Acushnet, Mass., May 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Massachusetts Catholic parish has received threats of arson and other harassing messages after posting a sign with the Church's position on same-sex “marriage.”
“It went viral,” said Steven Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services at Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet, recalling an “explosion” of responses to the message displayed on the sign in front of the church earlier this week. It read: “Two men are friends, not spouses.”
Guillotte posted the message on the morning of May 15, and responded within hours to an e-mail “saying that it was hateful.” Later that day, Guillotte's e-mail response ended up being posted to Facebook.
“Next thing you know, the nasty telephone calls started to come, and they were coming every few minutes,” said the pastoral director in a May 17 interview with CNA.
After local media took an interest, there were “some horrible e-mails overnight,” and a phone call from a woman “saying the church should be burned down.”
“We had a group of three young men and a woman who were upset. They were actually planning on going into the church,” he recounted. Guillotte steered them away, while trying to field an inquiry from a reporter.
“She witnessed one of the guys scream across the parking lot that he was going to burn the church down. We hear that, here and there.”
Guillotte said the sign was intended to clarify Catholic beliefs after President Obama's recent support for redefining marriage. After the president's announcement, he recalled, “there were a lot of Catholics out there misrepresenting, or even maligning, the Church's position on gay marriage.”
“So I came in on this past Tuesday morning and just decided to put up a sign expressing the Church's teaching in a very concise way … saying that the proper relationship between two men – or for that matter, two women – is friendship, and not marriage.”
Opponents of the message starting posting their own signs on or near the parish property. One of them contained an invitation to “spread LOVE, not hate,” while another used a sexual insult to describe the Virgin Mary. Others read “Jesus Freaks, come to your senses,” and “Pray for death.”
Many of the phone calls “were just f-words and people hanging up,” along with others “saying they were disgusted with the sign” and asking “how could we do it, because it was so 'hateful.'”
But Guillotte said the expressions of “hate” or “intolerance” seemed to be coming from the Church's critics in this case.
“If the Methodist church down the street put a sign up that said they were in favor of gay marriage,” he observed, “you wouldn't see me down their with a hammer and nails on their property.”
Another phone call came from a concerned Catholic, who worried that the sign would drive people away from the Church. Guillotte disagrees.
“We have a pastor who's taken a firm, orthodox stand on Church teaching, and our staff is the same way,” he said. “Unlike some parishes in the area, our census has actually gone up this last year.”
Although the Church sign has since been changed, Guillotte continues to stand by Tuesday's message as one that should be brought into the public square. He said Catholics should show patience and love in the debate over marriage, but also be “firm in our presentation of what the truth is.”
Otherwise, he warned, “next thing you know, you're agreeing with the other side, which is exactly what they're really striving for.”
He believes advocates for sexual radicalism “don't really want tolerance, in my opinion; they want us to agree with them.”
“When we do that,” he said, “we give up our Catholic faith, and I think we turn our back on Christ.”
Washington D.C., May 18, 2012 (CNA) - U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has introduced a bill to place President Franklin D. Roosevelt's D-Day prayer on the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.
“On D-Day, courageous Americans risked and sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedoms and end tyranny abroad,” said Portman. “That morning, President Roosevelt asked our nation to come together to pray for the men overseas.”
A senator in the key swing state of Ohio, Portman is considered one of the top potential picks for Vice President on the 2012 Republican ticket.
In a May 10 statement shortly after he introduced the legislation, he explained that Roosevelt’s prayer “brought strength and comfort to many during one of the most challenging times for our nation.”
Those words “will forever be etched in our history,” he said.
The World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2012 would commemorate D-Day, June 6, 1944, when more than 150,000 American, British and Canadian troops landed along a 50-mile beach stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline.
More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, but the invasion allowed many others to begin the march across Europe to fight Hitler’s forces.
On that day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited the nation to prayer through a national radio address.
In his historic prayer, Roosevelt asked the Lord to watch over those who were fighting “to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.”
He called on America to join with him in praying for guidance to fight “greed and racial arrogances” while seeking true freedom and lasting peace.
The president called for the blessings of Almighty God in the fight for justice and freedom, saying that “by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.”
