Monday, February 02, 2009

Catholic Dems Chide Pope Over Lifting Excommunications

(Hat tip: A Catholic View)

From the Catholic League:

On January 29, nearly 50 Catholic Democratic congressmen sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI stating their concerns over Bishop Richard Williamson’s comments questioning the historical record on the Holocaust. The bishop belongs to the St. Pius X Society, a group which recently had its excommunication lifted by the pope. The congressmen implored the pope to denounce the bishop’s views.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue spoke to this issue today:

“The congressmen’s letter to the pope smacks of posturing and hypocrisy, and is factually wrong. They begin by saying ‘we are writing to express our deep concerns with your decision to reinstate Bishop Richard Williamson to communion with the Catholic Church….’ The fact is that the pope did not reinstate the bishop to communion with the Church—he merely lifted the excommunication of the group to which he belongs. In order for the group to be fully reinstated, it would have to express its fidelity to the teachings of the Church, as well as the norms of Vatican II. In other words, the letter is based on a false predicate.

“Facts aside, this kind of posturing is a disgrace: for American congressmen to lecture the pope about an event in which he was personally victimized, and about which he has long condemned, is nothing short of arrogant.

“The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. They beg the pope to ‘publicly state your unequivocal position on this matter so that it is clear where the Church stands….’ How ironic that most of these very same Catholics fail to speak with clarity about what the Church teaches on abortion. Of the 47 signatories, the majority have a 100 percent NARAL score (meaning they vote with the radical pro-abortion group on every issue). The leader of this group, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, never agrees with the Catholic Church on abortion—her NARAL score is 100 percent.

“One more thing: they addressed the pope not as a head of state but as a ‘spiritual leader.’ Didn’t they ever hear of respecting separation of church and state?”

Please contact Congresswoman DeLauro at her
My Comments:
Let me see if I have this straight: a bunch of dissident Catholics - who many believe should have long ago been excommunicated for advocating and defending the American holocaust of the unborn - have the chutzpah to lecture the Pope for lifting the excommunication of the SSPX Bishops, including one Bishop who is a Jew-hating Holocaust denier, when the excommunication itself was for reasons unrelated to said Bishop's anti-semitism?

Readers of this blog will know that I have no tolerance for the sort of anti-semitism exhibited by Bishop Williamson. Indeed, the mere fact that a Cardinal of the Church recently exhibited insensitivity toward what the Jews uniquely suffered in the Shoah drew a strong rebuke from me.

Nevertheless, one should inform these Catholic Democrats that it is arguably less worthy of excommunication from a Catholic perspective to deny the truth and extent of the Jewish Holocaust than it is to openly, publicly, and defiantly flout the Church's teaching on abortion by fighting for the continued legalization of the holocaust of 50 million (and counting) unborn children.

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Catholics Dems in Congress Seek Ally Against War

A Liberal Mix of Religion and Politics: When Catholic Politicians Face Excommunication

Bishops’ Conference Responds To 18 Democrats Critical Of Pope

This Week's Rosie Award Winner: Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives

House Dems Repudiate Pope’s Abortion Remarks

Belated Rosie Award Winner for Last Week: Sen. Patrick Leahy

Democrat Response to Pope's Abortion Comments

Catholic Democrats Assert "Primacy of Conscience" Over Church Teaching

Public Officials Under God

Catholic League: Democrats, Catholics and Abortion

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At 2/02/2009 10:52 PM, Blogger A Y said...

I understand the disdain of pro-choice Democrats writing the Pope over this, because that is hypocritical. I do think, apart from that, it was a terrible decision by the pope to reinstate that bishop, though.

At 2/02/2009 11:34 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"... it was a terrible decision by the pope to reinstate that bishop ..."

Why? From a canon law perspective, why was lifting Williamson's excommunication along with the other SSPX Bishops a terrible decision? Is accepting the truth of the Holocaust a matter of Catholic dogma, the denial of which merits continued excommunication? If the original reasons for excommunication are no longer valid, why shouldn't the excommunication be lifted? Or is the point merely that this man holds detestable opinions and therefore he should remain excommunicated even though his exommunication had nothing to do with his detestable opinions?

Or do you mean terrible from a P.R. perspective? The Church doesn't do things based on how it will play in the media. If lifting the excommunications as a step toward bringing the SSPX back into communion with the Church was the right thing to do from the perspective of Christian unity, who cares how it plays in the media?

At 2/03/2009 12:28 AM, Blogger A Y said...

I think that Williamson's blatant antisemitism and hatred of homosexuals was enough to warrant not bringing him back. I think that the pope should have required him to publicly recant those views before lifting the excommunication. I just cannot see how the Church benefits in any way from hateful people. Bishop Williamson's views on Jews and homosexuals are so contrary to the Gospel that I cannot understand why the Pope would want to go out of his way to readmit him into the Church. I am a fan of a diverse pool of thoughts in the Catholic Church, but I cannot tolerate hate. I guess I cannot understand how someone with views so radically contrary to the Gospel would have his excommunication lifted, even if those views were not explicitly the reason for which he was excommunicated.

