More internal strife has arisen in the breakaway Catholic Society of St. Pius X, after Bishop Richard Williamson made an unapproved visit to a large group in Brazil.
Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, the society’s district superior of South America, said the bishop’s visit was “a serious act against the virtue of obedience” that did not respect the society’s procedures.
His Sept. 6 letter, published on the society’s website, said the visit was “also an attack upon the most elementary demands of courtesy.”
He objected that the visit organizers did not secure his agreement as required by the society’s statutes.
At the end of August, Bishop Williamson gave the sacrament of Confirmation to nearly 100 lay Catholics in the town of Nova Friburgo in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. He celebrated the sacrament at the invitation of the prior of the breakaway Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Cross, which has links to the society.
Fr. Bouchacourt said the bishop’s visit broke the “harmonious collaboration” between the Society of St. Pius X and the monastery. Many of the attendees had been “deceived” because they went to the ceremonies and conferences with the belief they had been organized by the society.
The Society of St. Pius X broke from Rome in 1988 when its founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II. Archbishop Lefebvre founded the society in 1970 as a response to what he saw as errors in the Church after the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Benedict XVI has endeavored to reconcile the society with the Church. He lifted the excommunications of the society’s four living bishops in 2009. However, that act caused significant controversy because, unbeknownst to the Pope, Bishop Williamson had made statements that denied the magnitude of the Holocaust.
The Society of St. Pius X distanced itself from Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust views.
Efforts to help heal the rift with the Catholic Church include the Vatican’s offer of a personal prelature, a special church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries.
The society’s talks with the Vatican despite its objections to the interpretation and legacy of the Second Vatican Council appear to be a source of internal controversy.
Fr. Bouchacourt rejected the “indirect accusations” of Monastery of the Holy Cross prior Fr. Tomas de Aquino, a defender of Bishop Williamson. According to Fr. Bouchacourt, the prior suggested that the society “would agree with Modernism and cease fighting in defense of Catholic Tradition.”
The society district superior said that Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, agrees with the society’s position that the Mass instituted after the Second Vatican Council departs from Catholic doctrine.
The German-language Catholic website Kreuz.net said that Bishop Williamson will be expelled from the society because of his unauthorized visit. He has also refused to stop publication of his weekly e-mail, despite the request of Bishop Fellay.
Tags: Society of St. Pius X