Although many people had asked him to call for “a single day of special prayer,” Roosevelt said that he instead wanted to encourage the people to “devote themselves in a continuance of prayer.”
Acknowledging that the road ahead would be long and difficult, he prayed for the gifts of faith, courage and strength, both for the soldiers and the American people at home.
“As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts,” he said.
The president also beseeched the Lord to embrace those soldiers who would not return, welcoming them into his kingdom.
Asking that God’s “will be done,” Roosevelt prayed for those at home “to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.”
Portman said that his bill ensures that Roosevelt’s prayer “will become a permanent reminder of the sacrifice of those who fought in World War II,” as well as a modern remembrance of “the power of prayer through difficult times.”
A companion bill, introduced by Congressman Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.
Washington D.C., May 18, 2012 (CNA) - A law professor at George Mason University believes that current threats to religious freedom are intrinsically connected to the modern understanding that “sexual freedom is about shaping yourself.”
Helen Alvaré, who has formerly worked with the U.S. bishops' pro-life office, spoke on May 10 at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. She observed that many modern threats to religious freedom “are coming by way of a newly strong government position on human sexuality.”
This view holds that sex is unrelated to procreation or the union of man and woman, but is simply about “expressing oneself” and forming one’s identity through various sexual acts, she explained.
Alvaré traced this understanding of sexuality through court decisions in the last 50 years.
In 1965, the Supreme ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that the Constitution implicitly protects the “right to marital privacy” and that married couples therefore have a right to contraception. At this point, Alvaré observed, the union of the married couple was still intact in the understanding of sex.
By 1992, however, the court upheld the “right” to abortion by describing sexual decisions as a means of shaping one’s identity, she said.
In its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the plurality opinion affirmed “the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
At this point, Alvaré said, sex has been “completely disconnected from the other person” and is solely about expressing oneself and building identity.
This view is reflected today, she explained, pointing to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., which distributes information to young people encouraging them to explore and express themselves in different sexual ways.
This disconnected idea of sexual expression as an individual right can also be seen in a careful reading of the court cases supporting a redefinition of marriage, Alvaré added. In these court opinions, “same-sex marriage is not about the two people in the marriage. It’s about the individual expressing themself sexually.”
It is in this context that the Obama administration’s contraception mandate comes into being, with “no hesitation in divorcing sex from everything” that it physically, emotionally and spiritually means, she continued.
The mandate has been heavily criticized as a major threat to religious freedom because it will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
Alvaré views the mandate as a “culmination” of a view of sexuality that has become more and more disconnected from marriage, procreation and the natural unity of man and woman.
She explained that this way of thinking began with the argument that taking the babies out of sex would allow couples to flourish, women to escape poverty and children to avoid being raised in bad situations.
But this has changed drastically, in a way that is evident by the “models of freedom” used to defend the contraception mandate, she said.
Rather than a woman facing poverty or a married couple overwhelmed by a dozen kids, the iconic figures in the sexual freedom debate today are unmarried, highly educated, and fairly well-off financially.
She pointed to Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who has become a leading figure in the push for free birth control.
These women are not talking about marriage, poverty or the wellbeing of children, Alvaré observed. Rather, they are simply saying that they want a regular sex life with a constant supply of contraception, and they want someone else to pay for it.
This “right to a commitment-free, child-free sexual experience” has become so elevated that no religious conscience is permitted to object to it, she said, explaining that when disconnected sexual expression becomes a basic and fundamental right, religious liberty suffers.
This can be seen today, as Catholic individuals and institutions are told that they shouldn’t “even be able to have a critical stance” on issues such as contraception, she said.
She also observed that proponents of the mandate are making claims of a “war on women” and using “language of discrimination,” as if religious individual seeking to follow their conscience were violent members of the Ku Klux Klan, who should not have a voice in the public square.
The Catholic Church’s idea of sexuality as being connected to marriage and new life is “absolutely contrary” to the modern understanding, Alvaré explained.
As Catholics step up to defend religious freedom, she noted, they also have a chance to help change the way that human sexuality is viewed.
“I really see this time as an opportunity,” she said.
