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