From the Vatican Secretary of State, 4 February 2009
“In the wake of reactions provoked by the recent Decree from the Congregation for Bishops lifting the excommunication on the four prelates of the Society of St. Pius X, and with reference to declarations denying and reducing the Shoah pronounced by Bishop Williamson, a member of that society, it is felt appropriate to clarify certain aspects of the issue:
1.Remission of the excommunication
“As has previously been explained, the Decree from the Congregation for Bishops, dated 21 January 2009, was an act by which the Holy Father benignly responded to repeated requests from the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X.
“His Holiness wished to remove an impediment that hindered the opening of a door to dialogue, and he now awaits a similar readiness to be expressed by the four bishops, in complete adherence to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.
“The extremely serious penalty of excommunication ‘latae sententia’, which these bishops incurred on 30 June 1988, formally announced on 1 July of the same year, was a consequence of their illegitimate ordination by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
“The remission of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from serious canonical penalty, but it has not altered the juridical position of the Society of St. Pius X which, at the present time, enjoys no canonical recognition within the Catholic Church. Even the four bishops, though released from excommunication, have no canonical function in the Church and cannot legally exercise a ministry within her.”
2. Tradition, doctrine and Vatican Council II
“An indispensable condition for any future recognition of the Society of St. Pius X is their full recognition of Vatican Council II and the Magesterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.
“As already affirmed in the Decree of 21 January 2009, the Holy See will not fail, in ways considered most appropriate, to join the parties concerned in a profound examination of outstanding issues, so as to be able to reach a full and satisfactory solution to the problems that gave rise to this painful split.
3. Declarations concerning the Shoah
“Msgr. Williamson’s views on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable, and firmly rejected by the Holy Father as he himself said on 28 January when, referring to that brutal genocide, he reiterated his complete and indisputable solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters who receivedthe First Covenant, affirming that the memory of that terrible event must ‘induce humankind to reflect upon the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man’, adding that the Shoah remains ‘an admonition for everyone against oblivion, negation and reductionism, because violence against a single human being is violence against all’.
“In order to be readmitted to episcopal functions within the Church, Bishop Williamson must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his views concerning the Shoah, which were unknown to the Holy Father at the moment he lifted the excommunication.
“The Holy Father asks all the faithful to accompany him in prayer, that the Lord may illuminate the path of the Church. May all pastors and faithful increase their commitment in support of the delicate and onerous mission of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, the ‘custodian of unity’ within the Church.”