Rome, Italy, May 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi reveals private Vatican correspondence in a new book containing a collection of letters titled, “Sua Santita (His Holiness).”
Nuzzi, whose coverage of Vatican affairs is scant, was responsible for leaking two private letters in January that the Pope sent to the current Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and former secretary of the Vatican City Government, Archbishop Claudio Maria Vigano.
He also leaked other private letters from the Holy See, contributing to a series of confidentiality breaches dubbed “Vatileaks” by the media.
The journalist is also known as the host of the television program “The Untouchables,” and has been a collaborator with various Italian newspapers, including Espansione, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Giornale and Panorama. He is the author of the books “Vatican S.p.A.” and “Metastasis.”
Last month, Pope Benedict XVI launched an investigation to determine the source of the internal leaks by creating a special commission of cardinals.
The group includes Cardinal Julian Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Cardinal Josef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, Archbishop emeritus of Palermo in Italy.
According to the publisher Chiarelettere, the book was titled “His Holiness” since “that is how the letters that are addressed to Pope Benedict XVI begin.” The publishing house noted that apart from an introduction by the author, the new book only features the leaked letters, most of which have already been published or refer to past events.
One leaked memo that emerged over the last few months concerns a cardinal’s complaint about another cardinal who reputedly spoke of a possible assassination attempt against the Pope within 12 months and speculated upon his successor.
In January, an Italian television show broadcast private letters to Pope Benedict XVI and Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former deputy governor of Vatican City, who is currently the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. The archbishop contended that other Vatican officials have conducted a smear campaign against him because of his changes to purchasing procedures.
Other leaks center on the Vatican’s financial institution, the Institute of Works of Religion, which is also trying to reform and comply with international norms.
Los Angeles, Calif., May 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Mauricio Kuri has come to believe that, like the teenage Mexican martyr he plays in the upcoming film “For Greater Glory,” people must stand up for religious freedom.
Kuri is not your typical fourteen-year-old boy. Born and raised Catholic in Mexico City, he was cast in the upcoming film “For Greater Glory” with fellow stars Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Nestor Carbonel, and Eduardo Verastagui.
Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio is “a really strong character because you can see the transformation in him,” Kuri told CNA in an April 25 interview in Los Angeles.
“At the beginning he's just a young boy, naughty. He even makes a prank to the Father of the church, but you can see his transformation in his beliefs, and at the end he’s a martyr.”
“For Greater Glory” charts the history of Mexico’s Cristero War, which was sparked by anti-clerical legislation being passed by the Mexican President Elías Calles in 1926. Those laws banned religious orders, deprived the Church of property rights and denied priests their civil liberties, including the right to a trial by jury and the right to vote.
The persecution became so fierce that some Catholics began to forcibly resist, fighting under the slogan and banner of “Cristo Rey” (Christ the King).
“I think this movie, it threw me closer to my religion because it is a really strong character,” he said.
Kuri explained that Bl. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio is “a Cristero martyr, and he was beatified by the Pope.”
Most importantly for the young actor, “this character existed. He was a real person.”
Kuri keeps a medal of Bl. Jose around his neck. Holding the medal up and pointing at the image on it, he explains, “This is his real photo. It's the real Jose Sanchez del Rio, and he was fourteen years old; I'm fourteen.”
“I don't believe in coincidences,” Kuri said.
The actor said he did spend a great deal of time thinking about his “strong character” and wondered if he could show the same courage as Bl. Jose.
“There is a phrase of the movie that I love that says ... ‘Who are you if you don't stand up for what you believe?’”
The young actor began to wonder if he had lived in Mexico during the 1920s and during the Cristero War, “Would I do what Jose did?”
“I tested myself, and I said 'I think I wouldn't,’” Kuri admits.
So he started to read about the life of Bl. Jose as part of his research for the role. He also sought guidance from a priest—his “spiritual guide.”
Looking back on the whole experience, Kuri sees Bl. Jose’s true strength as being rooted in his courage to stand up for what he believes in.
“I think I would do that,”Kuri said, “because to defend for what you believe is the most cool thing” you could ever do.
