If one reads over the history of the papacy, one will notice that there have been many different popes: strong popes (Boniface VIII), weak popes (Clement VII), nepotistic popes (Sixtus IV), and even one pope who had several illegitimate children (Alexander VI). There have also been PR friendly popes and those who were not afraid to put their foot down and place entire countries on interdict (Innocent III). Currently, the Chair of St. Peter is occupied by Pope Benedict XVI, an intellectual and a man who sees the way forward is to allow the Church to breathe with both lungs (the Ordinary Form and the Gregorian Mass).
Recently, the Holy Father has come under tremendous attack due to his lifting the excommunications of four SSPX bishops. As far as I am concerned, the lifting of the excommunications itself is an important step forward in the regularization process. However, the reception of the SSPX into the bosom of Holy Mother Church will take place in God’s own time and when He sees fit. It could be several months or years from now.
One of the things that has happened since the excommunications were lifted has been the furor over the views and opinions of Bishop Richard Williamson. Williamson was one of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre, the founder of the SSPX, which incurred excommunication for the entire Society and its priests from Pope John Paul II. According to one of Williamson’s former seminary students and an infamous youtube video, Bishop Williamson’s views on the Holocaust have been around for ages. Only recently have the flames been fanned out of all proportion and the media has gone absolutely hysterical over this.
Many of the media reports that I have read and heard do not understand what the lifting of the excommunications mean. They do not mean that the SSPX is already fully regularized within the Church. They are only a step in that process. Not only this, but the secular media does not understand that Bishop Williamson has been touting his views for years. Not only this, but Holocaust denial has been running rampant outside of Catholic circles. Read or listen to the paranoid rantings coming out of Iran and you will know that it is not just one Catholic bishop that is doing this.
While the media has lambasted Williamson and the Pope, it must be noted that there are many other bishops within the Church that merit lambasting more than Williamson does. Bernard Cardinal Law, the man at the center of the sexual abuse scandal earlier in this decade, was given a light slap on the wrist by the Vatican and then packed off to serve as a titular bishop in Rome. Other bishops implicated in the scandal have also gotten off scot free in some cases. Yet the Vatican must face this problem and deal with it also. I’m sure that to many of my readers the scandal is old news, but the Vatican must issue guidelines to the bishops that speak distinctly about what must be done if abuse occurs and how to weed out homosexuality within the seminaries. This might sound controversial for many of you, but this is my own view.
Of course, there are also many other liberals within the Church that wish to see women ordained as priests and then there are those Jesuits that continue to spout liberation theology like nobody’s business. Surely, the Church must deal with these problems as well. Putting a diocese or an entire Order on interdict would do the Church a great deal of good since it would allow people to come to their senses. Indeed, it would prove the power that the Supreme Pontiff has over the rest of the entire Catholic Church. Yet nothing of the sort has happened. Perhaps in the next Pontificate. Who knows.
Another point that should be made about Pope Benedict XVI is that the man is not a PR pope. He is an intellectual and a theologian. Unlike Pope John Paul II, who seemed to revel when the cameras were around, Pope Benedict XVI is a much more cerebral man. Like Pope Pius XII before him, Pope Benedict is interested in the Church’s struggles and how to make the Church better than what it has been before. Due to his speech at Regensburg, the Holy Father has been persecuted throughout the Islamic world, many Jews were up in arms when the Motu Proprio came through, and then now there is the Williamson fiasco. In all of these things, the Pope has shown his true mettle. Although the Vatican can apologize over and over on his behalf, I do believe that the Pope stands by his beliefs and ideas.
There are many traditionalists, particularly sedevacantists, who will look at the Williamson affair and say that some of this was orchestrated by Jewish elements. It seems to me that there is little to be said for this. It is nothing more than a reiteration of the same conspiracy that says that Vatican II was usurped by Masons and Jews. It is an idiotic idea. The Jewish uproar was foreseeable because of Williamson’s views and it has gone out of all proportion.
Personally, I will continue to stand by the Pope. It is pointless for me to leave the structures of Holy Mother Church once again because of this latest scandal. The Church has gone through worse periods in her history including the persecutions under the Roman emperors, the Protestant Reformation in England and Germany, and the persecutions of millions of Catholics in the Soviet Union, China, and throughout the rest of the world. If anything the Church has always emerged much stronger than it has ever been before. The barque of St. Peter cannot be and never will be sunk. Our Lord promised St. Peter that the gates of hell would never prevail against His Church. Those promises hold even during the present scandal.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
Pope St. Pius X, pray for us!