Richard Williamson

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Richard Williamson
Bishop Richard Williamson.png
Born Richard Nelson Williamson
8 March 1940
Buckinghamshire, England
Occupation clergyman, writer
Organization Society of St. Pius X
Religion Anglican (1940—1971)
Catholic (1971—present)

Bishop of the SSPX
Term 1988 – present

Richard Nelson Williamson, SSPX (born March 8, 1940) is a bishop and formerly a member of the Society of St. Pius X. He was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church in 1988 because of his unauthorized consecration by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, deemed by the Holy See to be "unlawful" and "a schismatic act".[1] The excommunication was lifted by the Holy See in January 2009.[2]

A controversy appeared based on an obscure interview that the bishop had given in 2008. In the interview Williamson had disagreed with the politically correct view on the Holocaust. In 2010 he was convicted of "Holocaust denial" in a German court. He was expelled from the Society of St. Pius X.

Contents

Life

Early life and ministry

Williamson was born in England, the second of three boys to Anglican parents. He attended Winchester College.[3] After taking a degree in literature at the University of Cambridge,[3] he taught at a college in Ghana.[4] During this time he was greatly influenced by Malcolm Muggeridge. During his time in Africa, Williamson met with an elderly Albert Schweitzer in Gabon.[5]

Conversion and early ministry

In 1971 Williamson was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Father John Flanagan, an Irish missionary priest working in England. After some time as a novice at the London Oratory, Williamson entered the International Seminary of St. Pius X at Ecône Switzerland in October 1972. In 1976 he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.[3]

Williamson's first appointment was as a professor at the German seminary of the Society in Weissbad, and after two years he was named to the St. Pius X International Seminary in Ecône, Switzerland. In 1983 he was transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Within a short time he was appointed rector of the seminary which moved to Winona, Minnesota in 1988.[3]

SSPX Bishop

After his episcopal consecration Williamson remained rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary. He performed various episcopal functions, including confirmations and ordinations. In 1991, he assisted in the consecration of Licínio Rangel as bishop for the Priestly Society of St. John Mary Vianney after the death of its founder, Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer.

In 2003 Williamson was appointed rector of the Seminary of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix in La Reja, Argentina.

In 2006, Williamson ordained two priests and seven deacons in Warsaw, Poland for the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat, a group led by the priest Basil Kovpak whose 2003 excommunication by the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church was declared null on procedural grounds, but who was definitively excommunicated in November 2007.[6] This action was considered unlawful by the Catholic Church as Williamson violated canons 1015 §1 and 1017 of the Code of Canon Law,[7] as he, acting outside his own jurisdiction, did not have the permission of the diocesan Bishop, and as he did not have valid dimissorial letters (cf. canons 1018 and 1019) authorizing him to perform the ordination anywhere.

Lifting of the excommunication

By a decree of 21 January 2009 (Protocol Number 126/2009), which was issued in response to a renewed request that Bishop Fellay made on behalf of all four bishops whom Lefebvre had consecrated on 30 June 1988, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, by the power granted to him by Pope Benedict XVI, remitted the excommunication that they had thereby incurred, and expressed the hope "that this step will be followed by the prompt attainment of full communion with the Church by the entire Fraternity of St. Pius X, thus demonstrating true faithfulness and true recognition of the magisterium and authority of Pope with the sign of visible unity".[8] The decree was made public on 24 January 2009.

The canonical situation of the four bishops thus became the same as that of the other clergy of the Society, who are suspended a divinis.[9]

Williamsongate

Richard Williamson
"I believe there were no gas chambers ... I think that two to three hundred thousand Jews perished in National socialist concentration camps ... but none of them by gas chambers" - Richard Williamson on Swedish television[10][11]

Williamson voiced his views on the Holocaust (see below) in an interview with Swedish Television recorded in Germany in November 2008 and broadcast on the evening of 21 January 2009,[12][10] the day on which the excommunication was lifted. The interview was given wide publicity around the world.

Williamson's superior in the SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay, initially stated that Williamson was responsible for his own personal comments and that the affair did not concern the SSPX as a whole.[13] The District Superior of the SSPX in Sweden and Germany distanced himself from anti-semitism and racism.[14] Bishop Fellay subsequently forbade Williamson from speaking out publicly about historical or political matters, and asked Pope Benedict for forgiveness for the damage done by Williamson's remarks.[15] Williamson himself sent the Pope a letter expressing his regret about the problems that he had caused, but did not retract his statements.[16][17][18]