Kuri was particularly impressed the “strong” and “beautiful” transformation that becomes so visible at Bl. Jose’s moment of martyrdom. Bl. Jose was “a little naughty guy,” he explained, but “at the end you can see him as a saint.”
Kuri encourages Catholics everywhere to stand up for religious freedom like the faithful Catholics of Mexico did during the Cristero War.
“What is happening right now with the Church and the attack to the religious freedom is something that will happen to the end of the times. And I think if you stand up and you say 'I am Catholic and I am not ashamed of being Catholic and I'm proud of being Catholic … and you defend it, then you are a terrific person.”
Just like Bl. Jose, Kuri said that “We can be Cristeros right now; we can defend our faith; we can defend not only our faith, but our freedom.”
Washington D.C., May 18, 2012 (CNA) - A petition with tens of thousands of signatures was recently delivered to the president of Georgetown University in protest of a decision to honor U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius with an invitation to speak at a commencement weekend ceremony.
Thomas Peters of CatholicVote.org said that the Catholics for Unity petition shows strong “grassroots Catholic support” for the bishops’ message about religious freedom.
“Religious liberty is the first freedom. It’s there from the founding of America,” he told CNA. “And Catholic institutions have a special responsibility to stand up for that freedom.”
Peters said that the petition is a “positive protest” that allows American Catholics “to come together for something that we all hold dear, which is the right to practice our faith fully.”
On the afternoon of May 17, Thomas Peters joined several concerned members of the Georgetown community to deliver the Catholics for Unity petition with some 35,000 signatures to the office of university president John J. DeGioia.
The petition – which has continued to gain signatures – is the largest of several open letters protesting Georgetown’s decision to honor Sebelius.
Led by Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, the signatories argued that the invitation harms the unity of the bishops’ fight for religious freedom, a battle that is largely centered on the current contraception mandate.
They warned that allowing the invitation to stand will only “inflame this conflict, invite justified protests, cause great harm and detract from the necessary dialogue required to resolve the issues surrounding this mandate.”
Georgetown has come under fire for inviting Sebelius as a featured speaker at a commencement weekend awards ceremony. She is addressing the university's Public Policy Institute awards ceremony on May 18.
Sebelius has been the center of controversy since issuing a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
Catholic bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the mandate, warning that it poses a grave threat to religious liberty and could force Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies across the nation to close down.
Sebelius also has a long history of supporting abortion, both in her current position and in her former role as governor of Kansas.
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. denounced the invitation, saying that Georgetown had displayed an “apparent lack of unity with and disregard for the bishops” and all those who are fighting to defend religious liberty.
A May 10 editorial in the archdiocese newspaper called the decision “disappointing, but not surprising.”
President DeGioia defended the invitation in a May 14 statement. He said that the university is “committed to the free exchange of ideas” and was not attempting to endorse Sebelius’ views or challenge the U.S. bishops.
However, Peters argued that there is a difference between discussing ideas in an academic setting and offering someone a public platform to speak, which is “what we use to honor people.”
“There’s no one protesting Sebelius just coming in the audience,” he explained. However, “she doesn’t have the right to be put in a place of authority and to be part of the teaching office that universities hold.”
Brendan Gottschall, a member of the class of 2012, called the invitation “a misrepresentation of Georgetown’s Catholic identity and community.”
He said that there are many Catholics on campus who do not agree with the decision to honor Sebelius.
Deirdre Lawler, who works for the university’s Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy, said the invitation “is nothing less than a scandal and a blow to unity within the Church."
“There are no two ways to read this,” she explained. “Georgetown University, which proudly wears the title of a Catholic institution, is bestowing an honor upon a woman who has essentially declared herself at war with the bishops and all who hold religious freedom dear.”
Lawler said that as a staff member of the university, she is “ashamed of the institution.” Given the current situation between Sebelius’ department and the Catholic Church, she does not believe that Georgetown can “host and honor Sebelius in good conscience.”
“This invitation ought to have been rescinded in the name of fidelity to the Church, in the name of religious freedom, and in the name of Truth,” Lawler said.
