Time has jumped into the fray, commenting on the lifting of the excommunications of the four… well… let’s be honest… the one SSPX Bishop Williamson.
Time’s Rome correspondent hasn’t reported Catholic events and issues concerning traditional expressions of Catholicism with perfect clarity or depth, e.g., his coverage of Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum here and here.
Let’s see what he does here, with my emphases and comments.
The Cardinal Behind the Pope’s Lefebvrite Flap
By Jeff Israely
Wednesday, Feb. 04, 2009
With pressure mounting after his controversial reconciliation with a breakaway church group, Pope Benedict XVI has ordered one of the bishops of the arch-traditionalist Lefebvrite movement to publicly retract his statements denying the Holocaust. [It might have been more of an ultimatum than an order.] The Vatican issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon saying the Pope had not been aware of the claims by Richard Williamson — one of four Lefebvrite bishops [I think they might have included the name of the group, rather than just the label "Lefebvrite"] brought back into the fold late last month after 20 years of excommunication — that Nazi gas chambers didn’t exist and no more than 300,000 Jews died in concentration camps.
"Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to the episcopal [bishop] functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah," the statement said, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust. (See pictures of Holocaust survivors sharing their memories.)
The sudden ultimatum, which came less than 24 hours after unprecedented public criticism was voiced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, [This is misdirection. The writer seems to be drawing a cause and effect relationship between these tow events. I am not sure that is entirely the case.] raises more questions than it answers. Why did it take so long? [What is he suggesting here?] How will Williamson specifically and the Lefebvrites in general react? Could this scuttle the Pope’s high-stakes gambit to end the excommunication of the breakaway bishops, [ummm… Jeff… he did lift the excommuncations. That part can’t be "scuttled".] leaving him permanently damaged both inside and outside the Vatican walls? But perhaps the starting point would be to ask: Who is steering the ship for Benedict during what is turning into the most turbulent crisis of his papacy? [Now THAT is a good question! Someone is asleep at several switches. And the "third loggia" seems to be the culprit in this collision. But is this the "most" turbulent crisis? Perhaps the aftermath of the Regensburg Address was hotter. Someone died in that one, as a matter of fact.]
It must first be clear that the Pope himself badly wanted the rapprochement with the Lefebvrites, a throwback movement that uses the Latin-rite Mass and shuns any attempt to have dialogue with other religions. [hmmm…. shuns "any" attempt? I think that might mischaracterize the position of the SSPX. I belive the SSPX doesn’t want to compromise Catholic teaching in order to have diaolgue.] Although he doesn’t agree with all their views — and certainly not Williamson’s Holocaust-denying — Benedict had hoped that by undoing the excommunication, the Lefebvrites would eventually accept the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council and become a new force for contemporary conservative Catholicism in the West. (Read "Germany Confronts Its Dark Past.")
But if Benedict is the inspiration behind the move, few inside the Vatican doubt who is its executor. A few days after the surprise signing of the Jan. 21 papal decree that overturned the excommunication, one well-placed Vatican official noted, "It has every appearance of being the work of Castrillón." [Will he now be the scapegoat? Card. Castrillon has displayed a strong desire to make headway with the SSPX: that is his job, after all, – a job his last two predecessors seem to have entirely ignored. Some might say that Card. Castrillon has a tendency to leap and then look, but he has done something.]
Vatican insiders know Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos well. The steely-eyed Colombian Cardinal, 79, served for nine years as head of the Congregation for Clergy, where in 2002 he drew the wrath of victims of American-priest sex abuse for denying that the Catholic Church had any particular problem with pedophiles in its ranks. [Look what Israely is doing here. He is tarring Card. Castrillon with that old brush. Never mind that other dicasteries are involved. As a matter of fact little of importance can happen these days without the über-dicastery, the Secretariat of State, getting its fingers into the recipe. If the SecState is going to have that power, then by golly it can also shoulder the responsibility.] But most of all, Castrillón is a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist. [That is not intended as a compliment.] He was named by Pope John Paul II as the go-between in relations with fringe traditionalist groups like the Lefebvrites, whose official name is the Society of St. Pius X. [He gets to it at last.] Castrillón pushed hard for Benedict to expand the use of Latin-rite Mass, which the Pontiff did in 2007. [So… it was Castrillion’s Iago to Benedict’s Othello…] Four years earlier, Castrillón had presided over the first officially sanctioned Latin-rite Mass in Rome since the Second Vatican Council, held at the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The following year, it is worth noting, disgraced Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law was named Archpriest of the same basilica, which has been the site of subsequent Latin Masses. [More misdirection. Just as he did above, he has connected the pedophilia thing to the traditionalist thing. And he is doing this not so much because they were Vatican PR debacles but because he wants the reader to connect Catholic tradition with the filth.]
