is caught up in the moment of this news cycle, thank God we do not have another Pope that is also.

  79. Allen strikes me as someone who no longer views us this way.

    http://site.despair.com/despairwear/tradition/?sort=collection#

  80. ED says:

    Instead of focusing on the crazy beliefs of Bishop williamson ,lets see some Bishop have the GUTS to champion the DOGMA “EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS” (Outside the Church, No Salvation) The Jews Protestants will react angrily as the Jews rightly have following Williamson’s remarks. But that Dogma is Catholic and no bishop will touch it they are soo cowardly.I believe any support for Bishop Williamson comes from Catholics fustrated that their own bishops don’t have the guts to preach From the Houstops this Dogma and other hard sayings to the world at large.

  81. Cosmos says:

    And I, for one, am getting pretty sick of the constant exasperation by the perpetual victims of the world. If I claimed Jews were greedy thieves because Bernard Madoff did what he did, I would rightfully be considered a moron. It goes both ways. Someone should come up with a list of Elie Weisel’s or the Chief Rabbinate’s associates and see if their are a zionist or a
    arabaphobe among them?

    When these documents come out, they usually come with explanatory letters. Perhaps beefing those letters up a little, in anticpation of the responses to some, would be the way to go? Or perhaps the Pope could get a smart Cardinal, like Pell or Burke, to explain things in an official capacity. the less beurachracy, the better. Having a PR department at the Vatican, to explain everything away in politically correct terms, would be too depressing.

  82. jbpolhamus@yahoo.com says:

    Mr Allen:

    “To be clear, my point has nothing to do with whether the excommunications should have been lifted in the first place. There’s legitimate debate on that front, and not just due to its implications for Catholic/Jewish relations.”

    One: Catholic Truth comes first, diplomacy second. I have not an anti-semitic bone in my body, but the law is the law concerning internal Catholic affairs, and it needs to stop being applied selectivly within the church. Vatican II is not DOGMA, only praxis. Disobedience is not SCHISM. Those emperors never had any clothes to begin with, and now they’re being called for the ethical nudity they represent. The church is stopping the governing of itself to please others. This is a radical step only the most hardened liberals, but “progress” within the church can work in both directions in any generation, not only in the direction of the agend that pleases you. Stop playing shocked. It’s childish and we’re sick of it.

    “There’s also intra-Catholic discussion about what it means for the interpretation of Vatican II, and for the broader direction of the church.”

    Two: Debate about the church’s direction and the implications of Vatican II have no bearing on the issues of Catholic Truth and the justice they warrants through the lifting of the excommunications and the re-integration of the SSPX. Clean, cold and surgical though it may seem, it actually is so, and it would apply to the most liberal group as well providing they met the criteria.

    Again I say: advencement and progress, the naturally evolving history of the church’s doctrines, these are not owned by one agenda: they are owned by the Dogmas of the Faith, and the truths that they imply.

  83. JayneK says:

    Mark responds to me pointing out the genocide of the Amalekites by saying, \”Sometimes the obvious has to be stated – my reference was to a state (Nazi Germany), yours is to God. I don’t see the equivalence here.\”

    While God may have ordered that every man, woman and child be killed, the killing was carried out by the state under King Saul. Maybe I should accuse you of being a genocide denier because you refuse to place any responsibility on the people who did the killing. But no, I will not be so rash. I can understand your reluctance to admit that a Jewish state committed genocide. I dare say you are worried about being called an anti-semite. It doesn’t take much to have that charge leveled at one.

  84. Paul J. B. says:

    It is interesting that there seem to be two threads of opinion here, more or less: one, that it is important for the Church to communicate to the world in a way that takes into account where it actually is, and the way the press works, etc. etc., and the other that P.R. is a useless, perhaps even dishonest, prevarication that challenges no-one to convert, but just panders to the world’s weakness and unbelief.

    It seems to me that either of these can be true or false, depending on how one means. One can be clear about one’s position, even forceful, but still be careful not to needlessly offend, and see that things are put in terms that the general public will best understand. Likewise one can be very kindly, and even shrewd in the way puts things to given groups, without trimming on the truth, as it is relevant to the situation. “Be as wise as serpents and as simple as doves!”

    I do believe the Holy Father could probably be better served at present than he is in this department. He is many times more than capable of the substance of this proper balance I’m referring to, but it is a job that requires many to make come off, given the nature of modern communications. It’s hard today with so many different groups paying attention to the Vatican.

    But relations with Islam is a whole other matter. The fact is, the Church has never found a very successful model for evangelizing Muslims under modern conditions. In the time of the Colonial empires (18th-20th centuries), many pagan peoples were converted, but few Muslims. Being forceful (literally or figuratively) with Muslims is exactly the strategy they expect from us, and which Muslims have been traditionally been indoctrinated from youth to despise and repel. Any mass conversion of Muslims will require, it seems to me, a far-reaching liberalization (sigh) of the Islamic World, or a miracle of God–or both!

