Could Williamson end up as a bishop in cyberspace?

February 8, 2009

What should be done with Bishop Richard Williamson? In the wave of protests following his denial of the Holocaust, many critics argued he should have no place in the Roman Catholic Church. He gave them more ammunition over the weekend by telling Der Spiegel that he would have to study the historical evidence before deciding whether to publicly recant, as the Vatican has demanded. But he and his three fellow rebel bishops from the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) have already been let back into the Church thanks to Pope Benedict’s decision to lift their excommunications. They now have to find an official niche in the Church to occupy.

(Photo: Bishop Richard Williamson, 28 Feb 2007/Jens Falk)

It’s not clear when the SSPX bishops will begin negotiating their rehabilitation with the Vatican, partly because we don’t know how long Williamson will take for his new history assignment. But whenever those talks get under way, one of their goals will be to find a role for the four men who, although illicitly ordained, are valid bishops. And if they are rehabilitated, they will have to be bishops of somewhere or something. As the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it, bishops “are appointed for the government of one portion of the faithful of the Church, under the direction and authority of the sovereign pontiff, who can determine and restrain their powers, but not annihilate them”.

The operative word here is “restrain”. SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay could be made bishop of a personal prelature, on the model of Opus Dei, but that still leaves the other three without official positions. The two others — Alfonso de Galarreta and Bernard Tissier de Mallerais — haven’t received too much media attention yet and it’s not clear what they might end up doing. But Williamson looks set for the sidelines even if he pops up on YouTube doing penitential readings from Saul Friedländer‘s books.

(Photo: Bishop Jacques Gaillot/

The Vatican has a way of restraining insubordinate bishops. They can be appointed to a “titular see,” i.e. a see (diocese) in name only. These sees are normally given to bishops who don’t run a diocese, for example a bishop working in the Curia. But the case of French Bishop Jacques Gaillot shows they can also be used to sidetrack someone. Gaillot was bishop of Evreux in France from 1982 to 1995 and stood out for his left-wing political and theological views (including blessing a same-sex union in 1988).

In 1995, the Vatican told Gaillot to resign or be removed from his see. He refused to resign and was reassigned to the titular see of Partenia, a diocese now lost under the sands of the Algerian Sahara. It ceased to exist in the fifth (yes, 5th) century after Huneric, the King of the Vandals, drove its bishop Rogatus into exile.

Gaillot didn’t stop his activism, however. He created a Partenia website in seven languages that declares the extinct see a “diocese without borders” where he fields questions, comments on current events, gives Biblical interpretations, runs a forum and chat room and provides a collection of mostly left-wing links.

Despite his 68 years, Williamson is quite at home with cyberspace. He has his own blog, Dinoscopus, which has become a must-read for journalists following this saga. It features a caricature of him as a dinosaur (at left) that shows he has a good portion of self-deprecating British humour. There are so many unclaimed titular sees that the Vatican would have no problem finding him one. But no matter where they assign him, it’s a pretty good bet his new address will start with http://


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Why Cyberspace? The Bishop of Antarctica seems like a good assignment.

Posted by Rube Vogel | Report as abusive

I can understand why the pope lifter the excommunication, it had nothing to do with this man non theological views. What I can’t understand is why he let them remain bishops. The titles were bestowed by a excommunicated priest. They should have lost their titles in the process. This man views are silly and a dangerous rejection of witness fact. He is obviously an anti-Semite. Lift the excommunication, yes, but let him remain a bishop, never. That is a mistake and a insult to all Catholics and Jews.

Posted by blogger | Report as abusive

Don’t forget Cardnal Law. Supported child molesters and ended up in Rome… THey take care of their own.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

Along with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Williamson could form the new neo-Nazi Vichy-Bavarian branch of the church… maybe headquartered somewhere in Mongolia.. The other clergymen in this Vatican version of time-out seem to have gotten there through unauthorized ordinations, but Williamson is an anti-semite and may need rabies shots.

Posted by Rfalken | Report as abusive

How about the Bishop in Israel. Both fitting and a good lesson to learn.

Posted by Greg | Report as abusive

Just fire and defrock him. He deserves no place of authority in any church.

Posted by VACommonsense | Report as abusive

Bishop Williamson is just following the word of God, if he was told information on the holocaust that is different that what is publicly known. He must have a basis. We can’t repudiate his works and words as a servant of God based on what we just read, heard and see. If he has done wrong, God will be the judge. Remember, judge not for you will be judged accordingly.

