In last days there have been intensive discussions about the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to accept four bishops from the Society of Saint Pius X back to the Catholic Church. The procedure is criticized on many fronts. The whole discussion is getting heated because one of the four bishops with illegitimate but valid consecration denied the Holocaust in a TV interview. Therefore we consider as important to publicize our statement.
1. We welcome the effort of Benedict XVI at the Church unity. By this gesture he made a great step towards the Society of Saint Pius X which is now to react. It is the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council conclusions, still rejected by the Society in their decisive parts, which must be considered at most. The recognition of religious freedom and the freedom of conscience, as well as recognition of Judaism as an autonomous path of redemption (Nostra Aetate - Cathcon follow link for what the document actually says!), belongs substantially to the self-conception of the Catholic Church. The Society of Saint Pius X which excluded itself from the Catholic Church by the forbidden but valid consecration of four bishops in 1988 still stresses that the compliance is not possible until the Catholic Church persists in the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council.
2. Bishop Williamson’s denial of the Holocaust has nothing to do with the Pope's efforts to renew the unity with the Society of Saint Pius X as it follows from the release of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See dated February 4, 2009. At the moment of the excommunication lift the Holy Father was not familiar with the attitudes of Bishop Williamson towards Shoa. Thus the media news of the type "The Pope rehabilitates a Holocaust denier" is underlying a connection which was not intended. Therefore the Pope, after the statement of Bishop Williamson was published, once again expressly dissociated himself from any relativization of crimes against the Jews. We welcome the immediate and clear attitude of the Pope given at the general audience on January 28, 2009. Benedict XVI again clearly expressed his solidarity with the Jews. He also stressed the obligation of the Catholic Church to fight against any form of Antisemitism and Antijudaism. Meanwhile the Vatican Secretary of State called on Bishop Williamson to dissociate clearly and openly from his statements on the Holocaust.
3. It is necessary to stress that the re-acceptance of four bishops to the Catholic Church by the Pope is only a sign for further optional way which the members of the Society of Saint Pius X must only take. The bishops from the Society still cannot hold the episcopal or clerical office in the Catholic Church because their relation towards the Catholic Church and its doctrine has not been cleared yet. The Society itself is not an institution of the Catholic Church because it sill denies substantial elements of the self-conception of the Church.
4. We support the Pope’s statements that the Second Vatican Council is binding for the Catholic Christians and we stress the necessity to recognize the freedom of conscience, religious freedom and inter-religion dialogue. Our Jewish brothers and sisters are accepted - as Pope John Paul II used to emphasize frequently - as our older brothers and sisters. It all means that right-wing extremism and a denial of the Holocaust have no place in the Catholic Church.
5. The Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague shall strive for an open and frank dialogue. It includes interdisciplinary dialogue with sciences and other humanities as well as theological dialogue with other, mainly monotheist, religions. The cooperation with the Protestant and Hussite Theological Faculty, which has been working for many years, is of special importance for us.
6. We share the Pope’s care of the Church unity and we ourselves advocate it within the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. Therefore we declare our support for the religious freedom, for the dignity of individual conscience, for God's universal redemptive work, for the common priesthood of all believers and for the special historical redemptive role of the Jewish brothers and sisters (Nostra Aetate 4).
Prague, February 9, 2009
Administration of the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University