The Church authorities made a number of statements on the matter. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who had been negotiating with Bishop Fellay, stated that he had not been aware of Williamson's comments.[19] Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi commented that Williamson's views had no impact on the decision to remit his excommunication.[20] The semi-official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reaffirmed that Pope Benedict XVI deplored all forms of anti-Semitism and that all Catholics must do the same.[21] In an audience, the Pope expressed his "unquestionable solidarity" with the Jewish people, and stated his hope that "the memory of the Shoah will induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of hate when it conquers the heart of man".[22] Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops' Conference, marked Holocaust Memorial Day by denouncing Bishop Williamson's views, which he said were: "unfounded and unjustified". [23] On 4 February 2009, the Vatican Secretariat of State issued a note stating that Williamson would have to distance himself unequivocally and publicly from the opinions that he had expressed (of which, it was said, the Pope had been unaware when the excommunication was remitted) if he was to be permitted to act as a bishop within the Church.[24][25]

Reaction from the Jewish community was strongly negative. Abraham Foxman, president of the American Anti-Defamation League, wrote to Cardinal Walter Kasper in order to express his opposition to any eventual re-integration of Williamson into the Church.[26] The Chief Rabbinate of Israel broke off official ties with the Vatican, and Haifa Chief Rabbi She'ar Yashuv Cohen, chairman of the Rabbinate's Commission, said that he expected Williamson to publicly retract his statements before meetings could be renewed.[27]

In Germany, Holocaust denial is illegal,[28] and German prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Williamson's remarks. [29]

Views

In common with his colleagues in the SSPX and with many other Traditionalist Catholics, Williamson opposes the changes in the Catholic Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council. He sees such changes as being unacceptably liberal and modernistic, and as being destructive to the Church.[30][31][32] Among the changes he opposes are the Church's increased openness to other Christian denominations and other religions,[33][30] and changes in the forms of Catholic worship such as the general replacement of the Tridentine Mass with the Mass of Paul VI. Williamson has criticised Pope John Paul II, to whom he attributed a "weak grasp of Catholicism", and also Pope Benedict XVI, whom he considers a "Hegelian philosopher" and a "Neo-Modernist" theologian.[34][35] Williamson holds that the SSPX is not schismatic, but rather is composed of true Catholics who are keeping the "complete Roman Catholic apostolic faith".[32][30][31][36]

Williamson is viewed as being located towards the hardline end of the traditionalist spectrum, though he does not go so far as to espouse sedevacantism.[37][35][38] He opposes compromise between the SSPX and the Church leadership in Rome,[39][40] accusing the latter of deceit[41] and of being under "the power of Satan".[38][30] He has been reported as viewing reconciliation between the SSPX and the Holy See as being impossible, and he has noted that some SSPX members might refuse to follow the Society in such a direction even if an agreement were reached.[42][3][40]

Williamson holds strong views regarding gender roles and dress. He opposes women attending college or university [43], the wearing of trousers or shorts by women,[44][45][46] and has urged greater "manliness" in men.[45][46] He is quoted as saying: "A woman can do a good imitation of handling ideas, but then she will not be thinking properly as a woman. Did this lawyeress check her hairdo before coming into court? If she did, she is a distracted lawyer. If she did not, she is one distorted woman[47].

In a 1997 letter to friends and benefactors of the SSPX seminary in Winona, Minnesota, Williamson denounced the film The Sound of Music as "soul-rotting slush" and stated that "by glorifying that romance which is essentially self-centered, (the film) puts selfishness in the place of selflessness between husband and wife, and by putting friendliness and fun in the place of authority and rules, it invites disorder between parents and children."[48].

Williamson promoted conspiracy theories regarding the Kennedy assassination and the September 11 attacks, claiming that the latter were staged by the US government.[46][3][49]

Williamson has been accused of "Holocaust denial".[50][51][52][53][54] According to Bishop Williamson, there were no homicidal gas chambers in Germany (1933-1945) and has claimed that not six million but maximal 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in National socialist concentration camps.[12][10] Williamson has also praised Ernst Zundel.[50][53][51][55]

