CNA: A rabbi sticks up for the SSPX and says to trust Pope Benedict.

This is pretty interesting. From CNA with my emphases:

Trust Pope’s judgment on SSPX deal, senior rabbi says
By David Kerr

Rome, Italy, May 18, 2012 / 06:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A leading American rabbi and Holocaust refugee says people should trust Pope Benedict’s judgment when it comes to the Church possibly readmitting the Society of St. Pius X, which has a bishop who denied the scale of the Holocaust.

“Let me tell you this, I think that Pope Benedict XVI in many ways really understood the Holocaust because he was in the German Army. He deserted (the army), his family was anti-Nazi, I mean he was completely opposed to Hitler,” Rabbi Jack Bemporad told CNA May 16.

“Now, given the fact that he suffered under Hitler and that his family suffered under Hitler, how could he in any way accept or welcome someone who denies that Hitler did anything wrong?” he asked rhetorically.


Rabbi Bemporad, who currently serves as Professor of Interreligious Studies at the Pontifical Angelicum University, dismissed Bishop Williamson as “one person who is really crazy” and “knows nothing.

He also believes that Williamson does not speak for the vast majority of Society members.

“The mistake is to take a few people and make them somehow representative of everyone without realizing that that just isn’t true,” he said. “I think it is only a small part of this group that is that radical. I think the vast majority are very happy and would love to be part of the Church.”

Earlier this week the Vatican announced that negotiations with the Society about reconciling the 1988 breach will now happen “separately and singularly” with three of the Society’s four bishops, including Williamson.

For his part, Williamson has made it increasingly clear that he is opposed to reconciliation with Rome. In a letter written earlier this month to his superior, Bishop Williamson suggested that reunion would cause the Society to cease opposing “the universal apostasy of our time.” He also accused Pope Benedict of being “a subjectivist.”

“Now I don’t think that in trying to find a way of incorporating this group that they are going to accept in any way any of the extreme positions that Williamson stands for,” predicted Rabbi Bemporad.



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  1. Supertradmum says:

    When a leading representative of the Old Law praises the integrity of the Pontifex Maximus, concerning the healing of a schism, I feel like I have died and gone to heaven. Can this mean that we are close to seeing others who are not of the fold coming closer to reconciliation, such as the Jews? With the Holy Spirit, anything is possible. I believe that in these times of increasing darkness, many more will come back to the One True Church, as it is the Light on the Hill. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Ezra says:

    dismissed Bishop Williamson as “one person who is really crazy” and “knows nothing.”

    Bishop Williamson took a lower second-class degree from Cambridge. He may be really crazy, he may even be an intellectual mediocrity… but “knows nothing” is an exaggeration.

  3. ContraMundum says:


    I think you are reading too much into this. He’s basically just saying that the antisemitism of Williamson should not present an obstacle to reconciliation.

    Even if this rabbi were to convert, he would hardly be the first. Frankly, I see no sign whatsoever that the Jewish community is on the verge of any large-scale conversion to Christ; for that we will have to wait for the Prophet Elijah. Instead, the Jewish community seems to be rapidly losing its identity and its dedication to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    So for example, at the state university where I teach, the invocation at the graduate school commencement was led by a rabbi this year. I thought that might be interesting, but when I saw that the rabbi was a woman, my expectations dropped by a few orders of magnitude. In fact, there was nothing that can really be identified as a prayer or invocation at all; she said a few of the most obvious platitudes (“You didn’t get her by yourselves”) and then held a moment of silence, for which she seemed very pleased with herself. It could have been worse, no doubt, but it could hardly have been more content-free.

  4. chcrix says:

    Interesting. Nice, I suppose.

    But really, is it the business of any Rabbi to make public comment on this? I would say no.

    Similarly, there is a perennial sore point in Israeli law about conversions to Judaism by reformed or conservative Rabbis (as opposed to orthodox).

    Is it the pope’s job to share his opinions about this? Or suggest that reform and conservative rabbis should be trusted? Nope.

    Imagine the outcry if the Pope did make a public comment about this issue.

