FaithWorld

German court fines SSPX Bishop Williamson for denying Holocaust

(Photo: Bishop Williamson leaves for London after expulsion order from Argentina, 24 Feb 2009/Enrique Marcarian)

Ultra-traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 6,500 euros Monday by a German court for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009, a court spokesman said. British-born Williamson, 71, who belongs to a controversial Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), was appealing a 2010 fine of 10,000 euros for telling Swedish TV that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

He also denied in the interview the existence of gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust denial is a hate crime in Germany. Consensus among historians is that the Nazis killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.

Williamson’s statements became an embarrassment for the Vatican which readmitted him after a 22-year excommunication only days following the interview. In his 2010 book, Light of the World, Pope Benedict XVI said he would not have lifted the ban on Williamson if he had known of his far-right views, adding that the Vatican’s poor communications in the matter was a “total meltdown.”

German prosecutors demanded increasing the fine to 12,000 euros during the appeals process.

Catholic ultra-traditionalist splinter group sees no Vatican accord

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(Bishop Bernard Fellay at an ordination ceremony for priests in Econe, Switzerland, June 29, 2009/Denis Balibouse )

Vatican talks with a controversial Catholic splinter group are nearing an end without any accord on reintegrating the ultra-traditionalists, including a bishop whose denial of the Holocaust has embarrassed Pope Benedict. Bishop Bernard Fellay has said his Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) has not succeeded in convincing Vatican officials to turn Church teaching back half a century to where it stood before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Benedict sparked off a wave of protest in 2009 by lifting excommunications imposed on the four bishops in 1988 without first requiring them to accept his authority on Church doctrine. His decision also prompted widespread protests, from Roman Catholics and Jews, because one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, had publicly denied the Holocaust. He has since been convicted and fined for hate speech in Germany.

Jewish group urges pope to shut Holocaust denier Williamson out again

williamsonA Holocaust survivors group urged Pope Benedict on Saturday to ban an arch-traditionalist bishop from the Catholic Church because he hired a lawyer close to neo-Nazi groups to defend him in court in Germany. Bishop Richard Williamson, one of four rebel bishops re-admitted to the Church in January 2009, recently hired a far-right lawyer to conduct his appeal against a 12,000 euro fine imposed last year for denying the Holocaust.

His ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), which is now negotiating its return to the Church with Vatican officials, also threatened to expel Williamson from its ranks if he did not distance himself from the lawyer. (Photo: Bishop Richard Williamson, February 28, 2007/Jens Falk)

Williamson’s re-admission to the Church only days after he denied the Holocaust on Swedish television sparked protests across Europe and created major problems for Pope Benedict, especially with Jewish groups outraged by the move.

Vatican talks with SSPX splinter group proving difficult – cardinal

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Cardinal Walter Kasper on April 12, 2005/Max Rossi

Vatican talks with a controversial splinter group have been difficult and the ultra-traditionalist Catholics will have to make concessions if an accord is to be reached, a senior Vatican cardinal has said.

The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), whose four bishops were readmitted to the Church last year after a ban of 21 years, cannot conduct the doctrinal discussions on their terms, but only on those of the Vatican, Cardinal Walter Kasper told a news conference during a visit to Paris.

“Dialogue with them is not easy,” said Kasper, who heads the Vatican department for relations with other Christian churches and with Jews. “The main problem with them is not the Mass in Latin, but the concept of tradition. Do we want a living tradition or a petrified one?”

Ultra-trad Catholics upset rabbi’s lecture in Paris cathedral

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, 6 Aug 2009/Jacky Naegelen

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris witnessed a scene on Sunday afternoon that seemed to be from a bygone age. A rabbi invited to deliver a lecture about Catholic-Jewish dialogue was interrupted by young arch-traditionalist Catholics who began to pray the rosary to make “amends for the outrage” of letting him speak there. Rabbi Rivon Krygier had to leave the nave and retire to the sacristy, where he read his text into a microphone to broadcast it to about 1,200 people who came to hear him. Read our full story here.

Rabbi Krygier, the head of a small Conservative Jewish congregation in Paris, had the grace to recognise that his hecklers were a tiny minority. “They’ll say they succeeded in banishing the rabbi to the sacristy,” he told the Catholic daily La Croix“This is an act that has to be taken seriously, but the Christians active in dialogue seem much more determined to continue on this path.” krygier

Rabbi Rivon Krygier/Adath Shalom

The warm round of applause that Krygier received when he returned to the nave after the lecture bore that out. At the same time, arch-traditionalists such as Rev. Régis de Cacqueray, head of the French section of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) congratulated protesters for their “courage” and said: “The Paris cathedral is neither a synagogue nor a Masonic temple.”

