When Archbishop Lefebvre performed his illicit consecrations in 1988, I puzzled about the choice of the four men. I continued to puzzle even more about Williamson. I think I have come up with a sort of an answer. None of these men was the superior of the SSPX. At that time, I think it was Fr Schmidburger. I suspect that Lefebvre very deliberately did not want to consecrate as bishop a man who would be likely to be elected superior general. That might have signalled schism. His bishops were simply there to confer the sacraments of Holy Orders and Confirmation. They were not to rule, but were an expedient that he considered necessary under the circumstances.
However, he did not factor in the very natural Catholic instinct to be led by a bishop, and so, after the death of the Archbishop, the least inept of the four remaining bishops was elected Superior General. And there we have it.
And I must say that I was touched by Bishop Williamson's humble apology.[h/t Rorate Caeli] There is no way he could apologize for his horrid views—that would be intellectually dishonest—but I thought that his allusion to Jonah was particularly apt and humble.
I don't find Bishop Williamson's behaviour at all strange, rather I find it calculating. I think he deliberately attempted to delay the reconciliation process, and is willing to say extremely provocatice things to do it. He expressed only enough skepticism to raise a ruckus. If he had actually DENIED that the Holocaust happened, he would have probably have risked his future in the Society itself. It is possible that his line is so hard it amounts to sede-vacantism, but on the other hand he may have been testing the good will and legalistic integrity of the Vatican. Clearly if he feels he cannot trust Benedict XVI of all people, then he no longer believes in the validity of the holder of the See of Peter. IMHO. Look for more hijinks from Williamson, but this is something Benedict will deal with and overcome. Clearly Bp. Fellay and the others are willing to go down the road of reconciliation and trust.
One has to remember that Lefebvre was getting on in age and so it would have been easy for the hard-liners in the SSPX to sweet-talk about Williamson. It would have been much better if someone like Fr. Black was chosen.
Bishop Williamson has never been a Catholic in the "mainstream" church as such, which is probably a reason why he doesn't understand how his remarks can be taken the wrong way in Rome - whereas Fellay does.
But then again, most of the English members of the SSPX have turned out to be a bit odd (with the exception of Frs. Black and Boyle). Look at Dr. Glover for example...
I thought I had read (years ago) that the SSPX constitution originally said that no bishop (after Lefebvre) could become Superior, but that they later changed it so that Fellay could be elected.
Unfortunately I cannot find any reference to that now.
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