Monday, March 2, 2009

Bp. Williamson Controversy

At about the same time the excommunications were lifted from the SSPX, an interview initially recorded several months prior broke onto the scene, sending shockwaves throughout the Catholic community. Included in this interview was a piece concerning the Bishop's views on the holocaust, which section can be viewed at this link [1]. The Vatican was quick to denounce this burst of perceived antisemitism when Cardinal Kasper, the liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations, said in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, concerning Bp. Williamson's opinions "These are unacceptable words. To deny the Holocaust is stupid and is a position that has nothing to do with the Catholic Church." The bishop is informed that he is not to function as a cleric of the Church until he recants his statements[2] British bishops were no more sluggish than the Vatican when a spokesman for the bishops said “The views of one of the bishops of SSPX in denying the reality of the Holocaust are totally unacceptable.”[3] Meanwhile, on behalf of U.S. Bishops, Cardinal Francis George condemned the words of the bishop with these comments “Bishop Williamson has denied historical facts about the Shoah, in which six million Jews were cruelly annihilated, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred. These comments have evoked understandable outrage from within the Jewish community and also from among our own Catholic people. No Catholic, whether lay person, priest or bishop can ever negate the memory of the Shoah, just as no Catholic should ever tolerate expressions of anti-Semitism and religious bigotry...”[4] The Society of St. Pius X wasted no time in distancing itself from Bp. Williamson in a statement issued by the Superior General "Bishop Williamson’s statements do not in any way reflect the position of our Society."[5] Superior General of the SSPX, Bp. Bernard Fellay is reported to have ordered Williamson to correct his statement, saying "As soon as I saw this interview I told him to correct this nonsense... The sooner, the better," and said the Society didn't understand how the bishop could have been so mistaken.[6] Less than a week later, Bp. Williamson accepted Fellay's decision to relieve him of his post as rector of La Reja Seminary in Argentina.[7] According to the head of the Argentinian organization "National Institute Against Discrimination (INADI)", Maria Jose Lubertino, Williamson could potentially face legal charges in Argentina, and a prison sentence of up to three years.[8] In Europe, the French organization "International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism" publishes threats of pressing charges against the bishop for "contesting crimes against humanity". [9] In Germany, where denial of the holocaust is a crime, punishable with up to 5 years imprisonment, a German district attorney has instigated a criminal investigation against Bp. Williamson. Regensburg District Attorney Guenther Ruckdaeschel said authorities are investigating whether his remarks can be considered to be "inciting racial hatred."[10] Amidst concerns of being extradited to Germany and tried in criminal courts upon returning to the EU, Bp. Williamson was received into England on the 24th of Feb, now residing in London.

[1] Inclusion of this link does not imply endorsement by VITW or its authors.
[2] adnkronosinternational, "Vatican: Cardinal slams bishop for Holocaust denial", Jan. 26, 2009
[3] Times Online, "Britain's Catholic bishops denounce anti-Semitism", Jan. 27,2009
[4] Catholic News Agency, "U.S. Catholic bishops condemn comments by SSPX bishop", Feb. 3, 2009
[5] Superior General Bernard Fellay, General Statement, Jan. 27, 2009
[6] Spiegel Online, "Head of SSPX Calls on Williamson to Correct 'Nonsense'", Feb. 10, 2009
[7] Rorate Caeli, "Confirmed: Williamson Removed", Feb. 9, 2009
[8] Deutsche Welle News, "Holocaust Revisionist Put Under Pressure by Church, Courts", Feb. 17, 2009
[9] JTA, "French Group will charge bishop", Feb. 11, 2009
[10] CNN News, "Holocaust-denying bishop loses court battle"