Pope Benedict to the world’s bishops about SSPX Bp. Williamson

The intrepid Andrea Tornielli has posted (my translation):

At noon on Thursday there will be made public a seven-page letter which Benedict XVI is sending to all the bishops of the Catholic Church to contend with the case of the revocation of the excommunication of the Lefebvrite bishops and the polemics resulting from the Bishop Williamson’s interview denying the gas chambers.

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  1. Alessandro says:

    looking forward to this.

  2. tzard says:

    Though I know the truth is different, I would have thought the Bishops wouldn’t need such a tutorial.

    But this is the way of our current Pope – always the teacher. Our German Shepherd.

  3. Chris says:

    So we’re all confident this will be strong “tutorial” to the bishops — a hard-lined explanation of why he was right?

    For some reason, I’m not that confident …

  4. ssoldie says:

    ‘Revocation’,great word, but will the Bishop’s listen, it will be interesting.

  5. Andy says:

    I’m with Chris on this. I am concerned that this Williamson affair has become a broken rail blocking (or at least seriously slowing) further progress. I do hope this letter is not an apology nor a back down by the Holy FAther. We must pray for him.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    I cannot wait to see this. I pray it answers a lot of my questions and confusions…

  7. RJM says:

    The Holy Father has a way of getting to the heart of a matter. This conversation definitely needs his voice, b/c there has been so much silliness and misconception that has become attached to it. Pope Benedict’s treatment will undoubtedly transcend the soundbyte standoff that’s taken place in the media.

  8. Luigi says:

    Setting aside the fact that this pope doesn’t appear to have any “back down” in him, it doesn’t take 7 pages to say “Oooops!” My guess is the Holy Father will point out the bigger picture concerning those enemies of the Church who are twisting this from within and purposely driving the controversy. I hope that’s what he will do.

    This thing has taken on a life of its own, first and foremost, because the enemies within who loathe traditional Catholic beliefs, particularly those concerning our morals teahcings, are shamelessly using the Jewish community as a battering ram againt the pope while painting themselves as the Jews’ only real Catholic friends. They are pouring salt into the wounds of some decent Jewish people and counting it as an acceptable casualty of their war. It’s despicable.

    But what’s more, there are some liberal Jews – activists, rabbis and others – who loathe traditional Jewish moral bliefs as much as their Catholic counterparts, who are serving as willing bedfellows by helping them incite anger in their community. They hate what Benedict XVI stands for as much as the Catholic leftwing, and they have joined forces to keep the uproar from dying down.

    Lastly there is another element, like the ADL and here in Baltimore where I live – the Institute for Christian Jewish Studies, that thrive on turmoil to stay relevant, not to mention swell the coffers with financial donations from concerned Jews. The more they attack the Church, the more exposure they enjoy and the more money they make. Again, despicable.

    I spoke with Rabbi Yehuda Levin a couple of times since last week. He is the NY Orthodox Rabbi who defended the pope in a Lifesite News piece that Fr Z posted a few weeks ago. He has agreed to write an article for the Jewish newspaper here where I have a cordial relationship with the editor who is a genuinely good man, but a genuinely upset man right now…

  9. GordonBOPS says:

    This is excitin

  10. GordonBOPS says:

    This is exciting – really, I know there was disappointment with how things regarding Linz ended up, but knowing now how nearly alone the Pope was in removing the excommunications, he\’s going to give us something powerful and defining. Say whatever one will about SSPX, the issues presented by them are vital for us to address and clarify – more than ever the Church must stand in stark distinction to the other Christian denominations — I think clarity on the fact that Church is the sole possessor of all truth of faith and morals will come from this.

  11. David says:

    We shouldn’t read other people’s mail.


  12. John Enright says:

    I have supreme confidence in our Holy Father, and I expect that his message will be appropriate.

  13. John Hudson says:

    Chris: “So we’re all confident this will be strong “tutorial” to the bishops—a hard-lined explanation of why he was right?”

    No, I’m confident that it will be a carefully expressed piece of reasoning, explaining what is proper and just and charitable. I base this confidence on everything else I have read from the pen of Joseph Ratzinger, both before and since he became our Holy Father Benedict. He is a man of reason in a world largely in thrall to emotion and sentiment.

  14. Phil Steinacker says:

    Good move, Luigi!

  15. John Enright says:

    John Hudson: I read your comment, and I don’t agree. I think the Pope is doing his best for all of us, and that includes SSPX.

  16. Hidden One says:

    I wouldn’t be upset if the document contained/was a sledgehammer… but we’ll see.

    Spera in Deo…

  17. Son of Trypho says:

    I tend to agree with John Hudson’s suggestion – it will most likely be a considered and intelligent response to very sensitive issues that no doubt are a serious source of grievance for Benedict and the Church. I look forward to seeing the document.