I guess I am also suspicious of SSPX as well, and I hope that bringing them back into communion with the Church is not the source of division that I think it will be. I think, like the motu proprio that the Pope released regarding the Tridentine Mass, reinstating SSPX is going to cause division. I do think the pope has good intentions, but I don't think he sees how these things play out practically. I honestly don't think the radical traditionalists care about Christian unity, and I get the sense that many of them will see this as a concession that the Church was wrong in excommunicating these bishops in the first place.

Maybe I am off-base, and I hope that I am proven wrong over time. I have seen all the ugly politics revolving around the anti-Vatican II, pro-Tridentine Mass. I spent a year in seminary, and I have never in my life encountered more division and anger than that caused by people who sympathize with SSPX. They honestly think that the Tridentine Mass is "better" than the Novus Ordo and that everyone in the Church should obviously recognize this.

I have no problem with people desiring to go to the Tridentine Mass. My issue is that the radical pro-Tridentine people are not content that they are allowed to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. They want everyone in the Church to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. I do not understand it. I am only 22 years old, and have been a Catholic all my life, so I am a post-conciliar Catholic. I grew up going to the Novus Ordo Mass, and I cannot tell you how hurtful it is to have people tell me that my experiences as a Catholic have somehow been deficient because the Church decided to update the liturgy.

I can't claim that I am a completely unbiased examiner of the topic, because I am not. I am just offering my own perspective on the events. I just hope the people in SSPX are actually willing to meet the people that disagree with them half way.

At 2/03/2009 7:44 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I have my doubts about SSPX as well, but I'll trust the Pope on this.

It's funny that the SSPX/rad-trad folks and the Spirit of Vatican II folks really are the flip-side of the same coin: both believe that Vatican II was some kind of radical break with the past and with Catholic Tradition. But, in my opinion, as divisive as the SSPX folks are, it is the SOV2 folks who have caused the much greater amount of damage and divisiveness.

At 2/03/2009 9:53 AM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

I do think, apart from that, it was a terrible decision by the pope to reinstate that bishop, though.

Except he hasn't been reinstated. He is a suspended Bishop.

Bishop Williamson's views on Jews and homosexuals are so contrary to the Gospel that I cannot understand why the Pope would want to go out of his way to readmit him into the Church.

He didn't.

At 2/03/2009 12:31 PM, Blogger A Y said...

Jay, I do agree that there are radicals on both sides. I think there is a legitimate case of a "Spirit of Vatican II," so long as it is not a radical break from tradition. Vatican II was meant to bring the tradition into contemporary society and I think there are better and worse ways to implement that. I don't have any more use for the far left radicals that are bent on doing things their own way without regard for the bishops and pope.

For instance, I would support the ordination of women and think that it would be good to do so. I do not, however, support radicals who take it upon themselves to ordain women in a sheer act of disobedience. The Church does not ordain women right now, and although I think one can legitimately disagree, I don't think it is right to go disobey and go ahead with false ordinations.

Paul, I realize that Williamson will probably have no pastoral duties, but I still think that the Church would be wise to distance herself from radicals. I just do not think that someone so full of hate deserves to be in communion with the Church. If this were a lay person, my views would be the same. I am not a fan of making it easy to be excommunicated, but from what I have read someone like Williamson is so radical that his presence in the Church, in any form, is detrimental as far as I can see. I think there is a prudential aspect to this insofar as if lifting an excommunication will be a stumbling block for the faithful, then it should probably not happen until the said person publicly repudiates his views. I guess I just don't see the good in any of it.

I am not, however, denying the possibility of Williamson's salvation or casting judgment on him in that way. He has some serious issues that he needs to work out with the Lord. I guess I just think the situation could have been handled in a much better manner. I guess this is easy for me to say, though, because I am not the Pope. I wouldn't want his job for anything!

At 2/03/2009 12:49 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"I would support the ordination of women and think that it would be good to do so."

Shouldn't be done. Won't be done. And, in fact CAN'T be done. The male priesthood is de fide (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis), and the sooner folks accept this the better:

... Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

Invoking an abundance of divine assistance upon you, venerable brothers, and upon all the faithful, I impart my apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, on May 22, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 1994, the sixteenth of my Pontificate.

(emphasis added)

At 2/03/2009 1:02 PM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

I just do not think that someone so full of hate deserves to be in communion with the Church

So let me get this straight. You support something - priestly ordination of women - which is completely contrary to Church doctrine, but yet you think someone who holds - albeit vile - opinions that do not touch upon Church doctrine, ought not be in full communion with the Church.


At 2/03/2009 1:28 PM, Blogger A Y said...

