Il Corriere della Sera, the Italian daily from Milan, is reporting today that Chancellor Merkel of Germany spoke somewhat critically of the Pope’s response to the ongoing controversy stirred up by Bishop Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) when Williamson denied on Swedish television that six million Jews were gassed by the Nazis. The Pope lifted the excommunications on Williamson and three other SSPX bishops recently.
Merkel is reported to have declared that the clarifications of the Vatican on the reintegration of Williamson are “insufficient”. She is asking the Pope to clarify in certain terms that it is not possible to deny the Holocaust and that there must be a positive relationship with the Jewish world. She said that the Pope’s lifting of the excommunication of Williamson leaves the impression that one can deny the Holocaust, and the Vatican must affirm very clearly that there cannot be here any denial. Apparently, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the ex-president of the German Bishops’ Conference stated that this controversy can be resolved only by apologies at “a high level”. Lehmann sees the Pope’s decision to readmit Williamson to the Church as a “catastrophe for the survivors of the Holocaust”. He has asked for the resignation of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, a member of the Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, who has indicated he had been unaware of Williamson’s denials of the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, this controversy is not going away.
I don’t know how one can accuse the Pope of anything improper here. The problem seems squarely in the lap of Williamson and the SSPX. The Church has brought back into communion a former member in a way only the Pope could accomplish, given the reason for the excommunication in the first place.
Forgiveness is good.
The impression of some is the Church tacitly condones Williamson’s ignorance and prejudices, which it certainly does not. Any fair reading of Church documents and teaching in the past many decades reveal this, as do Pope Benedict’s own statements, present and past.
Let us pray for all victims of prejudice and persecution, especially our Jewish brothers and sisters.