  18. Merriweather says:

    I hope it doesn’t contain a lot of blather about “i didn’t know +Williamson was a bad person”.

    Having unconventional political views does not make a person a bad Catholic, or a bad bishop.

    If only the hierarchy would be as vocal regarding those whose views deviate from Catholic doctrine as they are about +Williamson’s opinion about events which occurred decades ago.

  19. So does that mean it will be available here at 12:01? :-)

  20. teresa says:

    Dear Luigi, I agree with the most part of your comment. But please allow me to remind you of the liberal Rabbi Irwin Kula, who has spoken a very fair word for our Pope.
    Pleas see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-irwin-kula/the-jewish-reaction-to-th_b_162981.html
    I don’t think all the liberals are bad, the real liberals do take the whole affair much easier. For example, the German liberal Party FDP has decided that the State shouldn’t waste money on watching over the schools of the SSPX in Germany. But “liberal catholics”, who are not at all liberal, are asking the politicians to take the SSPX as a danger to the democracy.

    I think the word “liberal”, as they use it in the Church, doesn’t have the same meaning like the word “liberal” in the politics. The word “liberal” as it is used in the Church only means the attitude that neither the faith nor the tradition is important, but this attitude includes also an intolerance towards people who are not “liberal” in this way.

  21. Irish says:

    Father, Rorate caeli is offering some details translated from Italian papers, for what it’s worth. If accurate, it sounds like hammer time.

  22. chironomo says:


    I agree with your comment wholeheartedly regarding the term “liberal”… it needn’t be a dirty word. However, sadly there is now little difference between religious “liberals” and political “liberals” at least in the US. They are usually one and the same. To be a “Liberal Catholic” means that you call yourself Catholic and support liberal political ideology such as abortion, gay marriage and female ordination. This may be a bit of a broad brush, but if the “real” religious liberals would like to advance their cause, they need to shed the ideologues and activists who have infiltrated their ranks…

  23. chironomo says:

    And as concerns the Popes letter to Bishops…

    I am in the group that hopes that this will be a strong admonition, not only about Williamson, but about the SSPX situation in general. At seven pages, perhaps it will also delve into the issue of the discussions over VII???

  24. teresa says:

    Pope’s Letter concerning SSPX & Williamson already available!
    it’s in German

    A great letter, I read it.
    a short summary of mine (But I hope that I haven’t distorted anything, so don’t take this summary too seriously, its only for a quick information, but do please read the letter thoroughly and with care as soon as it is translated into English).

    He explains the difference between the lift of excommunication and the reunion of the brotherhood with the Church. He mentions that doctrinal dialog is needed in order to reintegrate the brotherhood into the Church, because what separates them from us is their disagreement in certain doctrinal issues. The lift of excommunication is in comparison an act of mercy. He admits that the coincidence between the lift of excommunication and the interview of Bp. Williamson a mishap, and he says that the Holy See will later make more use of the modern communication to avoid this kind of mishaps.

    But he says also clearly that some groups have make use of this coincidence to attack the Church and the Pope, although they should known better, being in the Church and knowing the difference between the life of excommunication and rehabilitation. He doesn’t blame anyone outside the Church.

    And the Holy Father thanks the Jews especially that they have shown great understanding and have helped to restore the friendship between Jews and Catholics.

    And I quote the most central passage:

    Man kann die Lehrautorität der Kirche nicht im Jahr 1962 einfrieren – das muß der Bruderschaft ganz klar sein.
    (my transl.): you can’t freeze the authority of the Magisterium in year 1962, the SSPX must be clear of it. But some of those who show themselves as the most eager defenders of the Vat.II should remind themselves that the Council carries the whole history of teachings of the Church with it. He who wants to be obedient to the Council should accepts the whole history and can’t cut of the roots, because the whole tree lives from the roots.

    (originally in German: “Man kann die Lehrautorität der Kirche nicht im Jahr 1962 einfrieren – das muß der Bruderschaft ganz klar sein.
    Aber manchen von denen, die sich als große Verteidiger des Konzils hervortun, muß auch in Erinnerung gerufen werden, daß das II. Vaticanum die ganze Lehrgeschichte der Kirche in sich trägt. Wer ihm gehorsam sein will, muß den Glauben der Jahrhunderte annehmen und darf nicht die Wurzeln abschneiden, von denen der Baum lebt.”)


  25. Bryan says:

    Imagine that, a Pope that teaches clearly, and doesn’t mince words.

    Quick impression: there’s no waffle words. Pretty unambiguous to me.

    But, that’s just me. I don’t have a tendency to parse the argument; what the Holy Father says is what he says. And, having read a lot of his work over the past few years, I have no doubt that he says what he means, while gently and firmly applying the medicine of the authority of his Petrine office.

    Ad Multos Annos!

