So when is the other shoe going to drop? The news about Fr. Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ was a pretty sore blow, and the response from our end hasn't been that great. Which, I suppose, is for entirely valid reasons. Still, we're enduring a drubbing over it, and the issue really does cause grave scandal. The fracas over the lifting of the excommunications is the other big item, but that, in and of itself, is good. The bad part about it was that it quickly fell into the hands of ignorant (not a negative connotation here, but simply meaning "those who do not know") and/or unscrupulous people, who ran with it. It was too good for them to pass up: traditionalist Catholics, Latin Mass-types, and one of their bishops was a Holocaust denier? How could they resist? And how could those who don't know any better be expected to discern what was really at stake, when all the idiot talking heads wanted to do was talk about the Pope un-excommunicating a Holocaust denier as if he approved of the bishop's opinions.
As the dominant mode of thought has become almost exclusively secular (and I still haven't quite been able to date when this occurred, though I think it's fairly defensible that it happened at different times in different places), people's thinking about the Church has become hopelessly muddled. Now naturally that was, to a large extent, always the case with certain Protestant denominations after a few centuries, who didn't know what the Catholic Church teaches and why. But now it looks like the problem has trickled down to Catholics too. We've started to view the Church almost as a club- you pays your money and you gets your salvation. So someone who has been excommunicated has simply been kicked out of the club. It seems to be the tacit assumption that they'll go join on with another religious group, or start their own, and that's that. And more to the point in this case, you can, or should, get kicked out of that club (i.e. excommunicated) if the other members don't like you.
In reality, though, it's much more of a medicinal sanction than a punitive one. It's a shock to the system. The excommunicati are cut off from the life of the Church, in the hopes that this enables them to see the very real consequences of what they have done. That's a bit more difficult with latae sententiae excommunications, I think, but that's also why we have to educate the people in our Church, so they know what's going on, what these things mean. But the intention, and the hope, is always there that the person will come back into the fold, will repent and be reconciled. Sadly, this doesn't always happen, and these days, it seems that some people would rather be wrong about the whole eternal salvation thing than follow rules they don't particularly like or understand.
But the formerly excommunicated Bishop Williamson has committed perhaps the one remaining cardinal secular sin- the denial of the Holocaust. Make no mistake, I think this really is a very serious and extremely scandalous thing to do, and unlike the sophmoric Voltaire-parroting philosophes who sometimes crop up, I feel no compulsion to defend the right of a fool to speak folly without consequence. So what claim do these people have to make about the lifting of the excommunication in order to justify their strenuous objections? Evidently, the lifting of a punishment due to an entirely different offense amounts to an approbation of the particular offense of Holocaust denial that has gotten up the moderns' nose. Well, what else would we have to believe in order for this to make sense? That Pope Benedict, perhaps, shares the same opinion? After all, the press and their drones are all perfectly willing to believe that our Pope was a Nazi, so why not? Of course, there was one Polish fellow who seemed to think Cardinal Ratzinger was all right....
But I imagine most clear-thinking people can see that that's not a very good option. But still there's that lingering idea that the Pope should not have done this. The Pope, they say, has gone too far.
Nonsense. The Pope has done precisely what Christ would have done. The Church is the hospital for sinners, it is precisely where every man, woman, and child needs to be, including Bishop Williamson. He was baptized a Catholic, and though many have forgotten it, this means that he has been blessed with an indelible mark that states that he was claimed by God as His own. He can't be kept out of that hospital for sinners so long as he is willing to obey the laws of that hospital, whatever his views might be. We never seem to be able to keep this in mind, but who did Christ call to Himself? He called Simon Peter, and others like him. The man who told Our Lord that he would never betray Him, only to turn around and deny that he ever knew Him. What would we say to this, from a purely secular mindset? That Peter couldn't be trusted? Quite possibly. That he had betrayed someone to whom he swore loyalty, and therefore was worthy of a right swift kick in the pants? Almost definitely. And what about the people Jesus ate with? Tax collectors (many of whom were probably cheats, though for some reason, I don't think the idea of someone who collects taxes and rips off everybody else gets us as mad as it once might have), adulterers, boors, thieves, the possessed, all sorts of ruffians. And then, of course, there's us. He forgave us, too. Is it really our right to decry the forgiving of one man, when He has already paid the ultimate price and forgiven every one of us for all our sins? It's worth thinking about.