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Clarifying status of SSPX, Vatican says Williamson must recant

February 04, 2009

The Vatican has demanded that Bishop Richard Williamson repudiate his public statements questioning the severity of the Holocaust.

In an unsigned statement released on February 4 from the Secretariat of State, the Vatican explained the Pope's decision to lift the excommunications of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). The clarification, released nearly two weeks after the Pope's decision was announced, came in the midst of an international furor provoked by the comments of Bishop Williamson, one of those SSPX leaders.

By lifting the excommunications, the Secretariat of State explained, the Pope "wished to remove an impediment" to the reconciliation of the SSPX with the Holy See. The Pope's gesture "has not changed the legal situation" of the traditionalist group, which still "does not have any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church," the Vatican statement noted. The SSPX bishops, while no longer excommunicated, remain suspended from public ministry.

In order to be fully reconciled, the statement said, the SSPX bishops will be required to demonstrate "total adherence to the doctrine and discipline of the Church." Without explicitly mentioning the public "reservations" expressed by SSPX leaders about some teachings of Vatican II, the statement strongly suggested that the Holy See will not compromise on support for conciliar teachings.

Regarding the controversy roused by Bishop Williamson, the Secretariat of State said that the bishop's public statement are "totally unacceptable and strongly rejected" by the Pope.

In order to be restored to public ministry in the Catholic Church, the Vatican statement said, Bishop Williamson will be obligated to "absolutely, unambiguously, and publicly distance himself from his position on the Holocaust." The statement insists that Pope Benedict was unaware of Williamson's views at the time he lifted the excommunications.


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