The past two years, working independently from other established Vatican dicasteries, [Huh? Card. Castrillon is President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the curial office which has competence in this matter. And the PCED collaborates with the CDF and, at least in the case of the excommunications the Cong. for Bishops.] Castrillón was busy hammering out the details to make way for the reconciliation with the Lefebvrites. Other top Holy See officials were, by all accounts, shut out from both the substance of the accord and its timing and presentation to the outside world. [Let’s turn the clock back a bit and consider what Archbp. Piero Marini wrote in his book on the work of the Consilium, and their methods in pressing over-reaching liturgical reforms upon a Church which was not calling for them.] That it coincided with the airing of a television interview with Williamson in which he espoused his views of the Holocaust could be chalked up to bad luck. [Or [INSERT ORGAN MUSIC] … maybe it wasn’t such a coincidence?] But the British-born bishop has said similar things in the past, as have several other Lefebvrite members; the fact that nothing was done ahead of time to try to assuage Jewish concerns doomed the release of the papal decree. [Because everything the Church does as an internal matter has to assuage everyone’s concerns. Okay… okay… this is the modern, information age. They were simply blind to this dimension and they have really paid for it, as have many others caught in the crossfire.]
According to the Vatican official, Castrillón was bound to forge ahead as he pleased. Born in Medellín, Colombia, he has displayed courage, tenacity and a willingness — even an eagerness — to mix church and state. [Interesting… he picks on this point. This is part of the concern of the SSPX regarding the Council’s teaching on religious liberty in Dignitatis humanae.] He has gone deep into Colombian jungles to mediate between leftist guerrillas and right-wing death squads, and once, while still a bishop, he showed up at the house of cocaine king Pablo Escobar disguised as a milkman. Revealing himself, Castrillón implored Escobar to confess his sins, which, presumably at some considerable length, the vicious gangster did. "Anyone who’s had interaction with him will tell you he’s an imperious [person] who acts first and worries about the consequences later," says the Vatican official. "Sometimes I don’t think he even cares about the consequences." [See? However, he did not put the pen in the Pope’s hand, or that of the Prefect of the Cong. for Bishops, and then move the paper around under it.]
Castrillón expressed surprise when it was revealed that Williamson was a Holocaust denier. Some Catholic blogs have castigated Castrillón for not doing enough of a background check while vetting the Lefebvrites. One of the Cardinals closest to Benedict, and a former student, Archbishop of Vienna Cristoph Schonborn, took the unusual step of criticizing his fellow Cardinals of the Roman Curia, saying that "some collaborators of the Pope" had let the Pontiff down. [Perhaps. There are a couple alternatives here. They let the Pope down, or the Pope knew what was going on and made the decision to move ahead anyway. Either way, there should have been some ground work laid for the outside watching world.] The consequences for Benedict have been a 10-day avalanche of criticism — other Lefebvrites have come out of the woodwork with controversial statements — culminating in a call from the German Chancellor for the German Pope to react more sternly to Williamson’s views on the Holocaust. It is unclear if Castrillón had anything to do with Wednesday’s ultimatum. [Willingness to blame, but then not to give any credit?]
During this whole kerfuffle, I have had the nagging suspicion that the real reason many people are so upset with Pope Benedict over this move is that they sense that the SSPX would have a small but important role in clarifying a burning issue.
How do we interpret the documents of the Second Vatican Council?
In continuity with the centuries of Church teaching? As a new starting point or rupture with the past?
Pope Benedict’s approach to the Church’s teaching and tradition bespeaks an obligation to interpret the Council in light of the other Councils, that is to affirm rather than deny certain truths of the Catholic faith which stick in the craws of secularists and progressivists, the legions of the dictatorship of relativism.
I also sense within the offices of the curia a strong desire to scapegoat a Cardinal who actually tried to get something done, thus violating a cardinal law (sorry…) of the Holy See: do as much nothing as possible.
There is a culture of fear in the Vatican about how to use the media. There is deep dysfunction regarding the tools of communication. They think that if they release any information then… people might read and react to it. But then they have to spin when people read and react the information which inevitably must comes forth.