Posted by Benedict | Report as abusive

I saw the interview on the internet. Bishop Williamson did not deny the Holocaust. He simply mentioned the lethal toxicity of cyanide, the limited number of gas chambers, burners, and few other things. I can summarize his interview in one equation, that is Holocaust=300,000 while the Jews advertised Holocaust=6,000,000. I also read some blogs on the internet, there were people who called the Bishop a Jew Hater, Bigot, Holocaust Denier, etc. but they provided no solid proof for the difference which was 5,700,000. it looked like the name calling is to avoid providing proof. In the interview, Bishop Williamson did not appear to be any Jew Hater or Bigot. He got nothing to gain or lose. I think to convince the Bishop, someone should provide hard, solid evidence for that 5,700,000 figure by showing skeletons, or skulls. Such evidence is still on Earth. With the limited number of burners in Germany at the time, it’s not possible to burn to ash 5,700,000 bodies in a few years. Show the Bishop the solid evidence, don’t call him by names.

Posted by larry | Report as abusive

Being Jewish, and having lost family in the Holocaust I hestitate to comment on what is essentially an internal Church matter. I accept that the Vatican has disassociated the Church from his remarks; if some nutter wants to deny the Holocaust or assert the existance of Father Christmas or that Elvis lives, he will attract a following of similar loons while the rest of the world passes him by.

What does concern me is that the Church establishment, appears to be bullying him into saying what he does not believe. Surely this authoritarian stamping out of dissent was one of the factors behind the Holocaust itself? By all means present the facts to rebut him; by all means redeploy him if he is deemed unsuitable to preach or teach (and I respect that the Vatican is the best judge of that); but I hope that the Vatican does not start down the slippery slide of stamping out free speech which lead to Hitler’s rise in the first place.

Posted by Colin | Report as abusive

How about freedom of speech?
Isn’t anyone entitle to his own view and opinion?
Why force him to admit something he does not believe happened?

Posted by Bigben | Report as abusive

Perhaps it would be fitting if Bishop Williamson is relieved of all his duties and re-assigned with special focused duties as Priest/asthetic to the diocese of Oswiecim-Birkenau and required to walk the grounds of some near by ruins everday to his last only to be required to say prayers for the many souls; Jew, Gentile and Atheist, who died there. He may enter the cell where a Priest by the name of Kolb starved to death, or perhaps pray for the soul of young girl by the name of Anne Frank.

Posted by David Pawlowski | Report as abusive

Just another ignorant christian with anti semetic views, What do you expect from a nazi pope?

Posted by Stephen | Report as abusive

Why is anyone surprised by this? Jew hatred has a long history in the Catholic church. It is Williamson and his ilk who truly represent the ideology of hate that is fundamental to Christianity. It is only recently that Rome has tried to be politically correct and pretend they don’t really hate the Jews. And as for bullying him and freedom of speech… freedom of speech… from the church? LOL. Don’t be ridiculous. The church doesn’t give a crap about freedom of anything. It has been an unassailable bastion of evil for 2000 years, and so it will remain until humanity finally rids itself of the mental illness of religion.

Posted by Offsuit | Report as abusive

I think every thing can be chalanged , one can have a knoledge or views and it should not be crime, it is freedom of views and speach. Not every one beleive in everything. We are going back to dark age with this Law which does not make sense. you can,t force people to believe in one thing which they don-t want to believe in.

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

Folks, Bishop Williamson is not “racist” or “anti-semitic” for questioning some of the logistics of the holocaust. He’s not denying that a large number of people were forced out of their homes, against their will (even if he’s remotely correct about the numbers being “only” 300,000, that’s still, like, 100 9/11’s!), and taken to camps. It’s not a theory that gas chambers with Zyklon-B really were used for disinfecting clothing, killing lice and stopping the spread of typhus. Such gas chambers were present at most of the camps INCLUDING those camps which are NOT said to have homicidal gas chambers. Just to PROVE that holocaust revisionism is not about racism, go to google video and type in “david cole” and watch “the truth behind the gates of auschwitz.” Cole is a Jew. So now that you have a Jew’s permission to question the gas chamber story, enjoy the rabbithole.

Posted by a syed | Report as abusive

the pope is not a nazi, nor the bishop an ignorant christian with anti semetic views, the ideology of hate is not fundamental to christianity or any other religion. It is nice to see freedom of speech alive and well in cyberspace. Too bad the news media cant say the same. They are so desparate for a story, they make one where there isnt one. Is this the only relgious man on earth who has a difference of opinion on how many jews died in nazi hands? Is he denying jews were killed? no. Only dispute is how many were killed. Sounds like a minor issue-admitting jews were killed by nazis is the major issue and he agrees that is true. This is undeserving of the amount of press it is getting. Who will rise up with indignity over what is the true number of non jews killed by nazis? Isnt this number worth debate? Come on, people, life is too short.

