The SSPX Wound Festers
It turns out that SSPX's anti-Semitism and racism runs far deeper than has been reported during the reinstatement flap. Meanwhile, the episode has not only reopened old wounds in Catholic-Jewish relations, which have been on the mend since the heady days of Vatican II but threatens to reignite ancient animosities between Christian and Muslims and even Northern and Southern Italians.
Even more incredible is that the order founded by the late Archbishop Lefebvre has, at best, a caustic view of the faith of Jesus, and at worse, outright hatred that was far from esoteric. As John L. Allen Jr. observed in The National Catholic Reporter's January 26, 2009 edition:
A troubled history with Judaism has long been part of the Catholic traditionalist movement associated with the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre -- beginning with Lefebvre himself, who spoke approvingly of both the World War II-era Vichy Regime in France and the far-right National Front, and who identified the contemporary enemies of the faith as "Jews, Communists and Freemasons" in an Aug. 31, 1985, letter to Pope John Paul II.
As well as:
As noted above, Lefebvre himself wrote to John Paul II in 1985, three years before his decision to ordain four bishops in defiance of the pope's authority, to argue that Vatican II's "Declaration on Religious Liberty" had produced a series of poisonous consequences, including "all the reforms carried out over 20 years within the church to please heretics, schismatics, false religions and declared enemies of the church, such as the Jews, the Communists and the Freemasons."
Nor has their record been confined simply to making statements. In 1989, Paul Touvier, a fugitive charged with ordering the execution of seven Jews in 1944, was arrested in a priory of the Fraternity of St. Pius X in Nice, France. The fraternity stated at the time that Touvier had been granted asylum as "an act of charity to a homeless man." When Touvier died in 1996, a parish church operated by the fraternity offered a requiem Mass in his honor.
Again, in the January 29, 2009 edition, NCR's John Allen chronicled how another SSPX priest, Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz, made some disturbing revisionist remarks about the Holocaust and another Nazi atrocity:
Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz, a pastor and spokesperson for the Society of St. Pius X in northeastern Italy, also referred to Jews as "a people of deicide," referring to the death of Christ, and suggested that the Jewish Holocaust has been "exalted" over what he called "other genocides," such as the Allied bombing of German cities and the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip.
Abrahamowicz is himself a well-known figure in Italy. In 2006, he gave a television interview in which he said that Erich Priebke, a German SS officer convicted of war crimes for a 1944 massacre in Rome, in which 335 Italian civilians were killed in reprisal for the deaths of 33 German soldiers, should not be seen as an "executioner" but rather a soldier who acted "with regret and a heavy heart." In 2007, Abrahamowicz celebrated a Latin Mass for Italian politician Umberto Bossi, leader of the far-right Northern League party. Bossi and his party have sometimes been accused of xenophobia, particularly towards Muslim immigrants.
In a very recent television interview, Abrahamowicz was asked what message he had to offer the Jewish community. He replied, "One message: As a Catholic Christian, adding that little Jewish blood that runs in my veins, I express the hope that the Jews will embrace Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
I have heard other Catholics say such things. My personal experience living as a person of Southern Italian and Catholic background informs me that Abrahamowicz views those different from his Northern Italian identity and über-orthodox Catholic tradition as being something lesser than himself. Instead of treating Jews as his religious equals, he wants them to embrace his faith - and nary a wish for peace or goodness for them. He finds Arab suffering in Gaza useful when it can be used to denigrate Jews. But he finds their presence in Italy disturbing. He tries to soft-peddle the slaughter of 335 Romans (the Italian Northern League is also hostile to Southern Italians, who they often view as racially inferior; for quite a few Italian Northern Leaguers a despised Rome falls within their definition of Southern Italy).
Why would the current pope seek out and reinstate a religious order reeking with arrogance, condescension, and outright bigotry and hatred?
The answer is simple: Both Pope Benedict and SSPX share an extreme dislike of modernity.
It is no accident that Lefebvre named his order after the anti-modernist Pope Pius X. Pius X like Benedict often railed against moral relativism and modernists. Lefebvre's acolyte, Bishop Williamson has been shocked by such modernist behavior as women wearing shorts and pantsuits d partaking in higher education.
Many on the Catholic Right embrace the myth that a combination of liberalism, modernity and paganism led to the rise of the Nazi regime (Archbishop Lefebvre's father died in a concentration camp for his work with the French Underground; however, the elder Lefebvre was no advocate of democracy, but a monarchist).
Both James P. Carroll and Chris Hedges have effectively refuted that notion. Hedges points out that while faith itself does not stoke the fires of religious bigotry, strident orthodoxy often does. Carroll takes this proposition one step further. He astutely observed that while Vatican reactionaries love to blame pagan beliefs for nightmares such as the Third Reich (a theme constantly echoed by philosopher Leo Strauss), in fact Hitler's horrors were made possible because they were fueled by almost two thousand years of anti-Semitic and racist pronouncements rendered by many in the Church, men with views such as Williamson and Abrahamowicz.
Perhaps Pope Benedict believes that he can moderate the SSPX's anti-Semitism while buttressing traditionalist, anti-modernist factions in the Vatican. Or perhaps this pontiff is just not too concerned about what our Jewish brethren or anyone else thinks of him. In either case, he has made a serious mistake.
The SSPX Wound Festers | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
The SSPX Wound Festers | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)