Pius Brotherhood leader rejects charges of anti-Semitism as "defamation"

The superior in the United States of the ultra-conservative Catholic breakaway group Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), Fr. Arnaud Rostand, has rejected as “defamation” charges that his group “teaches or practices anti-Semitism, which is a racial hatred of the Jewish people whether on account of their ethnicity, culture or religious beliefs." Rostand issued a statement to the ‘Catholic News Service’ in response to comments by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the top Vatican official in charge of relations with the Jews, who said the Vatican's reconciliation talks with the SSPX did not signal a willingness to accept priests or members who hold anti-Semitic positions.

"Cardinal Koch's false charge of anti-Semitism within our religious congregation casts the SSPX in a negative light and at a very sensitive time for the entire church," Rostand said in his statement, according to the CNS. He added: "Furthermore, our legal counsel has suggested that His Eminence's accusation is tantamount to defamation, since it insinuates that our society is a racist organization."

Cardinal Koch, who was addressing members of the commission that coordinates and promotes dialogue with Jewish groups, said many people involved in the dialogue - and not just Jewish participants - were worried that the Vatican's efforts to bring the SSPX back into full communion with the Catholic Church signaled a possible downplaying of the Second Vatican Council's declaration on relations with the Jews.

The cardinal said Pope Benedict XVI had directed him to make it clear that the Catholic Church continued to hold to the document's teachings: on the special spiritual bond between Judaism and Christianity, its rejection of claims that all Jews of Jesus' time and Jews today bear responsibility for Jesus' death, and its condemnation of any form of anti-Judaism or anti-Semitism.

In late October, the SSPX announced it had expelled Richard Williamson, one of the four bishops ordained by SSPX founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal approval in 1988 (see picture). Bishop Williamson, who opposed the reconciliation talks with the Vatican, has publicly denied the extent of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews at repeated occasions.

In 1989, he gave a speech to a Canadian church in which he decried the alleged persecution of Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi Ernst Zündel by the Canadian government. Williamson told his audience: “There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies.”

When the decision to expel Williamson was announced, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called  it "too little too late." He said: "The reasons now given [by the SSPX leadership] for Williamson's dismissal do not mention the damage this man has caused by spreading invective against Jews and others, be it from the pulpit, via his weekly newsletter and in his statements to the media.” Lauder said that although not all members of the SSPX were anti-Semites like Williamson, the group had yet to deal with the issue of anti-Semitism in its ranks and part ways with those “who continue to regard the Jews as the embodiment of the anti-Christ.”

Other SSPX clerics also made anti-Jewish statements in the past. In a 1997 article for the SSPX monthly ‘The Angelus’, the priests Michael Crowdy and Kenneth Novak called for locking Jews into ghettos because “Jews are known to kill Christians.” It also blamed Jews for the French Revolution, communism and capitalism and suggests a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy had destroyed the Catholic Church. The article described Judaism as “inimical to all nations.”

In 2004, 'The Angelus', which is published in Kansas City, included an article which stated: "This curse [suffered by Jews throughout history for killing Jesus] is the punishment of blindness to the things of God and eternity, of deafness to the call of conscience and to the love of good and hatred of evil which is the basis of all moral life, of spiritual paralysis, of total preoccupation with an earthly kingdom."

In his statement to CNS, the US District Superior Fr. Rostand expressed hope that the Jews would convert "to the one true faith are motivated by supernatural charity, not hatred."

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