On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Catholic ‘Liberal’ Hails Return of Anti-Semitic Group

Just in time for Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Vatican is reportedly considering allowing the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) back into its fold. The Society, noted for its virulent anti-Semitism, had been excommunicated, but Pope Benedict XVI lifted the order in 2009. Now, the Pope once again has reached out to the group to attempt “reconciliation,” and has requested that it sign a “doctrinal preamble.” 

The SSPX sent a letter to the Pope during Holy Week, and the contents—and whether it has agreed to sign the doctrinal preamble—are to be made public after the Pope’s birthday celebration. The letter comes as a birthday present of sorts to the Pope, who has wanted the SSPX back in the Church.

National Catholic Reporter blogger Michael Sean Winters greets this news enthusiastically, penning a post “Welcome Back Lefebvirsts,” in which he soft-pedals the SSPX anti-Semitism. “There are certain intellectual and cultural affinities within the Society of St. Pius X that must be addressed,” Winters notes mildly, “most especially a residual, and sometimes quite lively, anti-Semitism. But, it will be easier to remove that particular sin from within the fold than without.”

Perhaps if Winters had done his homework, he would see that the SSPX’s anti-Semitism is not just residual, but flourishing. In 2009, when the Pope first lifted the group’s ex-communication, Haaretz reported that a team of journalists from Joods Actueel, a Jewish publication based in Antwerp, had documented a large amount of anti-Semitic material on the SSPX society websites, in five languages. The editor of the Joods Actueel went on to tell Haaretz that they were archiving the sites, despite the fact that the SSPX was diligently scrubbing them to remove traces of the anti-Semitic material.

The Vatican may get the SSPX back into communion with the Catholic Church, but they will not be able to scrub the mouth of Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the society, who in 2009 denied the Holocaust. The “good” Bishop is also something of a 9/11 truther. (In 2010, he was convicted in a German court of incitement because of his Holocaust denials, but the conviction was overturned in February 2012 after the initial charges did not specify how and when Williamson broke the law.)  

When Winters says that the bigger point for the SSPX’s return is to recall the parable of the lost sheep, he is obfuscating the major issues that remain if the SSPX is allowed back into the Church. Beyond the anti-Semitism, the SSPX considers Vatican II to be a heretical council. While the Vatican plays nice with these miscreants, it also cracks down on the Women Religious for “radical feminism” and their positions on homosexuality, women’s ordination, and abortion.

I agree with Kevin Clarke at America, who writes, “It appears that the group, which considers the documents of Vatican II heretical, for that matter, Pope Benedict XVI to be a heretic, which has a soft spot for Holocaust deniers and Vichy apologists, somehow remains worthy of Rome’s ardent pursuit. The U.S. nuns, however, who embraced Vatican II and remained true to its spirit while they built schools and hospitals and served the poor, are going to be rewarded for their efforts with years of ‘supervision’ from Rome in order to effect their dependable ‘renewal.’”

Put another way, conservative anti-Semites are more valued and welcomed in the Catholic Church than women religious who engage the world through their faith. I think that says everything about the kind of “sheep” that NCR blogger Winters and the Vatican think are more important to the health of the Catholic Church. Like a really bad train wreck, I can’t wait to see how all of this will turn out.

Anthea Butler [@AntheaButler] is a Contributing Editor to Religion Dispatches. Her forthcoming book, in’The Gospel According To Sarah: How Sarah Palinin’’s Tea Party Angels are Galvanizing the Religious Right will be out in 2013.