Posted by linda | Report as abusive

Why not nail him to the cross?
Better yet stone him like Stephen?
What’s his crime, thought, words actions? No!
His words are against who? Me, you, no…..
Who is hurt? No one. This is a lynching with
a kosher agenda.

Posted by smitty2468 | Report as abusive

The bishops are still suspended a divinis – there is a long way to go before they are “back in the Church” – all the Vatican statements and quotes from senior officials acknowledge this

Posted by Joan | Report as abusive

to the person who suggested showing the bodies to convince him:

seriously? those are people’s parents and grandparents. have a little respect for the dead.

the other bishop with a website seems like a cool guy.

Posted by Nathan | Report as abusive

To the people naive enough to question “so what?” to genocide denial, you really must remember what humans are capable of. Being both arbiters of cruelty and kindness, we really do need to understand our history in order to reach any kind of progress. Denying genocides is the surest ways to repeat them in the future and is at its basest level one of the most irresponsible accusations i have ever heard.

Also, 11 million people died in the Holocaust, 5 million were non Jews. So just consider for a brief second how offensive this topic is for millions of people. The Bishop’s refusal to visit Auschwitz where over 1 million people were killed in 1/3 of its camps, and millions more in the other 2/3. I would say this topic isnt even worth commenting on as the Bishop is clearly not worth my time, but this is an issue for all humanity.

PS. Turkey should realize the toxicity of their own genocide denial of the Armenians in this light. All genocide denial is 100% unnacceptable, and if anything, the people who deny it are subhuman.

Posted by Vishal | Report as abusive

Joan, these bishops are no longer excommunicated from the Church, so they are “back in the Church” as individual Catholics — no more and no less. Next comes the question of reinstating them as priests, i.e. having this suspension a divinis lifted, and finding what role they can play as bishops. That may take a long time, and who knows, it might never happen. But with their excommunications lifted, they are definitely back in the Church, even if only just over the threshold of the entrance.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

The lifting of the ex communication does not mean that Williamson is back in the Church. This has all been just a big exaggeration. And those who dislike the Church because of all their misconceptions and preconceptions are just trying to blow out of proportion the words of one man who is not even of the Church.
The position of the Church is clear.

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

and btw Williamson’s dad was Jewish.

Posted by Nicola | Report as abusive

Nicola, that doesn’t jibe with
this story from the Daily Mail


Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

I do not agree with Bp. Williamson’s views, but that he does not accept the generally accepted number of 6m Jewish victims of Hitler, nor the commonly accepted means of execution (gas chambers) for most of the deaths, does not constitute a denial of any article of the Catholic faith. He is surely politically incorrect, but that is not an excommunicable offense. He also does not seem to deny the Holocaust happened – he contests the numbers and manner of death. Even he beleives hundreds of thousands of Jews were immorally slaughtered in the Nazi concentration camps (evidently by some means other than gas).

What this seems to indicate is a politically motivated attack, using what is a highly unpopular position with regard to number of victims and manner of execution, as leverage to attack the Pope. While undeniably unpopular, and historically incorrect, one is not properly excommunicated for being either unpopular or a very poor historian. One may shun him, but not excommunicate him from the Catholic Church for that.

Posted by Edward Barrington | Report as abusive

Someone please inform me when the holocaust became an article of faith? Is Bishop Williamson’s historical understanding relevant to his church standing?

Posted by Genevieve Starkweather | Report as abusive

Again and again, I would like to appeal to all bloggers who disagrees Bishop Williamson’s statements to please present evidences to refute the Bishop’s arguments instead of demonizing him. Do not be intolerant with someone who do not share your views but rather, present substantial and reasonable arguments that will overturn his position.

With respect to offsuit’s comments, I beg to disagree that the Catholic Church is anti Semite since Jesus Christ himself is a Jew. But it can never be denied that the Jews themselves initiated to crucify Jesus Christ and let him die in the cross. Until now, the Jews had not yet made an apology with respect to that matter.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

In respect to Bishop Williamson’s views: There is no subject that is above reproach or investigation.