  5. Alan Aversa says:

    Sticks up for Pope Benedict but shamelessly insults Bp. Williamson… ?

    Why is a rabbi teaching at the Angelicum? [Can’t a rabbi teach at the Angelicum?] Especially one who dismissed Bp. Williamson with such a shameless ad hominem? [Is never making bad comments about Bp. W a requirement for teaching at the Angelicum?] From what I’ve heard about biblical exegesis courses at the Angelicum, Modernism has infiltrated it, and it no longer deserves to be associated with the Angelic Doctor. [What else have you heard about the Angelicum?]

  6. AnnAsher says:

    The Rabbi seems like a nice guy. I question
    the relevance of his speaking on Church matters. IMO classes on inter-religious dialog are silly if not harmful and confusing. We should be adept and loving in our inter-human dialog. How much do we need to study the false religions? Do we need a , can I say heretic in a nice way?- teaching at Angelicum ? I dont think so. On another note, Bp williamson’s vocabulary sounds sedevacantist to me.

  7. ContraMundum says:

    That should have been “You didn’t get here by yourselves.”

    That would have drive up traffic to this site if it had been the title!

  8. ContraMundum says:


    Just as with the canonization cause of Pope Pius XII, there will be those who oppose reconciliation with SSPX because they fear it will offend the Jews. The rabbi is just saying, “Look, we know that Williamson is an outlier on the fringe of Catholicism. Those of us who have good will toward the Catholic Church now will still have good will towards the Church after SSPX is reconciled, because we know that Benedict is the pope, and Williamson is not.”

    Why would a rabbi come out and say this? Because he does not want the Jews to be blamed for scuttling the reconciliation should something happen along the way, and he knows there would be those would say that Rome backed away do to pressure from the Jews. He has a reasonable interest in preventing such a slander.

  9. AnnAsher says:

    Contra Mundum, thanks for the explanation. :)

  10. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I fail to see how Bishop Williamson’s opinion about the Second World War and the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews has anything to do with Pope Benedict’s decision to regularize his situation, nor do I see that it has any bearing on how Williamson is in the present position. He wasn’t excommunicated because of his opinions on a matter of historical interest. It isn’t, surely, relevant to whether or not he’s reunited with His Holiness. His Holiness, with similar certitude, can’t and won’t make acceptance of the “Holocaust” an issue, a precondition for Williamson’s reconciliation. I can see only one way in which it is relevant: if accepting the sanctity (the canonization) of Pope Pius XII hangs on acceptance that He rescued 800,000 Jews from what would have (otherwise) been certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

  11. Ezra says:

    His Holiness, with similar certitude, can’t and won’t make acceptance of the “Holocaust” an issue, a precondition for Williamson’s reconciliation.

    Pope Benedict’s words in Light of the World suggest he might not agree with your characterisation of what he “can’t and won’t” do:

    Q. Would you have signed the decree lifting the excommunication [of +Fellay et al.] if you had known that among the four bishops there was a person who denied the existence of the gas chambers?
    A. No. If I had known, the first step would have been to separate the Williamson case from the others. Unfortunately, though, none of us went on the Internet to find out what sort of person we were dealing with.

  12. JARay says:

    I am saddened to read the comment above from Ezra that the Pope would have separated Bp. Williamson from the others had he known more of his background. I do know that Bp. Williamson has some strange ideas and I also know that he is a convert from Anglicanism, but I would have thought that if the excommunication of one is lifted then all excommunications should have been so lifted. Also, I rather think that it is not the existence of the gas chambers which Bp. Willimson questions, but the numbers of those so executed.

  13. Pingback: For the record: What did Koch say? [Updated] | Catholic Canada

  14. WesleyD says:


    A minor point, just FYI: Williamson did in fact say in November 2008 that “I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them in gas chambers.”

    The major point: Pope Benedict did not say that he would not have removed the excommunication. (Benedict knows that excommunication is not an appropriate sanction for someone’s opinion on a historical question, no matter how important that question may be. ) Rather, he said that the case would have been separated.

