“A breath of sanity in the storm”

The engaging and telephonically persistent Anna Arco of The Catholic Herald has an interesting entry on her own blog:

A breath of sanity in the storm

Friday 6 February

It’s been amazing, at times disheartening, to watch the way the story about the lifted excommunications has been poorly reported, poorly explained and has escalate over the last two weeks. But more on this later.

In Germany in particular, the papers have been going crazy. From the small local newspaper for Regensburg to the biggies like the Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the heavies like Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the amount of text that has been generated in the last two weeks has been pretty overwhelming.

Today, the FAZ and the Sueddeutsche were both posting on the subject with a frequency that was unreal. But amid the word-avalanche, I found some solid ground. For the first time, after tracking through innumerate articles in the mainstream press—yesterday was a particularly depressing day—I came upon a complete anomaly in the FAZ: a report which did not talk about “rehabilitation”, which was informative and actually said what was happening. Sure, it was pretty dry and didn’t make the sort of entertaining reading that the Sueddeutsche’s article on Bishop Richard Williamson’s loathing for the Sound of Music or the extremely well reported one in today’s Mail gave us, but in its dryness it was paradoxically refreshing.

The meister-reporter was no one other than Heinz Joachim Fischer , who holds a doctorate in religious philosophy, a Licenciate in theology, was studying in Rome during Vatican II and has been the FAZ’s long-time Vatican correspondent. (The full article can be found in German here ) The measured tone and accurate reporting, even in my awkward translation is just a relief. The voice of sanity, or some of it, follows here:

    "Papal competence acknowledged

    The reason for the lifting of the excommunications was a letter of the leader of the Society, Fellay, who proclaimed–also in the name of the three others—the firm will to be Catholic and recognise the Roman Catholic Church with her teachings and the demands of the Pope. With that, they acknowledged the Papal competency over their consecration as bishops which Lefebvre had gone against.

    The repeal of the excommunicataion does not change anything, as the note from the Vatican Secretariate of State last Wednesday re-emphasised, that the bishops and priests of the society still do not have ecclesiastical recognition. For them counts the “Suspension” “a divinis” the punishment for priests in which they are suspended from office and ministry, which they incurred as members of a brotherhood in an ecclesiastical community not recognised by the Pope”.

    The Traditionalists distanced themselves from the Roman Church because they saw in the Second Vatican Council in the years 1962 to 1965, especially the decisions on religious freedom and the effective abolition of the old Tridentine, as deviating from the really Catholic.

    Penitent sinners eager for improvement?

    At first, the Society of St Pius X was founded by Archbishop Lefebvre 1969/70 with the tolerance of the Catholic Church. Then, with increasing alienation/distancing from Rome, [the Society] worked half-Canonically under suspension, as of 1988 under excommunication. The “suspension”—against which in the practice the society is broken against—still remains until “full reconciliation and full communion” has been re-established with the Pope and, as Wednesday’s statement demanded, Williamson has recanted.

    The withdrawal of the excommunications with the continuing suspension means that the Traditionalists have no rights in the Catholic Church, but are allowed to be considered as penitent sinners willing to be improved. In their society they work in a canonical grey zone, with the obligation to bring their canonical status into order.

    Political views not decisive

    Political views cannot, according to Roman Catholic code, present either conditions or barriers fro membership in the Catholic Church. Bishop Williamson can hardly therefore be excommunicated by reason of his political or historical views. These can, however, be determining [factors] for admittance to Church offices and could lead to a suspension of the office if [they are] seen as a nuisance to the faithful, or in the case of bishops, as a sign of inadequate administration. Williamson was set the condition “to distance himself from his opinions about the Shoah in absolute unequivocal and public manner” for admission to Episcopal functions.

    The “good behaviour”—measured by the Vatican’s yardsticks—will also be decisive for the further path to full Communion and for the revocation of the suspension. "

 

Anna continues…

As I wrote, it’s not fun or easily digestible reading, reduced to a sound bite, but then this whole matter is fairly complex.

 

Indeed.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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6 Responses to “A breath of sanity in the storm”

  1. IvoDeNorthfield says:

    “it’s not fun or easily digestible reading, reduced to a sound bite”

    Responsible journalism rarely is.

  2. de Trinitate says:

    This is the most sound article from the journals that I have read- Ms Arco is right to characterize it as “a breath of sanity amidst the storm”. Some of the German reportings are terribly inaccurate, uninformed and greatly slanderous.

    Another breath of sanity is the statement of the conference of Bishops in Poland reported at Rorate Coeli as the ‘Turning Tide’.

  3. Credo says:

    I have found an article on Catholic Exchange to be the best I’ve read yet: http://catholicexchange.com/2009/02/05/115319/

  4. Gail F says:

    “The withdrawal of the excommunications with the continuing suspension means that the Traditionalists have no rights in the Catholic Church, but are allowed to be considered as penitent sinners willing to be improved. In their society they work in a canonical grey zone, with the obligation to bring their canonical status into order.”

    That is the best explanation I’ve read so far. Many people who should know better are going nuts over this.

  5. These can, however, be determining [factors] for admittance to Church offices and could lead to a suspension of the office if [they are] seen as a nuisance to the faithful, or in the case of bishops, as a sign of inadequate administration.

    This is a point I have been trying to hammer home. Williamson’s views on a whole slew of subjects, his conspiracy paranoia, and quite simply his poor judgment, don’t make him unfit to be a Catholic, and they should not prevent him from coming into the Church and receiving the Sacraments. They do, however, make him unfit to serve as a bishop. One thing that people are not taking seriously enough is that while he may have a valid consecration, it is a consecration as bishop that he more or less stole by accepting it illicitly, and as such he doesn’t have any “right” to an episcopal appointment within the Catholic Church. In fact, the very nature of his consecration as bishop already indicates a renegade mentality, and as such he should be held under even greater scrutiny by Rome. Too many people are acting as if Rome owes him something just because he illicitly received a consecration as bishop. She does not. He is unfit for any episcopal authority, and that is abundantly clear.

    I credit SSPX for the steps they have taken since this firestorm has erupted – and when I say erupted, while the Vatican certainly handled this poorly, I blame this mostly on the shameful reporting by the media and the scandalous comments by people from within the Church as well as without. By silencing Williamson, by displaying a willingness to discuss honestly and sincerely those things which separate them from Rome, by removing their anti-Semitic documents from their web site, they are making clear that they are serious about reunification with Rome. I understand they are not formally in schism, but they’re certainly not in communion, either. They are in some strange world of canonical limbo. But if they are this serious, and it appears that they are, I think this reconciliation can and will be worked out, and they will be a powerful voice in the Church, and one that is needed. But that voice will have to be minus the lunacy of Bp. Williamson, and perhaps a good number of his devotees who share his anti-Semitic, anti-woman and pro-conspiracy theory idiocies.

  6. On Rush Limbaugh’s show, Mark something, was filling in for Rush and he was trying to be fair in reporting the SSPX/Williamson debacle but he told the audience that Williamson had been restored to being a bishop in the Catholic Church. He just misunderstood. I tried to call in for correction but the line was always busy.