Anti-Semitism still surrounds Society of St. Pius X

  • June 24, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - While Society of St. Pius X superior general Bishop Bernard Fellay visited Canada in June on his way to illicitly ordain two seminarians in Winona, Minn., the anti-Semitic theology of the traditionalist society continued to haunt the breakaway sect.

The Vatican II-rejectionist Society of St. Pius X has been in the news since Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 21 remitted the 1988 ruling of excommunication on four bishops, including Fellay, ordained that year by Bishop Marcel Lefebvre. One of the four, Bishop Richard Williamson, was seen on Swedish television the same day his excommunication was lifted denying any Jews were killed in the Holocaust. The remarks came from an interview last November.

Fellay, who was in Toronto for a mid-June pastoral visit to the Society’s parish and an interview with Basilian Father Tom Rosica on Salt + Light TV June 15, told The Catholic Register that Williamson’s anti-Semitic views and opinions on the Holocaust were a surprise to him and were purely personal opinions that do not represent the position of the Society.

“There is a certain freedom in the Society,” Fellay said. “We do respect personal opinions. But that does not mean that we agree with them — but there is a freedom of thought.”

While the Society’s American and European web sites have been scrubbed of a number of anti-Jewish screeds in recent months, its Canadian web site still features a 2003 essay by Fr. Emmanuel Herkel claiming “the Antichrist will be Jewish” ( ).

Herkel, who works for the Society of St. Pius X in Calgary, also claims the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were a good thing because they have alerted Christians to the “Eastern barbarism” of Muslims. He argues Islam has conspired against Christianity and the West for a millennium.

While Fellay claims his society is not anti-Semitic, Lefebvre and his followers have always vehemently rejected Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s ecumenical declaration on the relationship between the church and non-Christian religions, particularly with Judaism.

In an Easter letter to friends and benefactors, Fellay blames “Jews and progressives” for the controversy over Williamson’s opinions.

“What does the Pope really think? Where does he stand? The Jews and the progressives demand of him to choose between Vatican II and us,” Fellay wrote.

In his interview with The Catholic Register Fellay claimed to respect the covenants between God and the Jewish people.

“They are the elected people by God, and it’s in this very chosen people that Our Lord came to the world. So there is a very, very special relation between them and God. Definitely then, also between us and them,” he said. “Now the fact that they did not receive Him, or did not accept Him, as St. John says in the beginning of his Gospel, I may say that’s the big problem for them, not for us.”

While Fellay dismisses Williamson’s views on the Holocaust as merely personal, official publications and web sites of the Society of St. Pius X have repeatedly indulged in classic anti-Jewish rhetoric. Articles claiming that “Judaism is inimical to all nations in general, and in a special manner to Christian nations,” and that “Jews must not live together with Christians” have disappeared from the Society’s American web site in recent months.

Herkel’s theories about Jews — including that “History has demonstrated that Jews, scattered throughout the world in small groups, are not often assimilated into any other nation” — remains on the Canadian web site.

Several attempts to speak with Herkel before deadline were unsuccessful.

Herkel’s bizarre theories about the antichrist, Jews and the end of the world are a long way from anything like Catholic theology, said archdiocese of Toronto ecumenical and interfaith affairs officer Fr. Damian MacPherson.

“His offending positions against Muslims and Jews clearly separates and places him outside and apart from the inspired documents, for example ‘We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah’ and Nostra Aetate,” said MacPherson.

Eric Vernon, Canadian Jewish Congress representative to the Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation, called Herkel’s essay “anti-Semitic and certainly offensive.”

“We need to shed a light on these guys,” said Vernon. “Our (Canadian) freedoms and our rights are delicate and the garden constantly needs to be weeded.”

Fellay told The Catholic Register he welcomes moves by Pope Benedict XVI to have the Society of St. Pius X deal more directly with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi told Catholic News Service that Ecclesia Dei, the special Vatican commission for dealing with traditionalist groups, would be folded into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “soon.” The change is expected in July, when Ecclesia Dei chief Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos retires on turning 80.

The opportunity to speak with the Vatican more directly about doctrinal matters represents an opportunity to heal the rift between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X, Fellay said.

“Many of the problems that the church is encountering today flow from, derive from doctrinal problems,” he said. “If we can really get down to the crux of the matter we are really happy.”

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