A great number events have occured on the ecclesiastical scene in the last week most significant were:
- lifting of the excommunications on the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) bishops.
- the holocaust denial of Bishop Williamson.
- the secular media attempt to connect the Pope's lifting of excommunications with bishop Williamson's comments.
- the condemnation of Bishop Williamson's remarks by Cardinal Kasper and others.
- the condemnation of the same remarks by Bishop Fellay, head of the SSPX.
- the condemnation of Bishop Williamson's remarks by Fr Schmidtburger of the German district of the SSPX.
- the statments of certain episcopal conferences supporting the Holy Father's action re SSPX, but in some cases adding conditions narrower than the popes i.e. French episcopal conference - Vatican II is not negotiable.
- the election of Kirill as Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias.
Bishop Williamson of the SSPX, has certainly isolated himself with his holocaust denial, strangely though, he was considered the most fractious of the four and a possible obstacle to the aim of full ecclesial union. Perhaps his comments were after all, timely, since he has now been silenced by his own people - will his views now have any credibility even amongst the SSPX in the negotiations with the Holy See ? Probably not.
Not without interest is the fact that the secular media's attempt to discredit the Pope's lifting of the excommunication by turning it into a Catholic-Jewish issue, may have served ultimatley to help the situation within the SSPX.
Perhaps the most revealing thing about the statement of the Permanent Council of Bishops of France is that they felt it necessary to make the statement "Vatican II is not negotiable." Perhaps they fear what was always inevitable, a revisiting of the "Council" and it's inerperatation in the light of Tradition. In summary then Vatican II is not negotiable but it's interperatation most certainly is! Perhaps this is really what is as stake?
The Second Vatican Council has come to represent in the minds of many liberals a change of direction in the Church which was never intended by the Council. Nevertheless it has become a sacred cow and must be defended since it provides the rational for so many misguided policies and attitudes which are by now deeply entrenched in many countries. Perhaps the SSPX will provide the impetus for an honest examination of the Council's real intention and a reapraisal of the manner in which it has been interperated hitherto. Perhaps the really divisive issue has been the selective interperatation and implementation of Vatican II at the expense of church unity. The inablity of the Catholic Church to resolve this crisis is a serious obstacle to any consideration of union with Eastern Churches. The new Patriarch of Moscow, will no doubt be following these events with keen interest as indeed will all the East.