Vatican statement on SSPX bishops most welcome, but a little late?

Hopefully lessons will be learned from the PR debacle that has resulted from the way the excommunication of the 4 renegade bishops has been communicated. I fully understand and sympathise with Benedict's good intentions in wanting draw these "lost sheep" back into the fold, but it is rather worrying (though also in another way reassuring) that he did not know about Williamson's opinions on the holocaust, etc... - Vatican issues statement on SSPX bishops

Posted on February 04, 2009, 11:45 AM | Margaret Cabaniss

The Vatican Secretariat of State released a statement today clarifying a few points on Benedict's lifting of the excommunication for the four SSPX bishops. The original statement is in Italian, but Joseph Komonchak over at Commonweal does some translating and pulls out the important information:

1) While the lifting of the excommunications relieves the four from a very serious canonical punishment, “it has not altered the juridical situation of the Society of St. Pius X which, at the moment enjoys no canonical recognition by the Catholic Church.” In addition, the four bishops “have no canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise a ministry within it.”

2) Any future recognition of the SSPX has as an “indispensable condition a full recognition of the Second Vatican Council” and of the last five popes.

3) For him to be admitted to episcopal functions in the Church, Bishop Williamson must repudiate absolutely unequivocally and publicly his positions with regard to the Shoah, which, the Note says, were not known to the Pope when he lifted the excommunication.

The first point is probably the most commonly misunderstood, as Zoe's post about Angela Merkel's reaction attests. None of the SSPX bishops has been "rehabilitated," merely "de-excommunicated." They still have not been readmitted to "episcopal functions in the Church" -- and, as today's note makes clear, that won't happen for Williamson without some serious apology first.

A good step -- but, as Zoe said, about a week late.

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