A Better Way to Apologize for Holocaust Denial

This Reuters story describing a Catholic group apologizing for some Holocaust denial remarks is a bit odd,

The leader of a traditionalist Catholic movement apologized to Pope Benedict on Tuesday for remarks denying the Holocaust made by one of his members whom the pope recently rehabilitated.

Bishop Bernard Fellay also said that he had disciplined the bishop who made the statement, British-born Richard Williamson, and ordered him not to speak out again on any political or historical issues.

Williamson’s remarks on the Holocaust, most recently on Swedish TV last week, provoked widespread criticism by Jews who said he had wiped out nearly half a century of dialogue with Catholics.

Now maybe I’m missing something here, but shouldn’t Fellay be apologizing to — oh, I don’t know, maybe the Jews and other racial minorities who were the main victims of the Holocaust?

And this is not just a case of Reuters leaving something out. This is the entire text of Fellay’s statement,

Statement of His Excellency Bernard Fellay, Superior of the Fraternity of St. Pius X

We have become aware of an interview released by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of our Fraternity of St. Pius X, to Swedish television. In this interview, he expressed himself on historical questions, and in particular on the question of the genocide against the Jews carried out by the Nazis.

It’s clear that a Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesiastical authority except on questions that regard faith and morals. Our Fraternity does not claim any authority on other matters. Its mission is the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine, expressed in the dogmas of the faith. It’s for this reason that we are known, accepted and respected in the entire world.

It’s with great sadness that we recognize the extent to which the violation of this mandate has done damage to our mission. The affirmations of Bishop Williamson do not reflect in any sense the position of our Fraternity. For this reason I have prohibited him, pending any new orders, from taking any public positions on political or historical questions.

We ask the forgiveness of the Supreme Pontiff, and of all people of good will, for the dramatic consequences of this act. Because we recognize how ill-advised these declarations were, we can only look with sadness at the way in which they have directly struck our Fraternity, discrediting its mission.

This is something we cannot accept, and we declare that we will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and to administer the sacraments of grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is not a “we’re sorry we tolerate such ignorance in our midsts” apology; rather this is a “we’re sorry we embarrassed the Pope so soon after he un-excommunicated us.”

Not surprising. Fellay’s Society of St. Pius X has long been riddled with antisemitism, but, of course, that is not why it was excommunicated. That action was taken because in 1988 Fellay was ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (then head of the Society) against the wishes and permission of Pope John Paul II.

Obviously it wasn’t the anti-semitism that bothered the Church, or else they would never have rehabilitated the organization in the first place.

Post Revisions:

Leave a Reply