The Tablet, June 6, 2009
The four Lefebvrist bishops whom Pope Benedict XVI partially rehabilitated in January have defended their decision to ordain 21 priests into the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), sparking alarm among German-speaking bishops.
In January the Pope lifted the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops, including British-born Richard Williamson, a Holocaust-denier, but the men remain suspended.The ordinations are to take place in three of the Society's seminaries at the end of June, according to a round-robin letter published on SSPX websites on Monday.
Three men will be ordained at Zaitzkofen in Bavaria, 13 at the St Thomas Aquinas Seminary at Winona, Minnesota, and the rest at the SSPX headquarters at Ecône in Switzerland.
The President of the Vatican's Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, is considering visiting Ecône on 29 June, according to a French priest Claude Barthe, the French right-wing newspaper Présent reported.
The priest said the cardinal's visit would be aimed at hastening the implementation of a provisional agreement "for the good of [the clerics'] souls".
On 4 July the cardinal turns 80, the age at which membership of curial congregations usually ends, and it is widely believed that Cardinal Castrillón wanted to have the SSPX fully reintegrated before he retired.
Following the huge outcry over the lifting of the excommunications, in March the Pope wrote an unprecedented letter to bishops around the world expressly stating that the Society did not have a canonical status in the Church and its ministers did not exercise legitimate ministries.
However, the SSPX communiqué argues that the ordinations will be taking place with the permission of the Holy See.
"During the period in which convergence and understanding with Rome is being sought, the SSPX has a provisional legal status for an indefinite period of time until, after the theological talks are over, a definitive canonical ruling is found. That is what the ‘line of approach' which has been agreed to by the Vatican foresees. In none of the talks up to now has there ever been any mention of ‘putting a stop to ordinations' in general. On the contrary, the lifting of the excommunications was meant to show a willingness to cooperate without putting any restrictions on the life of the Society."
There was no comment from the Vatican on the SSPX's statement.
In an interview with Vatican Radio on 1 June, the Bishop of Regensburg, Gerhard Müller, in whose diocese Zaitzkofen lies, said he contacted the Zaitzkofen seminary as soon as he read about the SSPX plans.
"I told them that the ordinations were against canon law and that in such a precarious situation one must allow Rome to prescribe how to proceed. "Calling the ordinations "a provocation", he said: "One simply must suspend everything until this Society's position is cleared up as far as canon law is concerned."
In the letter the Society wrote to the Pope in January, they said they fully accepted the Pope's primacy ... [T]hey are not prepared to take the consequences."
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who founded SSPX, was suspended a divinis in 1976 for ordaining priests without church approval, and excommunicated in 1988 automatically when he ordained four priests as bishops illicitly.
I can't see where Pope Benedict can be shocked by the simple fact SSPX is going to do what it wants to do. It always has and it always will. Like a lot of other ultra conservative groups it will talk the talk only if it benefits them. Other wise they do what they want to do--righteously of course. They aren't prepared to take the consequences of fully accepting the Pope's primacy because they don't accept the Pope's primacy. They don't accept any pope since Pius XII.
What bothers me more though, is that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is lending his support to what are illicit ordinations. This shouldn't come as a shock to Pope Benedict either. Cardinal Hoyos is another one who marches to his own Latin Mass drum beat. His fellow Cardinals have referred to him as 'imperious'. Latin goes with imperious. So do red Maserati's.
German Bishops have a right to be upset with the SSPX, and they have a right to be upset with the Vatican. This isn't a propitious time for blatant anti semites to be given recognition in Catholicism nor have their irregularities attended by a high ranking Vatican official, no matter how imperious that official might be. It makes one wonder if the Vatican is unable to control the conservatives, is in collusion with them, or just plain in fear of them.
Given the shooting yesterday at the National Holocaust Museum, another indication that the ultra right is getting out of control, I don't think Benedict can afford to let the SSPX continue with impunity. This group will always be under suspicion for anti semitism because so many of their spokesman are blatant anti semites who truly believe the real tradition of the Church states that Jews are Jesus killers. Like anti abortion proponents state Dr. Tiller was a baby killer.
Right wing groups who use fear and scapegoating are enormously uncomfortable when progressive movements gain ascendancy. They will use terrorist tactics to prove their point that the world is safer when they are in control of things. They violently act on their own self fulfilling prophecy. They create the fear we are to fear. They do what ever they want to prove no one has any authority over them.
Pope Benedict, like President Obama, was powerful in setting a different tone in rhetoric for the Middle East. Both of them now have to step up to the voices on the right and have the courage to make the point that the world is desperate for real meaningful change. President Obama and Home Land Security will have to set the message in the States, and Pope Benedict will have to underscore the message in the Catholic world. He could start with SSPX and Cardinal Hoyos.