Those who dissent should consider whether it is not really they who are being divisive. [excellent!] I fail to see why I should portrayed as divisive when I step up in defence of the Church and align myself with the Pope. Something is not right there." [Right!]
Movements of all kinds (including religious orders) are a constant source of renewal for the Church. But there are risks and problems associated with any movement, and it is the Church’s responsibility - and by “Church” I mean every one of us - to view movements with open eyes, to see the good, be wary of the bad and call the evil to task.
Secrecy, hero-worship, deification of individuals, reflexive dismissal of critics as wrong-headed or even of the devil, an untoward interest in money and appearance, manipulation of members, demeaning attitudes toward non-members, deceptive means…
The question comes naturally: was all of this really inevitable, once the pope had decided to lift the excommunication of the Lefebvrist bishops? Or was the disaster produced by the errors and omissions of the men who are supposed to implement the pope's decisions? The facts point to the second hypothesis.
The decree revoking the excommunication bears the signature of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the congregation for bishops. Another cardinal, Darío Castrillón Hoyos, is the president of the pontifical commission "Ecclesia Dei," which, ever since its creation in 1988, has dealt with the followers of Lefebvre. Both of these cardinals have said that they were taken by surprise, after the fact, by the interview with Bishop Williamson, and that they were never aware that he was a Holocaust denier. But wasn't it the primary responsibility of these two cardinals to carry out an
in-depth examination of Williamson's personal profile, and of the three other bishops? The fact that they did not do so seems inexcusable. Such an examination wasn't even difficult. Williamson has never concealed his distaste for Judaism. He has publicly defended the authenticity of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In 1989, in Canada, he risked being taken to court for praising the books written by Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. After September 11, 2001, he supported conspiracy theories to explain the collapse of the Twin Towers. Just a click on Google would have turned up all of this background material.
Another serious lapse concerned the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity. Reversing the schism with the Lefebvrists is logically part of its competencies, which also include relations between the Church and Judaism. But the cardinal who heads the council, Walter Kasper, says that he was kept out of the deliberations: this is all the more surprising in that the issuing of the decree lifting the excommunication took place during the annual week of prayer for Christian unity, and a few days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day. That's not all.
The media release of the decision also seems to have been entirely negligent. The Vatican press office limited itself, on Saturday, January 24, to distributing the text of the decree, in spite of the fact that the news had already leaked out a few days earlier, and a fiery controversy was already growing around the statements denying the Holocaust made by Williamson.
There is an illuminating comparison to be made. The previous day, on January 23, the same press office had organized, with great pomp, the launching of the Vatican channel on YouTube. And a few days later, on January 29, it announced, again with a great deployment of persons and resources, an international conference on Galileo Galilei, scheduled for the end of May. In each case, the objective was to transmit the authentic meaning of the initiative to the media. But nothing of the sort was done for the decree concerning the Lefebvrist bishops. And yet all of the elements necessary for an appropriate announcement were there. Even the timing was right. The week of prayer for Christian unity was underway; Holocaust remembrance day was just
around the corner; in Italy just a few days earlier, on January 17, there had been the day for dialogue between Catholics and Jews. Cardinal Kasper, the leading curia official in both areas, would have been the ideal person to present the decree, situate it within the persistent situation of schism, explain the purpose of lifting the excommunication, and summarize the points on which the Lefebvrists were being asked to reconsider their positions, from full acceptance of Vatican Council II to the overcoming of their anti-Judaism. As for Williamson, it would not have been difficult to clearly delineate his situation: if he were to remain firm on his aberrant ideas denying the Holocaust, he would exclude himself from the pope's gesture of "mercy."
And yet, if nothing of this was done, it was not the fault of the Vatican press office and its director, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, but of the offices of the curia from which they receive their orders.
These offices of the curia converge in the secretariat of state.
Bertone [the Vatican Secretary of State] does most of his work not inside the walls of the Vatican, but on the outside, in an endless round of conferences, celebrations, inaugurations. His visits abroad are as frequents and as packed with meetings and speeches as those of a John Paul II in vigorous health: he was in Mexico from January 15-19, and is now visiting Spain. As a result, all of the work that the offices of the secretariat of state dedicate to his external activities leaves that much less work available for the pope. ...
Bertone's personal devotion to Benedict XVI is beyond all doubt. Not so that of the other curia officials, who continue to have free rein. It is possible that some of them deliberately oppose this pontificate. It is certain that most of them simply do not understand it, do not measure up to it.
What is the appeal of Regnum Christi and its apostolates in the United States? The appeal may be negative in some ways, but those I have met who have been drawn to it are thirsting for solid faith content. They know that their children live in a challenging world and have no confidence in what passes for catechesis in the parish or even in many Catholic schools to equip them for that world. They do not see these programs or liturgies seriously oriented toward bringing those participating into a deep, committed relationship with Christ.
So something substantive appears…it appeals.