“I hope that President DiGioia does take some time to flip through the many, many pages of signatures we left on his desk, just so that he understands what a huge number of people are willing to speak up in fidelity to the Church.”
Madrid, Spain, May 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Priests in Spain voiced support for a local bishop after a city council adopted a motion banning him from official city events over his remarks criticizing dangerous behaviors within the gay community.
On May 15 the Alaca city council passed the motion, which also called for Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla to be moved to another diocese.
“In response to these very grave acts, we express our adherence to the Catholic doctrine taught by our father and pastor, Bishop Reig, as well as our support for him and his apostolic ministry, and we invite all to pray for religious freedom, for our Bishop and for those who persecute the Catholic Church,” the priests said in a statement Tuesday.
The motion to transfer the bishop was presented by the group Union, Progress and Democracy and was backed by other left-leaning organizations as well as the Spanish Socialist Party. The ruling People’s Party, however, has opposed the motion.
Bishop Reig Pla has faced intense criticism after remarks given in a Good Friday sermon in which he condemned sexual practices he believes to be harmful.
As part of a larger cultural critique of sexual behavior in modern society, he lamented how some with same-sex attraction “corrupt and prostitute themselves or go to gay night clubs” in order to “validate” their struggle.
“I assure you what they encounter is pure hell,” he said on April 6.
In response to the bishop, Socialist Party spokesman Javier Rodriguez said his comments have put him as well as the diocese “on the homophobic map.”
Bishop Reig Pla, however, has gained the support of the Spanish bishops' conference, whose secretary general, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino of Madrid, called the controversy caused by his sermon “unjust.”
The International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors has also voiced support for Bishop Reig Pla as well as more than 20 locals struggling with same-sex attraction who personally wrote the bishop to thank him for his remarks.
Vatican City, May 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says that Catholic immigrants to the United States could play a crucial role in the renewal of the Church and society.
“The immense promise and the vibrant energies of a new generation of Catholics are waiting to be tapped for the renewal of the Church’s life and the rebuilding of the fabric of American society,” said the Pope at a May 18 audience.
Pope Benedict made his remarks to a delegation of U.S. Eastern rite Catholic bishops who are at the Vatican for a May 15-19 “ad limina” visit – the first one specifically created for non-Roman rite bishops.
He told the bishops that the apostolic opportunities provided by immigration require more than “simply respecting linguistic diversity, promoting sound traditions, and providing much-needed social programs and services.”
Instead, there also has to be a commitment to “ongoing preaching, catechesis and pastoral activity aimed at inspiring in all the faithful a deeper sense of their communion in the apostolic faith and their responsibility for the Church’s mission in the United States.”
With many Eastern Catholics hailing from the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the Pope noted how the Church in the United States has historically “struggled to recognize and incorporate this diversity, and has succeeded, not without difficulty, in forging a communion in Christ.”
More recently, the largest waves of immigration into the United States have come from other predominantly Catholic cultures, such as the Dominican Republic and Mexico. A recent study suggested that Latinos now make up 32 percent of the U.S. Catholic population compared with only 10 percent in 1987.
Pope Benedict praised the “unremitting efforts” of Catholic institutions that are responding to the needs of new immigrants and described their endeavors as “in the best traditions of the Church in America.”
“The Catholic community in the United States continues, with great generosity, to welcome waves of new immigrants, to provide them with pastoral care and charitable assistance, and to support ways of regularizing their situation, especially with regard to the unification of families.”
Earlier this month, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York publicly criticized the attitude of some Republican politicians towards immigration. He described laws that separate immigrant families and require identification before giving charitable assistance to the needy as “not Christian” and “not American.” Instead, he urged lawmakers to “come up with a much saner, more civil, more just immigration policy.”
In his May 18 remarks, Pope Benedict expressed his “profound concern” over United State’s immigration policy being reformed and called for the “just treatment and the defense of the human dignity of immigrants.”
“In our day too, the Church in America is called to embrace, incorporate and cultivate the rich patrimony of faith and culture present in America’s many immigrant groups.”
The leaders of the Eastern Catholic churches are the last of 15 groups of U.S. bishops to visit Rome on pilgrimage in recent months.
