VATICAN CITY – Here is the Zenit translation of the note issued on Feb 4 by the Vatican Secretariat of State regarding last month’s lifting of the excommunication of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X.
IN THE WAKE of the reactions elicited by the recent decree from the Congregation for Bishops, with which the excommunication of four prelates of the Fraternity of St. Pius X were lifted, and in relation to negationist or reductionist declarations on the Shoah from Bishop Williamson of that same fraternity, it is considered opportune to clarify certain aspects of the issue.
1. Remission of the excommunication
As has already been published previously, the decree of the Congregation for Bishops, dated Jan 21, 2009, was an act by which the Holy Father graciously took in the reiterated petitions from the superior-general of the Fraternity of St. Pius X.
His Holiness wished to remove an impediment that adversely affected the opening of a door to dialogue. Now he expects that the same willingness be expressed by the four bishops, in total adhesion to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.
The most grave penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, which these bishops incurred on Jun 30, 1988, afterward declared formally on Jul 1 of the same year, was a consequence of their illegitimate ordination by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
The lifting of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a most grave canonical penalty, but it has not changed in any way the juridical situation of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, which for the moment does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church. Neither do the four bishops, though liberated from the excommunication, have a canonical function in the Church and they do not licitly exercise a ministry in it.
2. Tradition, doctrine and the Second Vatican Council
For a future recognition of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, the full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition.
As has already been affirmed in the decree of Jan 21, 2009, the Holy See will not cease, in the ways in which it judges opportune, to go deeper with the interested parties in the questions that remain open, in such a way that a full and satisfactory solution to the problems that have given rise to this painful fracture can be reached.
3. Declaration on the Shoah
The viewpoints of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself noted last Jan 28, when, referring to that savage genocide, he reaffirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide should induce “humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart”, adding that the Shoah remains “for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all”.
Bishop Williamson, to be admitted to episcopal functions in the Church, must also distance himself in an absolutely unmistakable and public way from his position on the Shoah, which was unknown to the Holy Father in the moment of the lifting of the excommunication.
The Holy Father asks accompaniment in prayer from all the faithful, that the Lord may enlighten the path of the Church. May there be an increase in the determination of the pastors and all the faithful in support of the delicate and heavy mission of the Successor of the Apostle Peter as “guardian of the unity” of the Church.