Even as Kurt Cardinal Koch was delivering the annual John Paul II Honorary Lecture in Interreligious Dialogue at the Angelicum in Rome, members of the Society of St. Pius X, the traditionalist Catholic breakaway group that the Vatican seeks to bring back into the fold, were delivering quite a different message.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general and one of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, said the relationship between Jews and Christians is a fundamentally antagonistic one. Jews, he said, were at fault for the Holocaust. He did not attribute such an attitude to “every Jew, as a people,” but to “the religion, Judaism, which is something different.” Others within the conservative society offer similar messages. One member, Bishop Bernard Williamson, was convicted of being a Holocaust denier. He also has made anti-Semitic remarks in the past. The Vatican’s attempt to bring the society these men claim to represent back into the church has many Jewish leaders worried.
Rabbi Jack Bemporad, who was a child refugee from the Shoah in Italy, said he is unconcerned. People should trust Benedict’s judgment, he said, regarding whether to readmit the society into the Catholic fold.
“I think that Pope Benedict XVI in many ways really understood the Holocaust because he was in the German Army. He deserted [the army], his family was anti-Nazi, He was completely opposed to Hitler….How could he in any way accept or welcome someone who denies that Hitler did anything wrong?”
The rabbi said Williamson is “one person who is really crazy” and “knows nothing.” The rabbi does not believe that Williamson speaks for the vast majority of society members and added, “The mistake is to take a few people and make them somehow representative of everyone without realizing that that just isn’t true. I think only a small part of this group is so radical. I think the vast majority are very happy and would love to be part of the church.”
In recent negotiations with the society, the Vatican has insisted that it accept all the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
Koch said that on this issue, “the Holy Father has already clarified his position….Denying the Holocaust, he pointed out, is unacceptable both in the Catholic church and in a fair and honest historical analysis.”