The discussions between the Pius X-Brotherhood (FSSPX) and the Vatican are drawing to an end and never has FSSPX been so close to a full reunion. The possible reconciliation between the Vatican and FSSPX is making the Jews very nervous.
The relationship between FSSPX and the Jews was already hostile before the Williamson affair in 2009. In 2006 FSSPX was accused of anti-Semitism in a report on Traditional Catholicism by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) (see also here). The allegations include Holocaust-denial, spreading of conspiracy theories about Jewish domination and negative stereotyping of jews. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has branded FSSPX as being “mired in antisemitism.” FSSPX is negative about the French revolution and its republican ideals and is positively inclined towards the Vichy Regime (1940–1944), which was strongly Catholic and imposed anti-Jewish policies in France. FSSPX officially has no political affiliations, but there are strong links with leading members of the National Front, like Marine Le Pen.
FSSPX is basically a protest-movement within the Roman-Catholic Church, founded by the late Mgr. Lefebvre in 1970 as a reaction to the outcome of Vatican II. According to FSSPX, Vatican II has led to the dominance of the cultural left in the Church and important breaches with tradition, especially the Holy Mass. Vatican II has led to a more positive official attitude towards Jews: “Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God.” The prayer for the conversion of the Jews on Good Friday was dropped.
This one-sided outreach towards Jews has until now not been met by similar gestures from the Jewish side, despite persistent insulting religious texts against Christ (and Christianity). In 2007 Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago had the courage to bring op this topic with a call of a more two-sided approach, mentioning as particularly offensive “descriptions of Jesus as a “bastard.”
It does work both ways. Maybe this is an opening to say, “Would you care to look at some of the Talmudic literature’s description of Jesus as a bastard, and so on, and maybe make a few changes in some of that?”
The Jewish side has only continued its criticism of the Roman Catholic church, especially about its role during World War II. Despite the fact that during the war Abraham Foxman, the director of the ADL, was sheltered by a Polish catholic woman who raised him as one of her own, he remains hostile to the Catholic Church. The church is accused by Jewish organizations of “not doing enough” for the Jews. In particular, Jews condemn the beatification of Pope Pius XII on the grounds that he did not not do enough to help the Jews. The fact is that the Church had no power to stop either the war nor the persecutions, including that of their own institution, since during WWII the Nationalist-Socialists attacked Church institutions in Poland and the Netherlands when they defied the Germans. Nevertheless, the Holocaust is a recurring theme in Jewish-Catholic relations.
From the start of talks between FSSPX and the Vatican in 2009, a constantly recurring theme has been that Jews are on the offensive and the Vatican is on the defensive. In 2009 there was a huge outrcy when the excommunication of Richard Williamson was lifted and there was intense pressure from the media to excommunicate him on the basis of Holocaust denial. But Benedict XVI stood fast, because, although Holocaust denial is officially rejected, it is no dogma of the church and can therefore not be a cause for excommunication. In this instance, the Roman Catholic church has defied the current cultural zeitgeist where critizing Jews is a guarantee for legal prosecution and results in social isolation and economic deprivation.
Now that the talks between FSSPX and the Vatican are drawing to a conclusion, Jewish pressure is mounting against the Vatican. On September 19, Foxman declared that “It would be unthinkable to allow a Catholic breakaway sect that includes a Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson, to be reintegrated into the church while still being allowed to promote anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism — which they have been doing for years in their teachings and on their web site.”
But unfortunately for Foxman, the unthinkable is drawing nearer day by day. The merging of FSSPX into the church will be a victory for Traditional Roman Catholicism and a setback for Jewish-Catholic relations. Quite possibly it heralds a permanent retreat from the fruitless and one-sided talks with Judaism.