Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson booted from traditionalist group

VATICAN CITY — A breakaway traditionalist group has expelled Bishop Richard Williamson, a British prelate who in 2009 sparked a … Continued

VATICAN CITY — A breakaway traditionalist group has expelled Bishop Richard Williamson, a British prelate who in 2009 sparked a global crisis in Jewish-Catholic relations for denying the Holocaust shortly before Pope Benedict XVI readmitted him to the church.

The staunchly conservative Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) announced on Wednesday (Oct. 24) that Williamson had been “excluded” from its ranks on Oct. 4 because of his refusal to “show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors.”

The SSPX statement described Williamson’s expulsion as a “painful decision” and made no mention of his vocal Holocaust denials.

In January 2009, Williamson denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers in a TV interview with a Swedish documentary program. He also questioned the general consensus among historians that 6 millions Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

His words became public just days before Benedict lifted the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops, including Williamson.

The move was aimed at paving the way for full reconciliation between SSPX and Rome, but proved a major embarrassment for the German pope and the Vatican. Jews from all over the world sought reassurance that the Catholic Church was still committed to Jewish-Christian dialogue that was started by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

The SSPX rejects the liberalizing reforms of the council, which opened a new era in Catholic-Jewish relations after centuries of mistrust and religiously motivated violence.

Responding to the crisis, Benedict wrote an unprecedented letter to Catholic bishops saying he was unaware of Williamson’s positions, and called on Vatican departments to make more use of the Internet, where the bishop’s statements were widely available.

Since then, Williamson remained a stumbling block on the path of reconciliation between the SSPX and Rome. In May, the Vatican warned that even in the case of an agreement, the position of every SSPX bishop would be vetted individually.

Williamson’s expulsion, however, is unlikely to salvage the Vatican-SSPX negotiations that seem to have arrived at an impasse.

After more than two years of “doctrinal dialogue,” the Vatican’s doctrinal office in June presented SSPX leaders with a final offer, reportedly requiring acceptance of the Second Vatican Council as part of church doctrine.

The traditionalist group has yet to issue an official response, but its top officials signaled on several occasions that it is unacceptable. “The possibility of an agreement becomes more distant,” SSPX Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta told a traditionalist conference on Oct. 13.

Williamson had always opposed any reconciliation with Rome, and in the past months had called for the SSPX leadership to resign.

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  • MichaelSantomauro

    Let’s End Thought Crimes in the Twenty-first Century!

    What sort of Truth is it that crushes the freedom to seek the truth?

    “I wish to express my outrage that the Holocaust, unlike any other historical event, is not subject to critical revisionist investigation. Furthermore I deplore the fact that many so-called democratic states have laws that criminalize public doubting of the Holocaust. It is my position that the veracity of Holocaust assertions should be determined in the marketplace of scholarly discourse and not in our legislatures bodies and courthouses.” — Michael Santomauro

  • maybe_just_checking

    MichaelSantomauro

    7:21 PM EDT

    “What sort of Truth is it that crushes the freedom to seek the truth?”

    “The staunchly conservative Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) announced on Wednesday (Oct. 24) that Williamson had been “excluded” from its ranks on Oct. 4 because of his refusal to “show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors.”

    “The SSPX statement described Williamson’s expulsion as a “painful decision” and made no mention of his vocal Holocaust denials.”

    Perhaps it’s premature to ascribe this motivation to the action? Unless you have some further information that supports your conclusion….

    Just kidding, of course. SSPX can fire anyone for any doctrinal reason without having to justify it to you and me.

    regarding the rest of your post, I humbly suggest that “critical revisionist investigation” is a contradiction in terms. You may want to read Lipstadt on the subject. It does not rise to the level of an academic discipline, it does not seek truth. It is only ordinary speech. As such it receives the protections that ordinary speech receives around the world – that is to say, it varies among jurisdictions.

    Some regions consider the belittling of an ethnic group to constitute a threat, and as such it is actionable. My understanding is that in the US, general non-specific threats are not actionable. So be it.

    (as an aside, does academic speech receive special consideration beyond that given to non-academic speech?)

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