Posted by Jeanne | Report as abusive

And the “Father”of the Pope was Adolf Hitler. Joseph Ratzinger was brought up under joseph Goebels propaganda minister as a german nazi first as a member of Hitler youth, and later as a member of Wermacht from 1944 jan untill the end of the WWII in April 1945. I’m not surprised that benedict XVI would rehabilitate an openly Holocaust denier bishop, who was excommunicated at second Vatican.. history repeats itself..we’ll have to take german ASAP, just in case the WW III starts up in the near future..

Posted by EU | Report as abusive


As to yaour statements that the Pope, being a former of the Hitler youth is of no moment since this has already been raised during day one of his Papacy. Said attacks has been overturned by competent authorities and witnesses telling us that his membership thereof was against his will and not voluntary. Your contention that being a former member of said organization was the ultimate cause of lifting up the excommunication of Bishop Williamson together with other Bishop is greatly misplaced and only demonstrates your ignorance of the facts. No less than the Rabbis said that the media overlooked the ultimate reason of lifting up the excommunication which was to restore Church unity and to avoid further the increase of numbers of new Christian denominations. Your act of bashing the Pope is very unreasonable and is purely based on conjectures which will not hold water to be countenanced.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

Another blow against free speech, free enquiry and free thought. Another victory for the International Zionist lobby AIPAC/MOSAAD/JDL/ADL.Angela merkel has no business criticising free speech when Germans have their own thought police;Israel has no place when they are todays war criminals.The Brave Bishop is correct- the “holocaust was made up by Hollywood jewish gangsters to cover the allies own horrific war crimes.Also these are two distinct issues one is political the other is religious.

Posted by richie | Report as abusive

I only know that Bishop Williamson is an example of arrogance and selfcentered attitud the oposit of JesusChrist teachings. “He is more than the Pope and JesusChrist”.
Sorry, what is he doing inside Catholic road? Better for him to follow his tendency to be in their own movement and assume the consequences or indiference of the world about his views, alone, not with the protection umbrella of Catholics.
B. W. is with “God and with the evil, what convinience way of living, not so much spirituality involved.
With all my respect, practice more your humbleness and respect of others feelings Bishop Williamson and try to do quickly time,no games ,no manipulation, in your revision of the facts of Holocaust.

Posted by maria | Report as abusive

Although the words of mgr Williamson were not very smart, the reaction in the world is oversized. It’s unbelievable that priests and bishops try to attack the FSSPX completely by using false conclusions. The FSSPX wants to defend the 10 commandments. There is no place to hate judes, atheists or muslims. Every murder of a jude is also a crime for mgr Williamson. He only denied the amount, are the gas chambers. He does not deny that there was a crime against the judish people ! Be honest and don’t overact.

Posted by Jan Van Eekert | Report as abusive

“oversized”, “only denied”, “be honest”, “overact”,etc, etc, so much words of justification. Typical words of supporters and perpetrators of any kind of violence(not only fisical violence)along history and actual world situation.
Well hope Bishop Williamson do what Pope suggest to do as soon as possible. More true actions than empty words.

Posted by maria | Report as abusive

Appoint Williamson as bishop to Auschwitz. Fitting assignment for a “servant of God” isn’t it??

Posted by lare | Report as abusive

I’m struck by how readers who defend Bishop Williamson for investigating the Holocaust don’t ask why he should be so interested in debunking the widely accepted view of those crimes and embracing a theory popular among anti-Semites and right-wing extremists. It’s also worth noting that the book he says he studied to find out the truth about the Holocaust is the Leuchter Report, the main reference book for Holocaust deniers that concluded there were no gas chambers. Sure, it’s theoretically possible that Williamson was just a history buff, but there is a documented record of anti-Semitism in the SSPX that cannot be overlooked.

Williamson has just told Der Spiegel that he has ordered a book by Jean-Claude Pressac on the gas chambers and will study that before deciding whether to recant publicly, as demanded by the Vatican. He doesn’t mention it, but that 1989 book is a detailed refutation of the Leuchter Report by a former Holocaust denier who later worked with French Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld to combat Leuchter and his followers. Pressac’s book is known among people who’re interested in these issues and Leuchter even wrote a book refuting Pressac. If Williamson was really searching so much for the truth about the Holocaust, why is he only now getting around to reading the main book refuting the Leuchter Report?

