Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 16, 2009
Lefebvrists unlikely to recognize the truth of Vatican II
It should be no surprise the Society of St. Pius X harboured Holocaust-deniers in its midst. The society, after all, was established not only to oppose liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, but to oppose the council's teaching on religious liberty, ecumenism and relations with other faiths.
Denying the Holocaust is not part of its raison d'etre. But a group that sees nothing of value in other faiths was bound to attract anti-Semites and their fellow travellers.
For the record, Vatican II taught that the Catholic Church "has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all people."
Now that the excommunications of the four "bishops" illicitly ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre are lifted and one of those bishops has denied the existence of the Holocaust, many people wonder whether the Catholic Church still holds the Jewish faith in particular in high regard. Well, it does. The statements by Pope Benedict and the Vatican's Secretariat of State should make that clear.
Unfortunately, those statements closed the barn door after the horse had escaped. The act of lifting the excommunications, instead of drawing the Society of St. Pius X closer to Rome, has drawn the Catholic Church closer in the public eye to the tawdry views of Holocaust deniers.
Pursuing Church unity can be a good thing. But it is only good if the process leads both groups closer to truth. In this case, that would mean bringing the traditionalist group closer to accepting the teachings of Vatican II.
Vatican II was not a bad dream, an off day at the races or the Church gone crazy. It was a council of all the bishops in union with Rome, convened by a legitimate pope, to renew the Church's self-understanding and teaching.
The council did not teach heresy but rather it taught authoritatively in union with Church Tradition. Lefebvre's group is not ready to accept that and there is little likelihood that it will do so soon.
Meanwhile, the great hallmark of the 20th century was the move towards unity among long-divided Christian churches – Catholic, Orthodox and those of the Reformation traditions. Ecumenical dialogue has been fruitful; longstanding mistrust has been eroded and deeper reflection on Scripture and Church history has shown we have more in common than previously thought. The election last month of a Russian Orthodox patriarch who is attuned to all that is but the latest hopeful sign.
At the very least, it would be more prudent for the Catholic Church to devote its ecumenical energies to dialogue with those who earnestly desire Christian unity than with those who think it is the road to perdition.
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