The pope lifted the excommunication of Williamson and three other bishops who are members of the Saint Pius X Society, whose priests conduct masses that look like this:
Benedict yesterday affirmed his aversion to anti-Semitism. But as the National Catholic Reporter's John L. Allen suggests, suspicion of Jews and the liturgical traditionalism practiced by the four bishops are linked:
A Roman Catholic Mass was held Sunday in Midtown Manhattan that seemed to be from another time. The women covered their heads with delicate lace veils and the priest said the Mass in Latin with his back to the congregation.Their missals, or booklets, were dated 1962, the year that the Second Vatican Council began ushering modernization and openness into the Catholic Church, changes that the worshipers at Sunday’s Mass reject.
The historical association between some strains of traditionalist Catholicism and anti-Semitism run deep, intertwined with royalist reaction to the French Revolution in the 18th century and, later, the Boulanger and Dreyfus Affairs in France (1886-1889 and 1894-1899). In populist European conservatism, the defense of Christian tradition has often been linked to a suspicion of “contamination” — originally by Jews, and more recently, by Europe’s rising Muslim presence.And yet what about the words in the mass itself, as preferred by Bishop Williamson? As the Anti-Defamation League wrote in 2007:
Observers of the traditionalist landscape caution people not to paint with too broad a brush, as if every Catholic attracted to the older Latin Mass or to traditional views on doctrinal matters is somehow tainted by anti-Semitism. Similarly, experts also warn that critics of Catholic traditionalism can sometimes be quick to label as “anti-Semitic” attitudes that may be controversial theologically or politically, but that don’t in themselves reflect real prejudice.
A papal order allowing the use of the 16th Century Tridentine Mass (Latin Mass) includes the prayer used in the Good Friday liturgy from the 1962 Missal, "For the conversion of the Jews. Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness."In response, as the London Times wrote in February 2008:
The Pope has rewritten the Good Friday prayer for the "conversion" of the Jewish people in the old Latin rite in an attempt to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism.That's why it's hard to accept, as one cardinal said, that "removing the excommunication against the British bishop and the bishop's comments were two completely separate issues." As Episcopalians and Anglicans realize just as well as Roman Catholics, liturgy is supposed to be alive in God's love, the spirit, and Christ. Given the inspiration that many denominations took from the Vatican II liturgical reforms that the Saint Pius X Society finds so abominable, the pope's slow but determined progress in the wrong direction is dispiriting -- as are the images of women with their heads covered in church. Quaintly, benignly traditional? Not by my lights. Why aren't men's heads covered? It's more evidence that Christ's church is still mired in misogyny.
But the new version of the prayer still contains a plea for the "salvation" of Israel and asks God to "enlighten" the hearts of Jewish people so that they acknowledge Jesus Christ as saviour.
Watch someone say that conservative Catholic women choose freely to cover their heads. That's what the second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia sometimes say, too.