|Open Letter to Members of the Swiss Bishops' Conference|
|Written by Swiss theologians and pastoral workers|
|January 29, 2009|
Dear Bishop Koch,
In your communiqué of 24 January 2009 "On the lifting of the excommunication for four bishops" you commented on the lifting of excommunication of the bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Gallareta, who were ordained in 1988 through an unauthorized act by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. You expressed your hope that by this lifting of the excommunication "full communion on the basis of the common faith will find its visible expression."
The signatories below, mainly theologians and/or members of pastoral staffs, would like to express in this open letter their concerns about this latest development in the Vatican.
The Society of Saint Pius X, whose members include the above-mentioned bishops, is a community whose foundations run contrary to the major achievements and beliefs of the Second Vatican II. Even today, the Society does not accept fully1 the Council, as can be read also in the communiqué.
As is widely known, the Society of Saint Pius X opposes Ecumenism2, religious freedom, and the active participation of the laity in line with the liturgical reform set forth in the Constitution on the Liturgy, SC 14. Furthermore, it rejects the renewed rite of the Mass. The Society represents a tendency3 in the Church of sealing out the world, which was clearly rejected by Pope John XXIII through his "aggiornamento".
With satisfaction, we have noted that in your Communiqué of January 27, 2009 you emphasize that the Catholic Church can never accept the denial of the Holocaust. We also thank you for your clear words about your expectation that, during the conversations which are necessary before the establishment of full communion with the four bishops, the credible and complete support of the Second Vatican Council by these bishops is required.
However, recent trends in the Vatican give the signatories reason for concern.
The lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X is in line with other decisions of Pope Benedict XVI, which seem highly regressive. We think here of the approval of the so-called "Tridentine Mass" as the extraordinary form of the Catholic rite through the Motu proprio "Summorum Pontificium" of July 2007, and related to it the re-introduction of the Good Friday prayer for the Jews, and the beatification - promoted by him - of Pope Pius XII even though the archives of this period are still not open and thus the role of Pius XII during the National Socialist era has not been not fully clarified.
Pope Benedict XVI also maintains his hard line against some theologians (for example, alongside the now departed Jacques Dupuis, SJ, also Roger Haight, SJ and Jon Sobrino, SJ). They were and are theologians who search for paths and expressions of the Christian faith that remain relevant for the 21st Century. We ask ourselves why the "hand of reconciliation" will not also be extended to them by Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI has announced the lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X exactly 50 years after the announcement of the Second Vatican Council on 25 January 1959, at which the end of the Tridentine rite and the opening up of the Church [to the world] were decided. The fact that precisely on this anniversary a step toward openness has not been made, but instead one to intolerance and to pre-Conciliar conditions, saddens us.
1. "The same [liberal] spirit appeared clearly in the post-Conciliar reforms and guidelines which partially exceeded still more the texts of the Council. Hence, the Priestly Society refuses to accept the Council and its reforms because they are marked by that liberal spirit which is not the spirit of the church"(on the website of the St. Pius X Society in Germany: http://www.fsspx.info).
2. "My dear friends, we are no ‘Antis', only to be ‘Antis'. We are ‘anti' because the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is ‘anti': anti-liberal, anti-ecumenical, anti-communistic" (Sermon of Marcel Lefebvre of December 8, 1987 in Econe; source: website of the St. Pius X Society in Switzerland: www.piusx.ch).
3. "Don't seek the solution somewhere else! The difficulties which we have with the church - not with the church of all times, but with the hierarchy of today - arise because the hierarchy of today makes a pact with the world, gets involved in compromises with the world, and would like to drag us into these compromises, and we want to be loyal to Jesus Christ, we want to be loyal to our belief. This is the whole problem" (Sermon of Marcel Lefebvre of February, 1987 in Zaitzkofen; source: website of the St. Pius X Society in Switzerland: www.piusx.ch).
(approximately 210 individuals have signed the letter)