20 October 2011

A Transalpine Take on the Recent Comments of Bishop Williamson

In case you haven't followed it, there is another generated-controversy surrounding Bishop Richard Williamson of the SSPX.  In what sure seems to be a recurring template:
  1. it has angered Jewish religious leaders who want the Pope to disavow the SSPX;
  2. it has threatened what appears to be a thisclose settlement of the SSPX/Rome dispute; and, 
  3. it puts Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the SSPX in a most uncomfortable and delicate position.
Now, I know for to certainty that many of my readers will have differing opinions as to the cause of the controversy itself and the template to intimidate the Pope, discredit the SSPX in particular and traditional Catholics in general, and sink the chance of SSPX reconciliation.  

Bishop Williamson's comments (which can be found here) about the issue of the responsibility for the death of Jesus contain truth, but not the complete truth.  We are all responsible for His death.  Every one of us.  And yes, the bishop speaks only of the immediate, judicial responsibility.  OK, great.  I get it.  But so what?

My take on this, as it has been in each of the manufactured controversies surrounding Williamson's actions in the past few years, is that it strikes me that though many people (including the interreligious dialogue, anti-Catholic crowd both inside and outside the Church) have a vested interest in killing an SSPX reconciliation, I also suspect that Bishop Williamson himself wants to kill it.  This further leads me to suspect that he is generating, or at least enjoying, these controversies.

Of course, I would also say that though of course Jewish religious leaders may have concern about how Catholics may view them, they should not have any input on who is or is not Catholic, nor should they presume to make demands upon the Holy Father not to exercise mercy towards persons against whom they have a grievance, legitimate or not.

Fr. Michael Mary, FSSR, who is the Superior of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (also known as the Transalpine Redemptorists), a group that formerly had ties to the SSPX but which has since been reconciled to the Holy See, has this interesting commentary.  I print it below for your consideration.  

Perhaps the best indicator that the SSPX/Rome talks are going well is the appearance of another media-storm to kill it.  The matter is one for prayer, now as ever.


(By Fr. Michael Mary, FSSR) I make the following personal response; my own take on the matter:

I was very sorry to read the article.  We are all further hurt or tarnished or tarred by it:  The Jewish people are hurt, the Church in general is tarnished, and traditional Catholics and most of the SSPX faithful are tarred.

The Williamson article is political.  It is an aggressive strategy.  Its objective is to sow trouble between the SSPX and the Church, and between the Church and the Jewish people.  It works well.

Williamson can cause great trouble only because he is a bishop; even though he is an illegitimate bishop who will not submit himself to legitimate authority.

The SSPX leadership would probably like to expel him
but fear that he would begin his own group here in the UK and beyond.

SSPX clergy do not speak out publicly against Bishop Williamson nor against the Menzingen Authorities for doing nothing that will effectively stop him.

The situation is extraordinary. The SSPX cannot control their man who is harming the Church and their own group.

Now is the time when the helpless SSPX Superior General who lacks jurisdiction, and knows he lacks the necessary jurisdiction over his equal, should ask the Holy Father to defrock the illegitimate bishop; in the kindest possible way.

Fr. Michael May, F.SS.R.


Anonymous said...

I am confused with vocabulary in Fr. Michael May's letter. I am aware that the Church uses the words illicit and invalid in its lexicon. When did the word illegitimate become part of this lexicon especially when referring to priests and bishops?

Anonymous said...

You know, if it wasn't a difficult enough task to work towards the regularization of the Society within the Church, Bishop Williamson seems to have a knack of throwing sand in the machine. I am confused as well with Father May's comment that he is an illegitimate Bishop; that's not the case, but he is right in that Bishop Fellay is put in a most difficult position. Perhaps, in union with the leadership in the Society, Bishop Fellay would formally and publicly ask him to cease.

More than ever, this regularization is needed - what a true 'springtime of Faith' that day will usher in. Besides, ambulance chasers like Abe Foxman don't need the extra fodder.


StGuyFawkes said...

Father May is pointing to the probable path of least resistance for the Holy Father. Defrocking Bp. Williamson would in effect satisfy the representatives of our "Older Brothers in the Faith" and the mission of the Church to bring the SSPX back.

I don't know what grounds he could use in canon law however.

Yes, the Jews were the proximate cause of Christ's death but that's because HE WAS ONE OF THEM. That was His community. The Jews were the patch of humanity near and at hand to accomplish the salvation narrative.

Of course it is not accidental that Jews played this role. Christ's rejection by some members of a righteous people underscores the need for Christ to accomplish full salvation and righteousness.

The crucifixion underscores and highlights two kinds of righteousness, the righteousness of the Sinai covenant and the righteousness of Christ's offer of salvation. Both are from God. One is deeper than the other and cannot be explained except by contrast.

thetimman said...

anonymous (and a reminder that anonymous comments are not allowed--please use a moniker of some kind) and /s,

I get your point about the term "illegitimate". But I think what he meant is that the ordination was irregular and hence the bishop lacks legitimacy in the same sense that the Bishop Thuc "line" of bishops is considered illegitimate, and has been referred to as such in trad circles. Of course Bishop Williamson is a real bishop. Of course he is not excommunicated. Perhaps he thought using a term like illegitimate instead of suspended was less inflammatory. I don't know.

I respect the SSPX and pray for a solution to this mess. And while I agree that Foxman and others want to skewer Williamson, the Pope and the whole Church if they could, in this case Williamson himself is completely responsible for composing and publishing the article. He has no excuse that he was surprised at an interview, or that it was used unfairly, like the famous Swedish tv thing.

So, either Williamson is unstable, or he has a definite agenda to sink the reconciliation. I don't think he is unstable.

