Why did the pope do it?

Everywhere I’ve gone in recent days, people have asked me about the pope’s decision to lift the excommunication of four “traditionalist” bishops — one of whom says that no Jews were gassed by the Nazis.

People seem to be generally baffled: Who are these bishops? What’s the deal with the Society of St. Pius X, the group to which the bishops belong? Why does the pope care so much about reconciling with these folks? Doesn’t it look like the Vatican somehow endorses their views?

I decided to let someone else answer these questions. So I called Father James Massa, who is basically the point person on ecumenical and interreligious affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We had a good, long chat last night, which I will write about it my FaithBeat column tomorrow.

Massa told me that he is not surprised by the vast reaction to the pope’s move, given some of the statements made by Bishop Richard Williamson about the Holocaust.

“To deny the Holocaust is an outrageous and offensive statement and is unacceptable,” Massa said.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.