Lefebvrites Have Troubled History with Judaism

By Allen, John L., Jr. | National Catholic Reporter, February 6, 2009 | Go to article overview

Lefebvrites Have Troubled History with Judaism


Allen, John L., Jr., National Catholic Reporter


A troubled history with Judaism has long been part of the Catholic traditionalist movement associated with the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre--beginning with Lefebvre himself, who spoke approvingly of both the World War If-era Vichy Regime in France and the far-right National Front, and who identified the contemporary enemies of the faith as "Jews, Communists and Freemasons" in an Aug. 31, 1985, letter to Pope John Paul II.

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 (1886-89 and 1894-99). 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.

For its part, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, the body founded by Lefebvre, issued a 2007 statement asserting that "a Catholic cannot be anti-Semitic without destroying the origin and essence of his own faith." Nonetheless, there's also a track record in some traditionalist and Lefebvrite circles of open hostility toward Jews and Judaism that is anything but latent.

Lefebvre wrote to John Paul II in 1985, three years before his decision to ordain four bishops in defiance of the pope's authority, to argue that Vatican II's "Declaration on Religious Liberty" had produced a series of poisonous consequences, including "all the reforms carried out over 20 years within the church to please heretics, schismatics, false religions and declared enemies of the church, such as the Jews, the Communists and the Freemasons."

This sense of antagonism was lifelong. In 1990, one year before his death, Lefebvre gave an interview to the journal of the National Front in France, suggesting that Catholic opposition to a residence, of Carmelite nuns at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp was being instigated by Jews.

Lefebvre's followers often share this outlook. In 1997, one of the four bishops ordained by Lefebvre in 1988, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, said, "The church for its part has at all times forbidden and condemned the killing of Jews, even when 'their grave defects rendered them odious to the nations among which they were established.' ... All this makes us think that the Jews are the most active artisans for the coming of Antichrist."

Nor has their record been confined simply to making statements. In 1989, Paul Touvier, a fugitive charged with ordering the execution of seven Jews in 1944, was arrested in a priory of the Fraternity of St. Plus X in Nice, France. The fraternity stated at the time that Touvier had been granted asylum as "an act of charity to a homeless man." When Touvier died in 1996, a parish church operated by the fraternity offered a requiem Mass in his honor.

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In just the past year, controversy arose in Germany when a priest of the fraternity asserted that Jews were "co-responsible" for the death of Christ. Also in 2008, an Italian priest of the fraternity celebrated a Latin Mass in honor of the 63rd anniversary of the death of fascist leader Benito Mussolini. …

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