From the Associated Press:
In a front-page article, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reaffirmed that Pope Benedict XVI deplored all forms of anti-Semitism and that all Roman Catholics must do the same.
The article was issued amid an outcry from Jewish groups that Benedict last week lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop, Richard Williamson, who has denied that 6 million Jews were murdered during World War II.
The Vatican has stressed that removing the excommunication by no means implied the Vatican shared Williamson's views.
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.
Tom McFeely of National Catholic Register writes:
Bishop Williamson, who is English, said he didn’t believe any Jews were gassed to death in Nazi Germany’s Second World War death camps. And the SSPX bishop suggested the aggregate death toll of Jews murdered by the Nazis was only a small fraction of the total of six million Jews who died, according to Holocaust historians.
But the Vatican wasn’t even aware of Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust-questioning comments on Jan. 21, the day Pope Benedict XVI signed the Vatican decree lifting the excommunications.
Furthermore, the Vatican subsequently stressed that the lifting of the SSPX excommunications had no connection to Bishop Williamson’s controversial statement.
On Jan. 24, the day the decree was publicly announced through a statement released by the Congregation for Bishops, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said, “Saying a person is not excommunicated is not the same as saying one shares all his ideas or statements.”
One hopes that this should be an obvious point. But, obviously, it's not obvious. McFeely also writes, "One final point: It should be remembered that the lifting of the
excommunications was required because of a single ceremony of
consecration, undertaken in 1988 without the permission of Pope John
Paul II by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the SSPX."
Amy Welborn has an excellent post about this mess, in which she reflects on the Vatican's need to get up to speed when it comes to anticipating and handling media fall-out.