References

  1. Apostolic Letter 'Ecclesia Dei'
  2. Press release on the lifting of the excommunication, with full translation of the decree remitting it
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Lefebvrists face crisis as bishop is exposed as 'dangerous' anti-Semite" (in English). The Catholic Herald (Catholic Herald Limited). 3/5/2008. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/articles/a0000226.shtml. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  4. http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/04May/may28ttt.htm
  5. http://web.archive.org/20090218075129/qien.free.fr/2006/200610/20061002_williamson.htm
  6. "Ukrainian priest excommunicated" (in English). Catholic World News (CWN). 2007-11-23. http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=54919. Retrieved 2008-06-24. "SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson illicitly ordained two SSJK priests and seven deacons." 
  7. Canon Law. 1983 Code of Canon Law: The Celebration of Ordination and the Minister. Vatican. Retrieved on 2008-06-24.
  8. Text of Decree lifting the excommunication
  9. Letter of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei of 29 September 1995)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Pope to cancel excommunication of rebel bishops". Telegraph. 23 Jan 2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/4317996/Pope-to-cancel-excommunication-of-rebel-bishops.html. Retrieved 23 Jan 2009. 
  11. Richard Williams Interview at kathtube.com
  12. 12.0 12.1 Agnew, Paddy (23 Jan 2009). "Pope to lift excommunications of four 'Lefebvre' bishops". Irish Times. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2009/0123/1232474675771.html. Retrieved 23 Jan 2009. 
  13. The Remnant
  14. Remnant Press, Williamson to be Charged? Diocese of Stockholm and SSPX District Superiors Respond
  15. Forgiveness sought for Holocaust-denying bishop
  16. Dinoscopos
  17. Bishop Williamson apologizes for 'imprudent' Holocaust remarks
  18. Bishop who denied Holocaust apologizes to pope, AP.
  19. Priest in Italy defends Holocaust-denier
  20. Nicole Winfield, "[http://web.archive.org/web/20090131194145/http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iQIJoUn9PMoY__fvU-gHPiR4Ku0QD95THFA81 Pope lifts excommunications of 4 bishops]", AP.
  21. Vatican: Comments by Holocaust denier unacceptable
  22. Pope tries to heal rift with Jews over Holocaust denier
  23. Views of reinstated SSPX bishop cause outrage
  24. Bulletin of the Press Office of the Holy See, 4 February 2009
  25. [1]
  26. ADL To Vatican: Do Not Rehabilitate Holocaust Denier Bishop
  27. Chief Rabbinate cuts ties with Vatican
  28. Reaktioner i Tyskland - redan före sändning!
  29. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/02/04/germany.bishop/index.html
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 Moylan, Martin J. (11 December 1988). "US Seminary of front line in Catholic Doctrine Battle". The Dallas Morning News. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 Neuerbourg, Hanns (1 July 1988). "New Traditionalist Bishop Says Fight Just Beginning". The Associated Press. 
  32. 32.0 32.1 McAteer, Michael (3 April 1989). "Liberalism destroying church, bishop says". The Toronto Star. 
  33. Wilkins, Emma (19 September 1988). "Bishop attacks Rome 'poison';Bishop Richard Williamson". The Times. 
  34. Owen, Richard (2003-04-21). "Pope woos conservatives expelled for rebellion". Times Online. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article862705.ece. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 Ein Damenbesuch und andere unbekannte Seiten des Papstes
  36. Stowell, Linda (13 August 1988). "Ousted bishop says pope ruining church". Houston Chronicle. 
  37. Pope opens talks with Latin Mass renegades
  38. 38.0 38.1 McAteer, Michael (15 April 1989). "Maverick bishop confirms Lefebvre's way". The Toronto Star. 
  39. Lefebvrist bishop says no reconciliation with Rome
  40. 40.0 40.1 "Pope meets head of ultraconservative movement". USA Today. 29 August 2005. http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2005-08-29-popelefebvre_x.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  41. Pope opens talks with Latin Mass renegades
  42. SSPX bishop sees little hope for agreement with Rome
  43. http://www.sspx.ca/Documents/Bishop-Williamson/September1-2001.htm
  44. Farney, Dennis (23 August 1995). "Paranoia Is Becoming An Article of Faith In a Tiny Kansas Town - A Split Among Its Catholics Is as Much About Suspicion As It Is About Doctrine". The Wall Street Journal. 
  45. 45.0 45.1 Papadakis, Mary (14 July 2002). "Catholic right over 'sect'". Sunday Herald Sun. 
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 "Bishop's homily ranges from Columbus to 'JFK'". The Salt Lake Tribune. 28 March 1992. pp. A12. 
  47. Bishop Williamson's view on women"
  48. Bishop Williamson's Letters (November 7, 1997)
  49. Lecture by Williamson
  50. 50.0 50.1 Legge, Gordon (April 15, 1989.). "Holocaust stance probed". Calgary Herald.. 
  51. 51.0 51.1 McAteer, Michael (14 April 1989). "Chief Canadian bishop denounces clergyman's anti-Jewish comments". The Toronto Star. pp. A11. 
  52. Robert G. Weisbord and Wallace P. Sillanpoa: The Chief Rabbi, the Pope, and the Holocaust (Transaction Publishers 1991 ISBN 0887384161), p. 202
  53. 53.0 53.1 McAteer, Michael (21 April 1989). "Catholic bishop won't be charged for remarks about Jews, police say". The Toronto Star. pp. A10. 
  54. Pope to cancel excommunication of rebel bishops. The Daily Telegraph (2009-01-23). Retrieved on 2009-01-23.
  55. "The Holocaust: Zeal and ignorance". The Windsor Star: pp. A.10. April 20, 1989. 

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