Rome, Italy, May 18, 2012 / 06:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A leading American rabbi and Holocaust refugee says people should trust Pope Benedict’s judgment when it comes to the Church possibly readmitting the Society of St. Pius X, which has a bishop who denied the scale of the Holocaust.
“Let me tell you this, I think that Pope Benedict XVI in many ways really understood the Holocaust because he was in the German Army. He deserted (the army), his family was anti-Nazi, I mean he was completely opposed to Hitler,” Rabbi Jack Bemporad told CNA May 16.
“Now, given the fact that he suffered under Hitler and that his family suffered under Hitler, how could he in any way accept or welcome someone who denies that Hitler did anything wrong?” he asked rhetorically.
The Society of St. Pius X broke with the Catholic Church in 1988 after its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops without the approval of Pope John Paul II.
One of those ordained, Bishop Richard Williamson, was fined $13,500 in Germany in 2010 after denying the extent of the Holocaust during a television interview. The Society subsequently issued a statement disassociating itself from his views. The conviction was also later quashed by the German appeals court.
Rabbi Bemporad, who currently serves as Professor of Interreligious Studies at the Pontifical Angelicum University, dismissed Bishop Williamson as “one person who is really crazy” and “knows nothing.”
He also believes that Williamson does not speak for the vast majority of Society members.
“The mistake is to take a few people and make them somehow representative of everyone without realizing that that just isn’t true,” he said. “I think it is only a small part of this group that is that radical. I think the vast majority are very happy and would love to be part of the Church.”
Earlier this week the Vatican announced that negotiations with the Society about reconciling the 1988 breach will now happen “separately and singularly” with three of the Society’s four bishops, including Williamson.
For his part, Williamson has made it increasingly clear that he is opposed to reconciliation with Rome. In a letter written earlier this month to his superior, Bishop Williamson suggested that reunion would cause the Society to cease opposing “the universal apostasy of our time.” He also accused Pope Benedict of being “a subjectivist.”
“Now I don’t think that in trying to find a way of incorporating this group that they are going to accept in any way any of the extreme positions that Williamson stands for,” predicted Rabbi Bemporad.
The Catholic Church’s view of Judaism was most recently set out in the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with non-Christian religions, “Nostra Aetate.” It rejected both anti-Semitism and the belief that present-day Jews are responsible for Christ’s death.
In recent negotiations with the Society, the Vatican has insisted that it accept all the documents of the Second Vatican Council.