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
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
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
From the Vatican, 4