Clarification of the Lifting
of Excommunication and Status
of the Society of St. Pius X


Feb. 4, 2009 The Secretariat of State  [MS-WordDoc]




February 4, 2009




Following the reactions generated by the recent Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, with which the excommunications of four prelates of the Society of St. Pius X were rescinded, and in relation to the declarations denying or minimizing the Shoah on the part of Bishop Williamson of this same society, it is regarded as opportune to clarify certain aspects of this affair.






AS has already been published, the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, dated January 21, 2009, was an act with which the Holy Father kindly responded to repeated requests on the part of the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X.

His Holiness wished to remove an impediment that prevented the opening of a door to dialogue. Now he is waiting for equal openness to be expressed by the four bishops, in total adhesion to the doctrine and discipline of the church.

The extremely grave penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, which these bishops incurred on June 30, 1988, which was then formally declared on July 1 of the same year, was a consequence of their ordination by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The lifting of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a most grave canonical penalty, but in no way has it changed the juridical situation of the Society of St. Pius X, which, in this moment, does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic church. Also the four bishops, despite removal of the excommunication, do not have any canonical function in the church and do not licitly exercise any ministry in it.



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FOR any future recognition of the Society of St. Pius X, a full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition.

As was already affirmed in the Decree of January 21, 2009, the Holy See will not fail, in ways judged opportune, to purse the questions which are still open with the interested parties, thus to be able to reach a full and satisfying solution to the problems that gave rise to this painful fracture.






THE positions of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked this past January 28, when, referring to that brutal genocide, he reconfirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brothers who received the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide must lead “humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart,” adding that the Shoah remains “a warning for all against hate, against denial or reductionism, because violence against even a single human being is violence against all.”

Bishop Williamson, in order to claim admission to episcopal functions in the church, must distance himself in absolutely unequivocal and public fashion from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were not known by the Holy Father when the excommunication was lifted.

The Holy Father asks accompaniment in prayer from all the faithful, that the Lord may illuminate the path of the church. May the commitment of the pastors and all the faithful grow to sustain the delicate and weighty mission of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, who is the “custodian of the unity” of the church.

From the Vatican, February 4, 2009