Toronto’s Archbp. Collins on Pope Benedict and the SSPX

On the official blog of the Archdiocese of Toronto, H.E. Most Rev. Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto offers observations about the lifting the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops and the subsequent ruckus in the press, especially concerning the Jews and whether Pope Benedict embraced an anti-Semite.

You can read the whole article at the link above.  Here is an important excerpt with my emphases and comments.

One important step in an effort to lead excommunicated bishops and especially their followers to end the division and return to the Church is to lift the excommunication that was imposed because of the unlawful ordination, and that has just recently happened as the Pope has made one more attempt to open the pathway for hundreds of thousands of followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to come back to the Church. The four bishops he ordained when he broke away were automatically excommunicated because they split the Church; now that excommunication of the four bishops has been lifted in an effort to heal the wound of that division. This is the most recent of several actions in years of patient work by Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict and others to try to bring home hundreds of thousands of Catholics.  [He did not use the word "schism".]

Apart from the fact that Pope Benedict is not known to be a fan of Swedish television interviews, in which one of the four bishops has revealed that he holds bizarre and evil opinions, it should be noted that the lifting of the excommunication is simply an important but limited step to help bring about the reversal of a move made years ago to destroy the unity the Church.

Williamson has clearly revealed himself to be a holocaust denier, but the Pope has not "embraced a Holocaust denier". Lifting the excommunications of the four bishops ordained by Lefebvre in an effort to repair the damage he caused is not in any way an award, nor a sign of approval, nor a blessing, nor an endorsement of the opinions or behaviour of any of the four Lefebvre bishops. [Exactly.] In any case, they are still suspended from priestly ministry, and it is now up to them and their numerous followers to respond to Pope Benedict’s action by taking the initiative to complete the restoration of unity. A hopeful sign is that the leader of the four bishops and their break-away church has now strongly condemned Williamson["condemned"… too strong?]

Pope Benedict’s total opposition to anti-semitism and Holocaust denial has been made clear over the years. As recently as last week he stated: "I hope that the memory of the Holocaust may induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man. May the Holocaust be for all an admonition against forgetting, against denial or reductionism, [You will find this word pop up once in a while.  It is a rendering of an Italian word, which describes reducing the scale of the Holocaust, diminishing the numbers, etc.] because violence against a single human being is violence against all." The Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, last week ran an article denouncing those who deny the Holocaust. You can find the text here. To suggest that the Pope in any way approves of those who deny the Holocaust is utterly unjust.

Bishop Sheen once said that there are not ten people in the country who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate the image of the Catholic Church that they have created out of misunderstanding. [Excellent quote.] Before people jump to conclusions and launch into impassioned condemnations of the actions of the Pope, simple decency and fairness dictate that they understand what they think they are disagreeing with, and not construct great castles of indignation upon the sandy foundations of mistaken information.

Archbishop Thomas Collins
January 30, 2009

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  1. Dening God is O.K.; denying morality is O.K., denying the value of life is O.K. and some people allow all these things without any problem whatsoever… BUT denying the holocaust gets you into all of this unnecessary mess!?

    There’s no doubt that the Holocaust happened and those who deny this look and sound very foolish, but has the acceptance of the holocaust become a matter of faith? When? Why?

  2. TJM says:

    I find the Archbishop’s statement supportive and useful. Tom

  3. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    God bless and preserve Archbishop Collins! His predessor, Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic, was a good man but in the mould of many of John Paul II’s appointments – solid on loyalty to Rome and life issues, but not particularly inspirational.

    Archbishop Collins is very much a “Benedictine” appointment, a true pastor who cleaves to Holy Church. He is an excellent preacher and, in an effort to spread the Gospel, many of his homilies have been made into podcasts. He instituted a public lectio divina, also available on podcast. St Michael’s Cathedral, and the associated choir-school, celebrate reverent OF Masses and, since his pontificate, the FSSP has established a permanent apostolate in Toronto. Perhaps it is telling that he didn’t use the word “schism”.

    Ad multos annos! Eis polla eti!