  26. EDG says:

    Thank you Teresa! I don’t read German very well and I’ve been looking for it in Italian, so I was happy to see a translation. I think you’re right and the significant thing is that while he reminds the SSPX that they can’t ignore VatII, he makes it clear that it is not a “super-Council” that somehow restarts the history of the Church and cuts off the preceding nearly 2000 years.

    Also, in general, I was very glad to see that he remained clear and firm. But I guess I shouldn’t have expected otherwise!

  27. Richard says:

    “He who wants to be obedient to the Council should accepts the whole history and can’t cut off the roots, because the whole tree lives from the roots”

    If that’s an accurate translation, then superb. A lively, easily understood metaphor for the “Hermeneutic of Continuity”.

  28. Glen says:

    “The Pope is frank with those who proclaim ecumenism, but who do not wish to follow through with it with the Fraternity: “May we consign to utter indifference a community in which there are 491 priests, 215 seminarians, … 117 brothers, 164 sisters, and thousands of faithful? Should we truly let them drift away from the Church? Are we allowed to simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical and marginal group, from the search for unity and reconciliation?”…” http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/

    491 priests and 215 seminarians??? What other order has that ratio?

  29. Bob says:

    Please, Dear God put an end to this, does one not see that all this is just an effort on the part of some – I will not say it; too block Our Catholic Church from becomeing one again. PRAY FOR THE POPE OF ALL CATHOLICS, and unite behind Him

  30. wsxyz says:

    491 priests and 215 seminarians??? What other order has that ratio?

    491/215 = 2.28

    Priests (including associated and postulating priests): 208
    Non-deacons seminarians (including postulants): 128
    208/128 = 1.625

  31. Winfield says:

    Gregor Kollmorgen at The New Liturgical Movement is posting his translation of the letter this morning:


  32. Somerset '76 says:

    So it seems that this letter will challenge both the SSPX and the neo-Modernists … which is what I would have expected. Let’s see how both sides react.

  33. Viking says:

    “You can’t freeze the authority of the Magisterium in year 1962, the SSPX must be clear of it. But some of those who show themselves as the most eager defenders of the Vat.II should remind themselves that the Council carries the whole history of teachings of the Church with it.”

    Our Holy Father always finds such a smooth but forceful way of putting things. Even so, there are those who will reject the message even from the outset.

    With apologies to Yoda:
    “Begun, the Hermeneutic War has.”

  34. EJ says:

    Let ’em have it Holy Father!

  35. Corleone says:

    I hear that closely following the news available on the internet would have made it possible to obtain knowledge of the problem in time. I learn from this that we at the Holy See have to pay more careful attention to this news source in the future.

    Now if that isn’t the definition of “super-Pope” then I don’t know what is. I hope His Holiness personally shoulder-taps someone he knows and trusts to deliver him this informatiion from the internet.

    Fr Z…I’m looking in your direction. : )

  36. EDG says:

    I wonder what effect putting the Ecclesia Dei Commission under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will have? Does anyone think this will have any significant impact?

  37. teresa says:


    thank you for reminding me of that!

    So it seems that the word “liberal” is now being used generally in a distorted way. The root of the traditional liberalism lies in the respect for individuals. But now they are using this word according to the criterion for what you are standing.

    If you are for gay marriage, you are a liberal. But you are for family, you are not liberal, according to them. But according to the traditional liberalism the latter should be ranked equally with the first.

    And for abortion is liberal, against it not.

    But you see, the so called liberals are not acting and thinking in the way of traditional liberalism which goes back to the philosophy of Kant and the teachings of Savigny.

    Instead, the modern radicalized “liberalism” is the same like dictatorship, because they are taking the values of some certain groups as more valuable than the values of the other.

    On the contrary, the real liberalism is the spirit of fairness, common sense, humanism and equality of everyone, including the Christians.

    The real liberalism doesn’t need an ideology. But the modern “liberals” are making their ideology the absolute one for everybody.

  38. Woody Jones says:

    Re ratios:

    Legion of Christ: 800 priests, 2,500 seminarians

    On another blog where the Legion’s troubles are being discussed at length (and almost as much hatred shown toward them as to the SSPX — in fact for me the tone of many of the detractors, and the fact that a mere mention of the name elicits posts in the hundreds, as we would see here whenever SSPX is mentioned, is strikingly similar — and of course also, this is not in any way to minimize the awful behavior of the LC’s founder), I did a rough calculation based on the length of time seminarians are in formation in SSPX (I believe it is still at 6 years) versus LC (now up to 15 years), to come up with “classes” of roughly 36 – SSPX and 166 – LC. Of course, not all of a class proceed to ordination, my vague impression being that about 15-20 [is that too high?] are ordained for SSPX each year and about 40-50 are being ordained annually for LC (so for the last three years).

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