    Here’s why I think that makes sense. These four people are not merely laity. They are validly (but illicitly) ordained and consecrated bishops. Consider how carefully Anglicanorum coetibus dealt with the issue of Anglican “priests” and “bishops” who become Catholic. Even more care needs to be used here! The four SSPX bishops each have SSPX priests who today consider themselves bound in obedience to them. If tomorrow the SSPX were reunited with Rome, should Rome nullify all such promises? That would destroy the SSPX as a cohesive structure. Should Rome ratify all such promises? That would require that the Pope grant to each of the SSPX bishops a specific jurisdictional authority. Clearly that is what Bishop Fellay would like to see happen.

    In other words, everyone recognizes that Bishop Williamson is a valid bishop, and everyone knows that Williamson has a clear path to full communion with Rome. But if his goal is to be a bishop in the Catholic Church with jurisdictional authority, then he must be “vetted” by Rome… just as all of the bishops of the Church should be.

  15. ContraMundum says:

    I really don’t know how these things work, but would it not be possible to make the other 3 SSPX bishops auxiliaries under Fellay? That might be a way to retain his status as a bishop while still limiting his control over any specific group of priests.

  16. LisaP. says:

    I had no idea that Pope Benedict deserted as German soldier. Fascinating.

  17. robtbrown says:

    chcrix says:

    But really, is it the business of any Rabbi to make public comment on this? I would say no.

    I would say it is as much the business of any Rabbi to make public comment on this as it is for you to make public comment on whether he should make public comment.

  18. robtbrown says:

    ContraMundum says:

    I really don’t know how these things work, but would it not be possible to make the other 3 SSPX bishops auxiliaries under Fellay? That might be a way to retain his status as a bishop while still limiting his control over any specific group of priests.

    A bishop has jurisdiction over whatever diocese the pope assigns to him. Those who aren’t leading a diocese (incl auxiliaries and bishops who work in Rome) are assigned a titular diocese (a diocese that no longer is functional but still exists juridically).

    Like auxiliaries, any bishop in the SSPX would be titular. The Ordinary, who like the head of Opus Dei, would have authority over the Personal Prelature.

  19. Son of Trypho says:

    I suspect that CNA approached him for the interview which would make it entirely appropriate to comment, though he would be wise to exercise prudence in his comments.

    Otherwise it should be interesting to note, especially for those sympathetic to the SSPX, that instead of people talking about the positive things that the SSPX can bring to the Church, due to Bp Williamson’s offensive views people are talking about this minor sideshow issue.

  20. FrJLP says:

    I had three classes with Rabbi Bemporad at the Angelicum…his class on Martin Buber was most interesting. He’s a great teacher and wonderful man. He has done much to defend the Church….e.g. against attacked re: Pius XII; against attacks re: the abuse scandal; against the media criticizing Fr. Cantalamessa’s Good Friday homily, etc.

    Interestingly enough, when an impetuous young seminarian from the NAC asked Rabbi Bemporad how he could be a man of integrity and still accept money from a pontifical university to teach and not become a Christian (this young man embarrassed us all and made me wish that his bishop would consider the possibility of reviving the “sacerdos simplex”…), Rabbi Bemporad gave a, well, rabbinic answer. He said that he had no problem whatsoever with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, he said, is the ONLY LOGICAL EXTENSION and AUTHENTIC PROPAGATION of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The Catholic Church being the covenantal body of Jesus can not be intelligently disputed. He said that his problem was simply that he did not believe Jesus of Nazareth to be the promised Messiah. If he did believe the claims of Jesus, he would have no other logical choice but to be Catholic.

    I tell this story to show Rabbi Bemporad’s wisdom and the keen insight that he, a Jew, shares about the Church. I also tell it because I knew a lot of NACers read this blog and I want to remind them not to be rude! Being a Christian gentleman is one of the finest virtues a priest can cultivate and will do much to dispose others to the proclamation of the Gospel.

    So, I am gladdened to read the good Rabbi’s remarks today.


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