  4. Jesse says:

    There is an ongoing online petition in support to our Holy Father, here:

  5. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Not meaning to hog the combox, but the fuller version of this reflection on the Archbishop’s blog is interesting. When was the last time you heard a bishop utter the two words found at the end of the following sentence?

    It is quite possible, for example, for a Catholic to break every one of the ten Commandments, and commit every one of the seven deadly sins, and hold every bizarre and evil opinion imaginable, and not incur excommunication, though he or she may well be guilty of grievous moral wrong and face eternal damnation.

  6. Jon K says:

    I would not agree that Abp Sheen´s remark still applies to-day (which is implied above). The Archbishop said this in days when most principles of the Natural Law were commonly accepted by decent people, and most were more or less decent. Gross sin was not openly condoned.

    We have come very far from that point. I have personnally often experienced people who genuinely hate the Church, and this precisely because they understand her teaching. They simply wish to do whatever pleases them. I´d say their numbers are growing.

  7. Dan says:

    Rome and our bishops are responsible for the influence that the SSPX wields within the Church.

    It was Rome who swept the TLM aside with the creation of the Novus Ordo Mass. It was Rome who did little to prevent “many” (Josef Cardinal Ratzinger’s word…His Holiness) priests from having “desacralized” (the Pope’s word) parishes.

    The TLM was pushed from parishes. Parishes were desacralized and wreckovated by bishops and priest. Many Catholics, to save their faith, turned to the SSPX. The SSPX, in in turn, have provided the Faithful with the TLM and sense of the sacred.

    In 1988, Pope John Paul II finally called for a “wide and generous application” to his TLM-related directives. The majority of bishops and priests ignored the Holy Father’s call to be generous.

    Incredibly, Pope John Paul II did little to deal with his disobedient bishops and priests. He was intimidated by his own bishops and priests.

    Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum. In turn, a great many bishops and priests have ignored His Holiness and turned SP into a dead letter.

    Is there any wonder why many Catholics flock to SSPX chapels to encounter the TLM and sense of the sacred?

    Is there any wonder why there is also strong support for the SSPX among many Catholics who, while not attending SSPX chapels, realize that the Society’s very existence has forced Rome to deal with TLM and crisis of faith issues?

    Had Rome not swept aside the TLM and tolerated bishops and priests who “desacralized” parishes, the SSPX would need not have existed. Rome and our bishops had, in effect, created the SSPX.

    Bottom line regarding our Churchmen: Be generous regarding the TLM. Bring the TLM to parishes everywhere. You will then reduce greatly the need of the many Catholics to turn to the SSPX for the TLM and sense of the sacred.

  8. Jesse says:

    Many Catholics, to save their faith, turned to the SSPX

    Yes, and, unfortunately, many more lost their faith and quit the Church altogether.

    Want to see some inspiring pictures of the “new springtime”? See the gray hair:

  9. Dan says:

    “…one of the four bishops has revealed that he holds bizarre and evil opinions…
    Williamson has clearly revealed himself to be a holocaust denier…now strongly condemned Williamson.”

    Okay. Fine. Has the Archbishop written as strongly against Christ deniers? Has he written as strongly against Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII deniers? I don’t know.

    I wonder whether the many Churchmen of late who have issued strong remarks against Bishop Williamson have also issued strong remarks against Christ, Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII deniers?

    By the way, do said Churchmen think of Bishop Williamson as their brother?

    Finally, it has been made clear of late by a great many Churchmen that being a “gas chamber denier” is far more monstrous and evil than being a Christ, Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII denier.

    I truly believe that it clear that Bishop Williamson would have received better treatment at the hands of certain Churchmen a Christ had he been a Christ, Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII denier.

    He would have been presented as a “brother” with whom we were called to “dialogue.”

  10. This is unrelated to what everyone else is arguing about, but…

    Fr. Z quoted Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto as follows:

    Bishop Sheen once said that there are not ten people in the country who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate the image of the Catholic Church that they have created out of misunderstanding.

    “The country”? I know what country Bishop Sheen was referring to. Does this mean that Toronto is finally part of the United States?


  11. Fr. Denis Lemieux says:

    What a great statement by Archbishop Collins. He is truly one of the bright lights in the Canadian Church.\

  12. anon says:

    What good sense, but what shall be done about Williamson?

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