Yes, you have that right, I do disagree with Pope John Paul II's letter on priestly ordination. I realize that he said that his judgment is to be held definitive. I do not accept the reasoning given for not ordaining women, and I certainly cannot force myself to believe something that just does not make sense to me. I don't think we should excommunicate people for simply holding unorthodox views, but at the same time I do not think the Church can tolerate hatred.

Do I think that things are going to change? I don't, but all I am saying is that I would welcome such change. I don't let the fact that I unashamedly disagree with the Church on the ordination of women become a stumbling block. I can accept the fact that the Vatican is not going to change regarding women ordination, but when I discuss women ordination I certainly do so in charity.

I guess I don't see any reason for there to be a requirement for every Catholic to believe the same exact things regarding doctrine. I think there can be legitimate areas of disagreement, but antisemitism is not only horrific, but is empirically destructive. Peoples lives have been ruined, families destroyed, etc. because of the hateful views of someone like Williamson. That is why I cannot make a comparison between women ordination and someone who hates Jews.

At 2/03/2009 1:58 PM, Anonymous paul zummo said...


Essentially what you're saying is all that matters is whether or not you're a nice guy who holds otherwise tolerable views. Unfortunately for you, that is not how the Church views things. It doesn't matter how you feel about the issue of female ordination. The fact is that the Church has always held that the priesthood is the exclusive domain of men, and it can no more change its teaching on this than it can on its teachings regarding birth control, abortion, or the trinity.

I think that Bishop Williams's views are intolerable, but they nonetheless do not touch upon doctrine. Are we to rid ourselves of all people within the Church who hold odious views, whatever the topic? The Church is not made up of angels, and we have to tolerate those in our midst who hold opinions that we disagree with, no matter how disgusting they may seem to us, so long as they do not contradict doctrine.

As for this:

I guess I don't see any reason for there to be a requirement for every Catholic to believe the same exact things regarding doctrine.

Again, it real doesn't matter if you can't see the reason, the fact remains that anything short of failure to submit to the doctrines of the Church is cafeteria Catholicism. In the end, you might be a nicer guy than Bishop Williams, but you happen to hold more heretical views than he does.

At 2/03/2009 2:18 PM, Blogger A Y said...

I agree, I am a cafeteria Catholic. I have never thought it to be central to the message of the Gospel that everyone agrees on every point of doctrine. Christian unity does not mean everyone must agree on everything. I do think that it is central to the message of the Gospel, however, not to hate other people.

I also agree that it doesn't really think what any given individual thinks about matters. What does matter, however, are the reasons. I am not convinced that it is a good enough reason to say that the Church hasn't ordained women for 2000 years, therefore the Church cannot ordain women now. That would sort of appeal to tradition does not work in any other discipline, so I don't think it really works in the Church.

I just cannot understand the concept within the Vatican that is something along the lines of, "if we say something loud enough, stern enough, and long enough, then the message will obtain a special authority." The fact that John Paul II says, for instance, that all the faithful is to regard his teaching as definitive means little to me, because I cannot simply change my mind because someone tells me to change my mind. It is not that I disrespect the popes, but it is just a point that if something does not make sense to me, then how can I be expected to hold that belief definitively? Is it really necessary to believe that believing in a male only ordination is central to the Gospel message? I don't think it is, which is why I will no longer feel bad when I disagree with the popes on the matter. Now if I were arguing that Jesus was not God, then it would be a little harder for me to remain a Catholic, because that is the foundation on which the Christian faith stands. I don't think the male only clergy has that same sort of standing.

I guess if you want to consider me a "heretic," go ahead. I am really not concerned about whether people think I hold more heretical views than Williamson, because my goal is not to be more orthodox than an antisemite. My goal is to live the Christian life the best way I can, and to be as good an influence on the people around me as I can.

At 2/03/2009 2:28 PM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

I agree, I am a cafeteria Catholic.

Good, then there's no further need for discussion.

At 2/03/2009 2:56 PM, Blogger A Y said...

Of course not. Why would we actually want to discuss anything?

Is that what your idea of dialogue is? If someone does not agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches, they are not worth talking to? Is that your idea of seeking truth? That is unbelievable. I can understand your disagreement with my only choosing what seems reasonable to me, given Church teaching on the matter. I cannot understand, however, your unwillingness to even hear me out.

I am certainly open to changing my mind, and am willing to listen to any ideas you might have. I don't understand how you can expect me to agree with you, however, if you don't present any reasons, other than the ad hominem of "oh, you are a cafeteria Catholic?"

At 2/04/2009 8:37 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

A Y,

Did you get my email? For some reason, my emails tend to wind up in peoples' junk mail and spam folders, so if you didn't get it, you might want to check to see if it wound up in your spam folder.

At 2/04/2009 8:33 PM, Blogger A Y said...

Yes, I did get your email Jay. I appreciate your response. I appreciate the links you sent me as well.


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