Admittedly, these elements do not prove Williamson denied the Holocaust because he is an anti-Semite. But the circumstantial evidence pointing in that direction is a bit too strong for an outside observer to argue that he was simply searching for the truth and everybody should accept that statement at face value.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

How do we define Anti-Semitism? This is probably the problem. That question has been asked in the interview of Bishop Williamson whether or not he is an Anti-Semite. According to him, this is not a matter of Anti-Semitism but a matter of truth. That was his intention. I would like to reiterate that we must not impute to him an intent which he never intended. He may not be 100% accurate but neither he is 100% inaccurate. If our definition of anti semitism is that Jews and other people doesn’t like his statements on questioning the historical truth of gas chamber and 6 million Jews which is equivalent to the population of one city, then I’m sorry to say that I will not buy to that definition.

On the other hand, it was not his fault if he made those statements. It was the fault of the interviewer for having asked that question to which he gave an answer the basis of which is based on what he has read from sources whom he consider as competent authority. And he further said on that interview that he is willing to change his contention if there is a contradictory evidence to the same. Media should have noted that! And that’s what he is doing now, making some research whether it is proper for him to reverse his statements. That is his clear intention

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

To all concerned about H.E. Bishop Williamson’s so called “denial” of the holacost… I have been with the Society of SPX for nearly twenty years and would like to say why maybe Bishop Williamson may consider the main stream opinion on the matter to be incorrect. To my knowledge he learned that beside the possible number of six million jews being killed there were also a number of catholocs killed as well. Many, many priests and religous. A number which swelled to somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 or so million. I am sure that as he started to uncover so many proofs of this[which by the way you will not find in history books]he probably started to lean more against the common tide of thinking as far as how and how many jews were killed. May I bring to a respectful reminder of one catholic priest in particular,St. Maximillan Kolbe. Maybe Bishop Williamson’s views are different but he is the only one whom I have ever heard stand up for all the catholic lives lost during that time. Lives we never hear about. Why? Because the jews have made the horror of those years a jewish matter. It’s not a jewish matter. It was a matter of hell on earth for many. Not just jews! May they rest in peace. I have never heard him deny the holacost. As for the character of H. E. Bishop Williamson, I say bravo and first class!!! He has my prayers and support and I agree 100% on his stance against Vatican ll.

Posted by Paula | Report as abusive

Paula, I agree with your statements for Bishop Williamson with regard to his position on the Holocaust. I also agree that he is not a holocaust denier for the reasons you have mentioned. However, I beg to disagree with Bishop’s Williamson’s position on the Vatican II Council. I understand that this would be a lengthy debate and it will took time for the SSPX to be convinced of the Vatican II teachings. But remember this, both of us believes on the Papal Infallibility ex cathedra and the Pope will never err when it comes to faith and morals. That is why, no less than Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre signed the document. There may be lapses on the implementation of the Vatican II that cause his dismay but the teachings therein are not contrary to scriptures. It never reversed the Council of Trent and other councils. I hope the SSPX and the Vatican will start the dialogue immediately to heal the wounds of the past.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

As a journalist who interviews people regularly, I find it amazing that anyone can argue it wasn’t Williamson’s fault for saying what he did about the Holocaust in that Swedish TV interview, it was the journalist’s fault for asking the question. Several readers have made that comment on this and other posts about Williamson. This makes it seem like interviewees are marionettes and interviewers simply pull the strings. I can’t count how many times I have asked a question and the interviewee did not answer it. We’ve all seen this many times on TV when a politician is asked a tough question. Williamson is an educated man and he chose to say what he did.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Now there is no denying that the holocaust happened. but what we are taught in school now is very over dramatic, and gives us the wrong impression.the numbers they gives us in school are insanely exagerated. On top of it they don’t even give us the full story, they only give us the deep twisted side. they don’t bother to put some reasoning behind hitlers decisions besides his mental illnesses. There has been a handfull of genocides in this worlds history, what makes this one so important? We didn’t pay attention to the armenian genocide! WTF? there is so much wrong in this world,just the other day i was driving down the street and i seen this little kid getting beat up by like 10 other kids, and the two adults in s=charge just sat there and held a conversation… not helping.. this world is fucked, you are all fucked… and worthless.

Posted by Aaron Vester | Report as abusive

Well, we live in a world controlled by few people who decides which events should be publicize and which should be ignored. The holocaust of the Armenians are deliberately ignored and denied while the holocaust of our Jewish brothers are publicized and exaggerated.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

sspx will not land up in cyberspace spance but the Vatican 11 liberals and modernist C/O Freemason.
The pope must bring back SSpx and all the Traditionalist and the Orthodox churches.
God Bless the Holy father Benedict
Benedictine oblate

Posted by benedictine | Report as abusive