Continuing a Theme
Last night I posted a 6-minute video interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X. One of the discussion topics in the video concerns the Society’s attitude toward (or position on) Jews or Judaism or maybe both (it’s not exactly clear). Catholic News Service, which produced the video, has released more excerpts from its interview with Fellay, “Traditionalists and Rome Strike Contrasting Notes on Jews.” The title is more menacing than the content. While it is clear that Fellay, and the SSPX as a whole, take issue with certain statements found in Nostra Aetate (the Church’s primary document concerning the Jewish people and the Judaic religion (though it deals with other religious groups as well)), that’s not exactly a revolutionary position. NA, like many of the documents promulgated during the Second Vatican Council, is occasionally vague, imprecise, and has required regular “interpretation” over the past 40 years. The key point, one which was probably not sufficiently stressed in the CNS article, is that the Society rejects antisemitism — a point Fellay went to great lengths to clarify in 2009 after fellow SSPX bishop Richard Williamson went on record denying (or, at least, seriously questioning) aspects of the Holocaust. But as I am sure Fellay was and is still aware, there are clergy and laity associated with the SSPX who likely harbor antisemitic views of one form or another.
But, of course, there are many — too many! — Catholics the world over that harbor antisemitic views, including so-called “liberal” or “progressive” Catholics. It doesn’t take much to get Catholics with “enlightened” views on Palestine going on about “the Jews,” slipping into rhetoric which effectively places bloodguilt on almost every Jew living in or in support of the modern Israeli state. Just because this breed of antisemitism targets political-national affiliation rather than religious conviction doesn’t make it any less repugnant. So why is the SSPX being held to a “higher standard”? What does Bishop Fellay have to do? Enter a Synagogue in France and venerate the Torah scrolls? Even if he did, nothing would change and something, sadly, might be lost, namely the distinction which does and has always existed between the Christian Faith on the one hand and the Judaic religion on the other. Judaism is not Christianity, a point which the Catholic Church has not departed from despite some rather “artful” attempts to blur the line which divides those who affirm Jesus Christ and those who do not. Why should we not take anything but comfort in that fact? Were I a faithful and practicing Jew, the last thing on earth I would want is for Christians — particularly Catholics — to tell me we are “one”; we’re not. Perhaps liberal Catholics and liberal Jews can find common ground erected on their shared stupidity; I’d rather tip my cap to the orthodox Jew who understands the importance of what separates us.
Sadly, the charge — or the potential charge — of antisemitism has become a useful rhetorical device for Catholics opposed to traditionalism to belittle and ostracize their fellow Catholics. Even those conservative Catholics who claim to embrace (aspects of) traditional Catholicism are wont to mention “antisemitism” whenever the SSPX is brought up. Take, for instance, this condescending blog entry from First Things: “Traditionalists Need Not Fear Vatican II.” What the author is really trying to say is that traditionalists should “wake up” and “get on board” with the Church’s teaching on the Jews because other traditionalists were “bright enough” to do so. Ok. First, no traditionalist group I know of “fears” Vatican II; most question it, some reject small or large parts of it, and all of them agree that the post-Conciliar Church has lost something (even many things) in Vatican II’s wake, but that is not tantamount to fear. Second, the attitude of the traditionalists cited in the FT blog post is no different than the attitude of most traditionalists; but since “traditionalism” is not a unified movement, nor is there any effective means available to police every traditionalist’s attitude/thoughts on Jews any more than there is an effective means available to police every FT writers’ potential proclivity toward lustful thoughts, this subtle “guilt by association” ploy is contemptible. Last, despite what the FT article softly implies (and other sources try to stress), the SSPX is not looking for the Catholic Church to return to some stylized, hyper antisemitic medieval posture toward the Jews. There is no evidence that the SSPX holds such a position, and the failure of these malcontents to cite any is telling.