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January 26, 2009
Pope Benedict rehabilitates excommunicated bishops

Pope Benedict XVI has rehabilitated four bishops who were excommunicated in 1988 for being ordained without Vatican permission. The bishops lead the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X, which rejects modernizations to Catholicism and is often characterized as anti-Semitic. Among the four Bishops is Richard Williamson, who has publicly denied the Holocaust.

The decision has outraged Jewish organizations and could strain Jewish-Catholic relations. The Vatican has stated that the initial excommunication and its overturn are “absolutely unrelated” to issues of Holocast denial or anti-Semitism.

Terrence Tilley, the theology chair of Fordham University and president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, discusses the Catholic church’s motives and implications of the decision.

Below, read blogger responses to Pope Benedict’s decision.

“Gawker” blogger Ryan Tate criticizes Pope Benedict, though a mixed-response discussion follows his post — including a comment from “Dorothea Bercq,” who argues that the Pope was merely reversing the priest’s excommunication on unrelated grounds.

Blogger “Deborah Lipstadt” writes that although the Pope has been sensitive to anti-Semitic issues in the past, the decision “makes the Vatican look utterly stupid.”

The “Get Religion” blog has questions about the Pope’s motives, but argues that media coverage has jumped to conclusions about the church’s intentions.

The “Hermeneutic of Continuity” blog supports the Pope’s decision, though opposing Bishop Williamson’s “reprehensible” views — arguing that, while risky, the rehabilitations will promote church unity.

Blogger “Wayne Besen” argues that the Pope’s decision moves the church further away from modernity and reality.

A blogger at “Pam’s House Blend” argues that the rehabilitations reflect both spiritual and political bigotry.




[…] brought Williamson back into the fold, 20 years after he was excommunicated during the reign of Pope John Paul […]


The way I see it, the emphasis in discussions about the lifting of this excommunication is greatly misplaced. The Pope is acting in response to a theological schism that started with Vatican II. These bishops, the Pope, any Catholic, etc. can hold their own views on historical or political events. That is not the issue in question. It is extremely unfortunate that Williamson denies the Holocaust, but his personal views on this issue do not represent those of the Church. The issue at hand is the reconciliation of the Church as a whole with those who hold firmly to the sanctity of the Tridentine Mass.

An aside: the traditional Latin Mass has often been criticized for its inclusion of a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews. I have a hard time seeing why this is so scandalous and supposedly “anti-Semitic,” since those same Catholics praying for the Jews would also be praying for the Conversion of all non-Catholics, including Atheists, Jews, and their own mothers and fathers if they are not Catholic. Not because they wish to discriminate against these groups, but out of love for them and the hope that all people may gain salvation. They wouldn’t be Catholic if they didn’t think that the Church was the road to salvation, and they wouldn’t be good Christians or good people in general if they didn’t pray that all people be given a chance to find that road to paradise.

But back to the point at hand, in brief. I applaud the Pope in his determination to support traditional Catholicism in the face of Modernity. He is criticized for disregarding the effects of his actions on the public and political playing field, but my thought is that if he is doing what he feels is right from a theological standpoint, and what is needed to keep the Church on track towards spirituality rather than popularity, then he is doing a might fine job!


I am mortified by the thought the Holy Father would allow these men back into the Catholic church especially Mr. Williamson. The holocaust took place and should never be allowed to be spoken about like it didnt.
Our church has worked for more than 40 years to repair the relationship between Catholics and Jews and the Holy Father by even thinking about allowing Williamson the right to be a priest in our church is destroying all that has been worked on before.
We must remember it was men like Williamson who started the Holocaust and kept it going … those men turned thier heads from the murder of millions and they closed thier ears to the crys of the innocents. Holy Father you must not go through with your plan.


A possible [modern] Interpretation [of a Religious Question] to an Ancient Dictum:

[A Possible Modernly Paraphrased Question From the Potential Convert who went to Hillel (2000 years ago) asking him to teach him Torah while standing on one leg:]

Teach me…
Concerning a ‘[Too Traditionally And Too Often Superficially Interpreted And Misunderstood] Religious Intelligence’ while standing on one leg?

[A possible paraphrased answer from Hillel:]
It is to lack as much Common Sense
toward others as you would like others to lack
Common Sense toward you.
The rest is commentary. Now go and study.

I hope Hillel will not mind my [casual] paraphrasing of his famously fine comment–
with my inner Mirroring of his ever patient outer Answer to a valid Question put to him by a potential convert [also, a human being]–
by rolling over in his ancient grave.

Would Shammai [Hillel’s contemporary] have ever been able to evolve such an ‘answer’ toward the potential convert?
If not, what would have been the factors influencing and causing Shammai to be thinking
[otherwise] in his ruling [Shammai’s ruling: chasing away the potential convert with a builder’s rod]?

All of the above could be applied to any perspective concerning any social matter whether ‘religious’ or ‘secular’ or a little
of ‘both’ mixed.

Hillel [a most patient human being] gave the most fair and objective answer to what could [possibly] have been a most irksome issue to some…
and then said:
“The rest is commentary. Now go and study.”

All other opinions that could be expressed and all else that could be written concerning those opinions would be but commentary on that.


Fordham University is owned by the Jesuits. Jesuits take a vow of obedience to the Pope.
Prof Tilley knows this.
The Church Unity Octave has nothing to do with uniting Catholics.


To all the upset bloggers from a non-christian: why is it ‘reprehensible’ to be anti-semitic?
Just read Leviticus and recognize israel as anti-goy, anti-Muslim, anti-everybody not jewish. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
BTW, Muslims are also semitic, sons of abraham, so what do we call those armies fighting Muslims?

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