My friend the nearly ubiquitous John L. Allen, normally fair-minded former Rome correspondent for the dissenting National Catholic Reporter has an article on the restructuring of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei".
Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.
Pope removes officials seen as responsible for Holocaust-denying bishop row [I hope the editor gave the title to the piece, because this is unworthy of Mr. Allen’s high standards.]
By John L Allen Jr
Created Jul 08, 2009
In what could be seen ["could be" works, I am sure, for the editors and readers of the lefty-NCR, but it "shouldn’t be seen"…] as another piece of fallout from Benedict XVI’s January decision to lift the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including one who is a Holocaust denier, the pope today restructured the Vatican office that handles relations with the traditionalist world — and, in effect, gently fired the officials who presided over the earlier fiasco.
[Stop the presses. Let’s qualify a few things, such as "fiasco". I agree that the way the Holy See handled news of the lifting of the excommunications was a "fiasco". But the actual lifting thereof, despite the controversy, was not a "fiasco". This was a necessary step for the project of securing ecclesial unity, something which even the NCR should want. Also, no one was "fired", gently or otherwise. Card. Castrillon turned 80 years old on 4 July. At 80 it is usual that curial cardinals step down. It was time anyway, and this was a perfect transition point. Also, we don’t know that Msgr. Perl won’t be involved. In any event, he came from the Cong. for Divine Worship with Card. Mayer, the PCED’s first President. Moreover, the restructuring of the PCED was a necessary and logical next step in the project with the SSPX. All officials of the Curia serve at the pleasure of the Holy Father. Restructuring doesn’t equate with firing. The change was not punitive, it was logical.]
As a result of a document issued by the Vatican today, titled Ecclesiae unitatem, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos, who had served as President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission since 2000, and Italian Monsignor Camille Perl, the number two official at Ecclesia Dei, are both out of work. [Again, Card. Castrillon turned 80 on 4 July and we don’t know where Msgr. Perl may go. I suspect he will go back to the CDW. Even so, Msgr. Perl isn’t a young man, and he has served in the Curia for a long time now. Men do retire.] The Ecclesia Dei Commission was created by the late Pope John Paul II in 1988 to manage relations with the Society of St. Pius X founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
Both men played key roles in the decision to lift the ecxcommunications, [sic] including that of Bishop Richard Williamson, the traditionalist prelate who denied in an interview with Swedish television that the Nazis had used gas chambers and that six million Jews had died in the Holocaust. [This is the really important issue for NCR, not that of ecclesial unity or the Pope’s generosity.]
The so-called “Lefebvrites” rejected many of the reforms associated with the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Most prominently, traditionalists clung to the pre-Vatican II Mass in Latin, [One tends to "cling" to what one loves and thinks important.] but many also have voiced objections to the council’s teachings on ecumenism, inter-faith dialogue and religious freedom.
In broad strokes, the restructuring announced today is seen by most observers as a sign that the Vatican intends to take a more careful, and perhaps a bit firmer, hand in its dealings with traditionalist Catholics. [HUH? Who are these "most observers"? I don’t buy that at all, unless they are observers who don’t really understand what is going on. "Bystanders", perhaps. Most "observant observers" observe this as the next logical step in the ongoing process with the SSPX.]
Issued as a motu proprio, meaning an exercise of the pope’s personal authority under canon law, Ecclesiae unitatem brings the Ecclesia Dei Commission under the supervision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s top doctrinal agency. That means ultimate responsibility for the church’s relationship with the traditionalists will belong to American Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the doctrinal congregation. [No…. the ultimate responsibility is the Pope’s. As the Pope has said again and again, he has the responsibility in the Church to foster the unity of Christians.]
The Vatican also announced today that the new head of the Ecclesia Dei Commission will be Italian Monsignor Guido Pozzo, 57, [About whom we wrote on 24 June] formerly an official in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and deputy secretary of the International Theological Commission, an advisory body to the doctrinal congregation. [Thus, a man well-positioned for the doctrinal discussion which the PCED will spearhead for the CDF.]
Levada released a statement today stipulating that as far as the Lefebvrite movement is concerned, “the doctrinal questions remain open. Until they’re clarified, Levada’s statement said, the ‘Society of St. Pius X’ cannot enjoy any canonical status within the church, and its ministers do not exercise in a legitimate way any ministry within the church.” [Let’s not get too excited about that, as if it were a new "hard line" with the SSPX. That statement from Card. Levada merely repeated what the Pope wrote in Ecclesiae unitatem.]
Although the Vatican issued a similar statement at the time of the controversy surrounding Williamson, today’s repetition from Levada [from the Pope] makes clear anew that the lifting of the excommunications in January does not mean that the Lefebvrite bishops are fully “rehabilitated.” [Old news, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to repeat it.]
The Society of St. Pius X includes almost 500 priests worldwide, and claims to have a total following of roughly one million.
Castrillon-Hoyos, 80, who was once touted as a candidate to become pope, is widely seen as a doctrinal conservative who had hoped to engineer the full readmission of the traditionalist movement into the Catholic church. [Yes… that was his job description as President of the PCED.] When the controversy over Williamson erupted, many Catholic insiders [the same crowd as those bystanders, above?] pointed the finger of blame at Castrillon-Hoyos and his staff, suggesting that if anyone in the Vatican should have known William’s track record, it was the Ecclesia Dei Commission. [Well… indeed they should have. But the real problem was not the knowlege of the bizarre views of SSPXer Williamson. Those views had nothing to do with the censure of excommunication. That point should be made in this article, but it wasn’t. The impression is being offered that the wierd views of Williamson were somehow relevant to the reason for the excommunication.]
In early February, the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, appeared to single out Castrillon for responsibility in an interview with the French daily La Croix, although Lombardi later said that Castrillion-Hoyos couldn’t be expected to know the thinking of everyone in the Lefebvrite movement.
Today’s Vatican statement expressed Benedict XVI’s gratitude to Castrillon-Hoyos and Perl, as well as the pope’s “paternal solicitude” for the traditionalists, “with the aim of overcoming the difficulties that still remain in order to reach full communion with the church.”
This article was tendentious, I think. Mr. Allen is a good journalist, and he has my continued good will and friendly admiration. But this was a stumble.