  85. Mark says:

    Robert:

    Nazi policy toward the extermination of all Jewish people was enacted in stages. We could start with Hitler’s Mein Kampf, go on to the Nuremberg Laws, then the early extermination methods mainly thru shootings and planned malnutrition, then on to the Wannsee Conference in 1942, culminating in the extermination camps and Zyklon B. Many quotes from Hitler and other Nazis tying all this together are easily obtainable from reputable websites. If the Jewish holocaust doesn’t deserve primacy, then what does?

    JayneK:

    I suggest you submit your question on “God ordering a genocide” to Father Z. What I’m worried about is that our Church may be perceived as a place of refuge for disreputable notions.

  86. Thaliarch says:

    Does Bishop Williamson refer to this study in the interview in Sweden? Does he name this research as the scholarship he alludes to?

    http://remember.org/History.root.rev.html?http://remember.org/History.root.rev.html

  87. JayneK says:

    “If the Jewish holocaust doesn’t deserve primacy, then what does?”

    The holocaust of the unborn. Around 50 million innocent children murdered before their births. And the number continues to grow.

    The holocaust that we face today and can take action against should take primacy over one of the past.

  88. Matt says:

    Jaynek,

    I second the motion, but I think your number is US only, the worldwide holocaust of the unborn is much larger than that. In 2003 alone it was 42 million, I imagine the totals would be close to a billion going back to the 1970′s.

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html

  89. Michael UK says:

    A friend of mine, one time alumnus of Bob Jones University and , then, missionary in the Far East, opined that Vatican II’s, de facto, abolition of the Old Mass was a travesty and devoid of charity for st least the old. Clearly with his background, he had no axe to grind. On women clergy he could find no biblical reason against their ordination, but gravely doubted their true intention – feminism. His friendship with catholic clergy would have put his living at great risk back in the Scottish Borders.

  90. Mark says:

    JaneK:

    Nazi Germany had a state policy to kill every single Jewish person alive, no exceptions, which then they carried out on an industrial scale. Had they succeeded in conquering the globe, they and their allies would have pursued this policy to its end.

    Can you claim the same level of policies exist in support of today’s evils? Are all expecting women forced to wear an identifying mark, for example? The distinctions may be fine, but they are there, like different levels of hell.

    Again, it is obvious that today, abortion takes the primacy of attention on our part, while World War Two and the Holocaust are part of history. However, don’t you think that certain state policies of the past, when properly understood, put the present evil of abortion in a more dramatic light? As we confront the evils of today, the lessons we can learn from past evils become our allies, and shouldn’t be disregarded. I see the thinking that led to the Holocaust as the blueprint for many subsequent evils.

  91. Genna says:

    I don’t understand those who argue that Catholics should ignore what the world is saying about the Catholic Church. In effect, it’s a view which advocates a bunker mentality. The fact is we live in the world. We must realise that every misconception about the Catholic Church, if left unchallenged, will spawn ever more. We are supposed to be evangelists, aren’t we?

    John Allen’s summing up of the inertia, complacency even, of the Vatican press office is justified, IMO. Why bother to have a press office if it isn’t there to warn and advise on the likely reaction to controversial issues? The media is not so much anti-Catholic as amoral. What it wants is a good story. And if it can throw into the mix what it sees as the hypocrisy of the “holier-than-thou”, so much the better.

    This doesn’t just apply to the Catholic Church, but to politicians, monarchs, the police, the judiciary.

    A number of posters warned what the fall-out would be. In the UK the controversy is ongoing, because Bishop Williamson is English and the story broke just before Holocaust Day.

    Catholics need help in explaining an apparent contradiction as to why they condemn abortion but are happy to tolerate a senior cleric who denies another form of genocide. Yes, I know for many Catholics the difference is clear and the SSPX issue is an internal matter, finely nuanced. But it isn’t clear to many millions outside the Church.

    An unequivocal explanation should have come from The Vatican at the moment the news was released and Williamson’s opinions vigorously repudiated.

    Remember that Christ Himself was a peerless communicator. He made His principles, some of them quite opaque in their time, comprehensible to all. He used parables.

    The Apostles, (and you could argue in very simple terms they were Christ’s own pr men) continued the work of communication by writing the Gospels, in which the parables figure strongly. They followed Christ’s example in how to get the message across.

    If they had turned in on themselves after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, then Christianity would have become a tiny footnote in history of a little-known sect.

  92. Fr. BJ says:

    Tom in Columbus reminded me of a thought I recently had: I wonder if it is possible for someone to receive, in one fell swoop, BOTH the Sour Grapes AND the Bitter Fruit award?

  93. RBrown says:

    As someone who does PR for a living, I think John may be missing something. What if the Holy Father doesn’t care about the PR, in a good way?

    What if he doesn’t care about the 24-hour news cycle and the punditry? What if he doesn’t care about the chattering class? What it, gasp, he doesn’t care about John Allen???

    May, just maybe, he’s blindly doing the right thing and the heck with everyone else. You can’t please them, so forget about them.

    It would be a refreshing change from the PC antics of the past.
    Comment by Chris

    I tend to agree. Although John Allen has a point, I think he’s making the fundamental mistake of thinking he’s covering an American style government that is too interested in manipulating political opinion–or more precisely, the news cycle. IMHO, the Italian/Curial approach works best: You wait for the opponents do their worst, then respond. Although this sounds messy, it gives you the last word.

