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Exkommunication oder Kommunikation? Der Weg der Kirche nach dem II. Vatikanum und die Pius-Bruder.

EXKOMMUNICATION ODER KOMMUNIKATION? DER WEG DER KIRCHE NACH DEM II. VATIKANUM UND DIE PIUS-BRUDER. Edited by Peter Hunermann. Quaestiones Disputatae 236. Freiburg: Herder, 2010. Pp. 208. 24 [euro].

Started in 1958 by Karl Rahner and Heinrich Schlier, and featuring among its early authors Joseph Ratzinger (e.g., Episkopat und Primat, 1961, coauthored with Rahner), Quaestiones Disputatae (QD) here takes on a contemporary dispute involving church governance and teaching authority. Hunermann is well qualified to deal with QD, still serving as he does with Thomas Soding as codirector of the series after having edited the 37th edition of Denzinger's Enchiridion symbolorum (1991) and having just retired from the Catholic faculty of theology at Tubingen. The controversy that prompted the current volume was Pope Benedict XVI's lifting of the excommunication of four bishops of the Priestly Fraternity or Society of Saint Pius X--a lifting that caused an international uproar, not least because one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, is a "Holocaust denier." Williamson's first publicly known denial hit the press in 1989, during a trip to Canada, and he repeated his denials on Swedish television in November 2008. In 2010 a German court fined him 10,000 [euro] for unrelentingly and very publicly challenging the reality of the murdering of European Jews.

The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X was founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre as a counter to Vatican II and its implementation. Lefebvre questioned key teachings of the conciliar decrees and declarations, including freedom of conscience, religious freedom, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, the common priesthood of the baptized, the collegiality of the bishops "with and under Peter," and liturgical reform. Then, in 1988, Lefebvre consecrated four bishops (including Williamson) to stand in witness against what he judged to be the entrenched neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies even among the Roman hierarchy, for which Lefebvre and the four incurred excommunication. In January 2009, in the hope that all members of the Society of Saint Pius X would return to full communion with the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications--with little effect on the Society of Saint Pius X but with strong challenges emerging from both within and outside the Church. The Society, under its superior general, Bishop Bernard Follay, continues to reject the teachings of Vatican II, even if some few members have trickled back into Catholic communion. Pope Benedict's attempt to justify his lifting of the excommunication, in a March 2009 letter to the bishops of the world, did hot clear the air. Thus the current volume.

While respecting the pastoral responsibility of the pope to bring back splinter groups, H. and his fellow contributors (Wilhelm Damberg, Massimo Faggioli, Benedikt Kranemann, and Magnus Striet) review and clarify the theological, ecclesiological, liturgical, canonical, and political issues involved in Lefebvre's schismatic movement; they also raise a number of critical questions about the direction of the Church under Benedict's leadership. They highlight the roots of Lefebvre's movement in the antidemocratic and anti-Semitic milieu of late-19th-century Action Francaise, and closely trace Lefebvre's repudiation of the Church's communication with the world as initiated by Pope John XXIII and Vatican II and as spectacularly endorsed by Pope John Paul II's Redemptor hominis (1979). Once again, it becomes clear that the dispute or controversy involves nothing less than a comprehensive struggle over Vatican II and its lasting meaning for the Church and the world. Damberg further situates the controversy by skillfully setting out the thinking behind the traditionalist ideology that shaped Lefebvre's theological outlook and by placing the fraternity within current trends of fundamentalism. Kranemann summarizes the criticism that traditionalists level against truly catholic liturgical theology and practice, while pointing out their illusory yearning for a past that has disappeared, if it ever did exist.

The volume's five contributors engage with us in nothing less than a "discernment of spirits" concerning one of several present crises facing the Church. H., in particular, makes a substantial case that there were no legitimate grounds for raising the excommunication on the side of either the pope or the four excommunicated bishops. He concludes that it was an Amtsfehler (a mistake in the exercise of the papal office), which in the light of Canon 126 can be considered invalid. The authors here are offering responsible theological evaluations in the hope of contributing to new directions in the Church. Again, their work and the virtues they bring to it might be relevant to other disputes and controversies. By way of epilogue, H. quotes with deep dismay some reactionary and "uncatholic" items from the 1997 catechism of the Society of Saint Pius X, and he prays that God be gracious to the Church, the pope, and the bishops.


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Author:O'Collins, Gerald
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2010
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