Pope Benedict concluded his meeting with them by imparting his apostolic blessing and entrusting them, along with their flocks to “the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States.”
Vatican City, May 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says he is praying that a renewal of female religious life in the United States will “recapture a sense of the sublime dignity and beauty of the consecrated life.”
“I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms,” the Pope said on May 18.
He made his comments to a delegation of U.S. bishops from the Eastern Catholic churches that is currently in Rome on a May 15-19 “ad limina” pilgrimage.
Last month the Vatican called for a reform of the Maryland-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), after concluding there was a “crisis” of belief throughout its ranks. It also appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the renewal efforts.
During his May 18 address, Pope Benedict asked the bishops to promote and pray for new religious vocations, since there is an “urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel.”
He also called for a “strengthening of the existing channels for communication and cooperation” between dioceses and the individual religious communities within their territory.
The Vatican’s decision to reform the LCWR followed a four-year audit of the group by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Among its key findings, the assessment documented serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference’s annual assemblies in recent years.
Several speakers depicted a vision of religious life that is incompatible with the Catholic faith, the assessment said, with some attempting to justify dissent from Church teaching and showing “scant regard for the role of the Magisterium.”
Pope Benedict’s audience with the leaders of the Eastern Catholic churches marks the conclusion of several months of “ad limina” visits by U.S. bishops.
The Pope said he hoped that the forthcoming Year of Faith, which begins in October, will “awaken a desire on the part of the entire Catholic community in America to re-appropriate with joy and gratitude the priceless treasure of our faith.”
“With the progressive weakening of traditional Christian values, and the threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly,” he warned, “the truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently as the key to authentic human fulfillment and to the welfare of society as a whole.”
Rome, Italy, May 18, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A leading American rabbi and Holocaust refugee says people should trust Pope Benedict’s judgment when it comes to the Church possibly readmitting the Society of St. Pius X, which has a bishop who denied the scale of the Holocaust.
“Let me tell you this, I think that Pope Benedict XVI in many ways really understood the Holocaust because he was in the German Army. He deserted (the army), his family was anti-Nazi, I mean he was completely opposed to Hitler,” Rabbi Jack Bemporad told CNA May 16.
“Now, given the fact that he suffered under Hitler and that his family suffered under Hitler, how could he in any way accept or welcome someone who denies that Hitler did anything wrong?” he asked rhetorically.
The Society of St. Pius X broke with the Catholic Church in 1988 after its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops without the approval of Pope John Paul II.
One of those ordained, Bishop Richard Williamson, was fined $13,500 in Germany in 2010 after denying the extent of the Holocaust during a television interview. The Society subsequently issued a statement disassociating itself from his views. The conviction was also later quashed by the German appeals court.
Rabbi Bemporad, who currently serves as Professor of Interreligious Studies at the Pontifical Angelicum University, dismissed Bishop Williamson as “one person who is really crazy” and “knows nothing.”
He also believes that Williamson does not speak for the vast majority of Society members.
“The mistake is to take a few people and make them somehow representative of everyone without realizing that that just isn’t true,” he said. “I think it is only a small part of this group that is that radical. I think the vast majority are very happy and would love to be part of the Church.”
Earlier this week the Vatican announced that negotiations with the Society about reconciling the 1988 breach will now happen “separately and singularly” with three of the Society’s four bishops, including Williamson.
For his part, Williamson has made it increasingly clear that he is opposed to reconciliation with Rome. In a letter written earlier this month to his superior, Bishop Williamson suggested that reunion would cause the Society to cease opposing “the universal apostasy of our time.” He also accused Pope Benedict of being “a subjectivist.”
“Now I don’t think that in trying to find a way of incorporating this group that they are going to accept in any way any of the extreme positions that Williamson stands for,” predicted Rabbi Bemporad.
The Catholic Church’s view of Judaism was most recently set out in the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with non-Christian religions, “Nostra Aetate.” It rejected both anti-Semitism and the belief that present-day Jews are responsible for Christ’s death.
In recent negotiations with the Society, the Vatican has insisted that it accept all the documents of the Second Vatican Council.