Over the weekend, Pope Benedict announced his decision to revoke the excommunication of four bishops. Bishop Richard Williamson, along with the three other bishops in question, were excommunicated in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
Williamson and three other bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent — a move the Vatican said at the time was an act of schism.
Pope Benedict cited theological justification for his reconciliation efforts, yet days later anger over the announcement still resonates. Bishop Williamson has repeatedly denied the Holocaust, going so far as to speak about the subject on Swedish television. In an effort to remedy the controversy, Pope Benedict has since decried all forms of antisemitism, insisting that all Catholics do the same.
[This] was just the latest example of how the pope is increasingly focused on internal doctrinal issues and seemingly unaware of how they might resonate in the larger world.
Pope Benedict has already made many controversial announcements during his four years of church leadership. In 2006 he publicly cited an anti-Muslim scholar, angering many in the Islamic community.
Only time will tell if the circulating rumors are true: that Pope Benedict’s acts of reconciliation will inevitably lead to further schisms in the Catholic Church.