If he has a definite agenda, then I will give him credit for the best of intentions-- he thinks that a reconciliation between SSPX and "modernist Rome" will compromise the Church and kill the SSPX. Perhaps he thinks that if he points out all of the things he sees as true and Rome still reconciles the SSPX, then perhaps Rome "gets it". And if his shouting from the rooftops kills the deal, then "modernist Rome" isn't the Church anyway.

Maybe I misunderstand. But I certainly disagree with the approach, if that is accurately stated.

Peter is the Church. All of the (to use a highly sanitized term) foolishness among the Bishops and laity, even in circles close to the Pope, cannot change that fact. It doesn't change the Church's timeless teachings, either, however much any Churchman wants to obscure it.

The Church saves us. We don't save the Church.

I think the SSPX receiving unquestioned jurisdiction and faculties will do wonders for the restoration of the faith throughout the world. I understand why the Church's enemies fear it. I don't understand why Williamson does. Is he afraid of success?

Phil said...

It’s interesting to me that on a “traditional” blog the comments to this article are focused on what Bishop Williamson said, his motive for saying it, in some cases the effect that his words would have on the “reconciliation” discussions and even the mental capacity of the Bishop himself. Is what the Bishop said wrong? Are his interpretations of the Gospel, St. Thomas and Leo XIII false or in accurate? There seems to be no concern over the comments by Pope Benedict XVI or the US Bishops’ Conference’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of which the Bishop’s whole article is a rebuttal. I for one am more concerned with a Bishop in “legitimate” standing that says “that one cannot charge the Jewish people with deicide at any time in history without falling out of communion with the Catholic Church” than with what Bishop Williamson says in his article. Maybe Bishop Williamson’s motivation is exactly what he stated in the article, that it’s time to recall what the church has always taught, rather than be confused by what is now being said by it’s leaders

thetimman said...

Phil, two things in response:

I'm a traditional Catholic but the blog is read by all sorts, Catholic and non. Probably some don't know the terminology or history of some things that you or I might know well.

2. I think traditional Catholics are well-acquainted with the many problems coming out of many parts and persons of the official Church hierarchy. I take some of it as a given-- you can peruse the more than four years of archives to get plenty on that. I tried to convey that as well in the post. My focus in this post is the reality of what the Bishop's comments do to the dynamic situation of the SSPX-Rome talks.

Phil said...


I’m a frequent reader but rare commenter of your blog and very much appreciate your sight. I’m aware that you are defender of Catholic tradition against the modernism that exists in the Church today.

Bishop Williamson if nothing else has been made into a controversial figure. I don’t pretend to know if he enjoys/wants that status or not. What I do know is that he was saying these same sort of things when he was excommunicated, unexcommunicated, before Archbishop Bishop Lefebvre died, after he died, when he was a rector of a seminary, after he was removed as a rector, before the doctrinal discussions, after the doctrinal discussions, before Bishop Fellay was Superior General, since he has been Superior General, before Bishop Fellay threatened to kick him out of the SSPX and now after he has been threatened to be kicked out. He has said these same things in season and out of season. Based on this I don’t think you can say that he is making these comments for “political” reasons as Fr. May has stated. What was his reason for saying them long before this “political” environment existed? What does he benefit now by saying them?

I can’t agree with you, thetimman, that there can only be two reason he would say these things now a) that he is unstable or b) that he is trying to sink the reconciliation. Maybe he is just trying to defend Catholic tradition. If that has the consequence of “sinking” the reconciliation process then so be it. Because, I do agree with you in what I think is the point you are making when you say the “The Church saves us, we don’t save the Church”. There is no human solution to the situation in the church only a supernatural one. No level of flattery from one side or the other is going to fix this problem.

Phil said...

By the way, I appreciate your site as well!

The Viking said...

Well said Phil.
I would also like to point out that it may very well be political in itself to try and find the cause of Bishop Williamson's actions by giving two possible reasons.
I know the Bishop quite well and I can tell you for certain that he does not care to lead any rogue movement nor does he like the politic of Church governance.
No, his agenda, to borrow a liberal term, is to preach the Faith no matter the political cost.
How does that differ from this sort of thing, which Eleison Comments two weeks ago mentioned?

Whether Christ's persecutors knew who He was?
Among the Jews some were elders, and others of lesser degree. Now according to the author of De Qq. Nov. et Vet. Test., qu. lxvi, the elders, who were called "rulers, knew," as did also the devils, "that He was the Christ promised in the Law: for they saw all the signs in Him which the prophets said would come to pass: but they did not know the mystery of His Godhead." Consequently the Apostle says: "If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory." It must, however, be understood that their ignorance did not excuse them from crime, because it was, as it were, affected ignorance. For they saw manifest signs of His Godhead; yet they perverted them out of hatred and envy of Christ; neither would they believe His words, whereby He avowed that He was the Son of God. Hence He Himself says of them (John 15:22): "If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin." And afterwards He adds (John 15:24): "If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin." And so the expression employed by Job (21:14) can be accepted on their behalf: "(Who) said to God: depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways."

But those of lesser degree--namely, the common folk--who had not grasped the mysteries of the Scriptures, did not fully comprehend that He was the Christ or the Son of God. For although some of them believed in Him, yet the multitude did not; and if they doubted sometimes whether He was the Christ, on account of the manifold signs and force of His teaching, as is stated John 7:31-41, nevertheless they were deceived afterwards by their rulers, so that they did not believe Him to be the Son of God or the Christ. Hence Peter said to them: "I know that you did it through ignorance, as did also your rulers"--namely, because they were seduced by the rulers.