  94. Charles R. Williams says:

    Allen makes a good point but the fact remains that much of the press is ignorant, lazy, incompetent and/or virulently anti-Catholic. Better PR will help but we should expect to be vilified by the world.

  95. JayneK says:

    Mark asks me,”Can you claim the same level of policies exist in support of today’s evils?”

    Yes, I can. In my country (Canada) and others, all children can be killed before birth according to the whim of their mothers. Every single one. Just because all mothers do not exercise this right granted by the state, does not make what the state has done any less evil.

    Abortion is a worse evil than the Nazi genocide against Jews. Not only is the number of murders orders of magnitude greater (Thanks Matt for correcting my numbers), the state-sanctioned murders are carried out by those with the greatest duty to protect the victim.

    Mark also asks, “Don’t you think that certain state policies of the past, when properly understood, put the present evil of abortion in a more dramatic light?”

    Those of us who already recognize the incredible evil of killing children before they are born do not need to think about the Jewish Holocaust to be horrified by abortion. Those who do not recognize this evil, learn nothing from the past. There are Jewish spokespeople on record objecting to referring to abortion as a holocaust. They claim it trivializes the murders of the Jews.

    The thinking that led to the genocide of the Jews is the same as the thinking that has led to every other genocide which is the same as the thinking behind abortion. It is the designating of certain groups of people as not human. Many can recognize this happening the past while being unaware of it happening all around them.

  96. Mark says:

    JaneK:

    I think we may come to an understanding here. You would be right if your country had a policy to seek out and detain every pregnant woman within and without its borders, and then force abortion on her. The country you’re speaking of doesn’t have this policy. Its policy, while similiar in nature – dehumanization of a defined group of people – is on a lower level of evil (it’s less coercive) than that of Nazi Germany with respect to the Jewish people. To make them equal, your third sentence would have to read: “In my country, all children must be killed before birth.”

    We’re talking about different levels of hell. I don’t won’t this discussion to become a contest between the comparative evils of abortion and the Holocaust. Like you, I consider abortion to be the primary evil of our time. I’ve explained my position, as you did yours. Let’s leave it at that.

  97. tradition says:

    Fr. Z.,

    Bp. Williamson made a very poor historical judgment.

    What everyone should ask Cardinals Lehmann and Schonnborn is whether we exclude individuals from the church for making ill informed historical judgments. The answer is no (unless it is a primary or secondary object of infallibility, e.g. resurrection or propositions from Augustinus). Will we start to exclude people from the church if they believe that there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll?

    We exclude people for denying certain teachings of the magisterium.

  98. TNCath says:

    tradition: “What everyone should ask Cardinals Lehmann and Schonnborn is whether we exclude individuals from the church for making ill informed historical judgments.”

    No, we don’t exclude them from the Church, but we don’t put them in positions of leadership or influence. Nor do we let them teach high school history classes!

  99. tradition says:

    TNCath,

    Thank you for stating the obvious. Did I suggest that they should be put in positions of leadership? Did I suggest that they should teach history classes? I would think that the answer to this question is obvious from the first part of my post. Try reading what I actually said. To quote Fr. Z. “think then post.”

    Both Lehmann und Schonborn have stated that His Holiness did not know about Williamson’s views when he removed the excommuncation. Why point this out? The impression is given that the 4 bishops (or at least Williamson) would not have had the reconciliation lifted if the pope had known.

  100. fxr2 says:

    Father Z,
    I might be delusional, but perhaps with the help of the Holy Spirit His Holiness Benedict XVI is playing Chess at a level which only hindsight allows us to see clearly. I believe Mr. Allen misses this completely. You allude to the possibility that the Holy Father did this intentionally; just as he did everything else since he assumed the seat of St. Peter.The decree on “Subsits in”, the revised Good Friday Prayers, Honest Ecumenism and the Regensburg Address, Summorum Pontificum, and now the lifting of the excomunications of SSPX Bishops. Everything his Holiness has done has multiple good effects. Even the lifting of the excomunications. eg. How can the SSPX not accept the revised Good Friday Prayers with the current uproar. People are saying the Holy Father was not aware of the position of Bishop Williamson, but surely the Holy Spirit was. I am in awe of the multifaceted, indeed exponential, strategy of Pope Benedict. Mr. Allen takes a decidely linear, in the now view.
    Please Pray for his Holiness Benedict XVI.

    FXR2

  101. Cathguy says:

    I am still more supportive of the Holy Father than Allen. I still think the Pope did the right thing, for as I said before, it was the best way to fight anti-semitism in the long run.

    That said, I have spoken with several SSPXers online and one in person and I am SCARED. These people are not at all sorry for what Williamson said. They believe things like the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (a virulently anti-semitic forgery), and they endorse anti-Jewish pogroms of the past.

    This is serious business. Every thoughtful Catholic traditionalist needs to condemn Williamson’s words, and stand up the SSPX. They MUST be made to see the error of their ways.