Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Delicate Choice

On January 24th, Pope Benedict XVI recently reinstated four renegade bishops into the Catholic Church. These men were members of the Society of St. Pius X, a conservative Catholic group that opposes the reforms made by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Pope John Paul II excommunicated the men after they declared themselves bishops without papal recognition. Now, in an effort to consolidate the beliefs of the Catholic church, the Pope Benedict has reached out to the Society of St. Pius X. In his view, the Church is losing influence in an ever more secular world, and he hopes to avoid a schism which may seriously compromise the power of the Church. The controversy over these reinstatements surrounds Richard Williamson. In an interview last week he denied the enormity of the Holocaust. He as also suggested that the US government staged the 9/11 attacks in order to justify an invasion of the Middle East. For many, these comments represent a backwards step for Catholic-Jewish relations. While the suffering of the Holocaust signifies an important event in collective memory, the Pope's actions have the threat of alienating large segments of people.
Chester Gillis, a professor at Geeorgetown University said, “I don’t think the Vatican doesn’t care about Jewish-Christian relations, but at least it appears that internal church matters trump external relations.” It seems then that the price of healing internal rifts comes at the denial of some of the worst human rights atrocities in history. If the Pope can easily write off the Holocaust, what else can he ignore for religious unity?
Shame on you, Pope Benedict.