Note from the Secretariat of State

In the wake of reactions to the recent Decree of the Congregation for Bishops by which the excommunication of four prelates of the Society of Saint Pius X was remitted, and with regard to the negationist or reductionist statements made by Bishop Williamson concerning the Shoah, it seems opportune to clarify some aspects of the matter.

1. Remission of the Excommunication

As has already been publicly stated, the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, dated 21 January 2009, was an act by which the Holy Father responded benevolently to repeated requests from the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X.

His Holiness desired to remove an impediment which was prejudicial to the opening of a door to dialogue. He now awaits a corresponding gesture from the four bishops expressing total adherence to the doctrine and discipline of the Church. The very grave penalty of latae sententiae excommunication, which these bishops incurred on 30 June 1988, and which was formally declared on 1 July 1988, was a consequence of their having been illegitimately ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The remission of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a very serious canonical penalty, but it has not changed the juridical status of the Society of Saint Pius X, which presently does not enjoy any canonical recognition by the Catholic Church. The four bishops, even though they have been released from excommunication, have no canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise any ministry within it.

2. Tradition, Doctrine and the Second Vatican Council

A 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 for any future recognition of the Society of Saint Pius X.

As already stated in the Decree of 21 January 2009, the Holy See will not fail, in ways judged opportune, to engage with the interested parties in examining outstanding questions, so as to attain a full and satisfactory resolution of the problems that caused this painful rupture.

3. Statements about the Shoah

The positions of Bishop Williamson with regard to the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked on 28 January 2009 when, with reference to the heinous genocide, he reiterated his full and unquestionable solidarity with our brothers and sisters who received the First Covenant, and he affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide must lead "humanity to reflect upon the unfathomable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man", adding that the Shoah remains "a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism, because violence committed against one single human being is violence against all".

In order to be admitted to function as a Bishop within the Church, Bishop Williamson must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were unknown to the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication.

The Holy Father asks for the prayerful support of all the faithful, so that the Lord will enlighten the Church's path. May the commitment of the Pastors and all the faithful grow in support of the difficult and onerous mission of the Successor of Peter the Apostle, who "watches over the unity" of the Church.

From the Vatican, 4 February 2009


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
11 February 2009, page 2

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