Bishop Williamson says Vatican-SSPX talks “dialogue of the deaf”

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Bishop Williamson, 28 Feb 2007

Bishop Richard Williamson, the ultra-traditionalist prelate whose denial of the extent of the Holocaust created an uproar in the Catholic Church and with Jews early last year, has said the discussions at the Vatican to rehabilitate his Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) are  a “dialogue of the deaf.” Williamson, one of the four SSPX bishops whose bans of excommunication were lifted by Pope Benedict only days after his controversial views were aired on Swedish television, said the two sides had “absolutely irreconcilable” positions.

In a 15-minute interview posted on the French video-sharing website Dailymotion, Williamson discussed a number of issues with a man identified by the Paris Catholic daily La Croix as a minor French far-right politician named Pierre Panet. When asked about the negotiation under way at the Vatican to reintegrate the once-shunned SSPX into the Roman church, he said in fluent French:

“I think that will end up as a dialogue of the deaf. The two positions are absolutely irreconcilable. 2+2=4 and 2+2=5 are irreconcilable. Either those who say 2+2=4 renounce the truth and agree that 2+2=5 — that is, the SSPX abandons the truth, which God forbids us to do — or those who say 2+2=5 convert and return to the truth. Or the two meet halfway and say that 2+2=4-1/2. That’s wrong. Either the SSPX becomes a traitor or Rome converts or it’s a dialogue of the deaf.”

Vatican begins talks with ultra-traditionalists

swiss-guards-vaticanThe Vatican began talks on Monday with an ultra-traditionalist Catholic splinter group, one of whose bishops has denied the full extent of the Holocaust, with the aim of re-integrating it fully into the Church. Vatican officials and leaders of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) discussed what a statement called “doctrinal differences still outstanding” between the group and Rome. (Photo: Swiss guards at St. Peter’s Basilica, 25 Oct 2009/Tony Gentile)

The traditionalists reject many of the reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, which modernised many aspects of the 1.1 billion member Church, including its liturgy, its relations with other Christians and its view of Jews.

The group, numbering several hundred thousand members, insists that it represents the true faith, and opposes the way the Church has evolved over the past 40 years. The SSPX says the Vatican and the vast majority of the Church went off the rails at the Council.

“Return to past” is SSPX motto for doctrinal talks with Vatican

fellay-alps1As planned negotiations between the Vatican and the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) near, the group’s Swiss leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has spelled out his view of what the Roman Catholic Church must do to resolve the crisis he believes it is in. “The solution to the crisis is a return to the past,” he has told a magazine published by the SSPX in South Africa. (Photo: Bishop Fellay in Ecône, Switzerland, 29 June 2009/Denis Balibouse)

Fellay said Pope Benedict agrees with the SSPX on the need to maintain the Church’s links to the past, but still wants to keep some reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). “This is one of the most sensitive problems,” he said. “We hope the discussions will allow us to dispel the grave ambiguities that have spread through the Catholic Church since (the Council), as John Paul II himself recognised.”

Benedict has, in fact, listed SSPX acceptance of Vatican II reforms was a Vatican conditions in the talks.

Unusual tit-for-tat in the Vatican over Williamson affair

arborelius-2 (Photo: Video grab of Bishop Anders Arborelius on Swedish TV, 23 Sept 2009)

There’s nothing new about tit-for-tat and finger-pointing in diplomacy and politics but the Vatican is usually quite careful not to wash its dirty laundry in public. So it was surprising to see some of the principal characters in the the long-running saga of Richard Williamson, the traditionalist bishop who sparked a crisis in Catholic-Jewish relations when he denied the extent of the Holocaust on Swedish television, now spatting in public over it.

Just when the Vatican thought it had put the Williamson affair behind it, the story has came back to haunt the Holy See. On Wednesday evening, the Swedish television network SVT aired a follow-up to its January 2009 documentary about the Society of St Pius X (SSPX). That program sparked off a public controversy POPE-JEWS/because the Vatican lifted excommunications on Williamson and three other SSPX bishops three days later, creating the impression the Church either didn’t know or didn’t care about his Holocaust statement. In the uproar that followed, Pope Benedict once again condemned Holocaust denial and said he hadn’t known about the statements in advance. Usually discreet Vatican officials publicly blamed others for not informing him. (Photo: Bishop Richard Williamson, 28 Feb 2007/Jens Falk)

The new report on the “Uppdrag granskning” (Assignment: Investigate) program said the Vatican knew about Williamson’s views well before the bans on the SSPX bishops were lifted. To make matters worse, in conjunction with the new broadcast, the website of Stockholm’s Roman Catholic diocese posted a note saying Bishop Anders Arborelius and the Vatican nuncio to Sweden told the Holy See in November 2008 about the not-yet-aired interview that Williamson had given to Swedish television in which he said “I believe there were no gas chambers”. The interview was recorded in Germany in November 2008 and aired in Sweden on 21 January 2009. See our latest story on this here.

Vatican-SSPX talks due in second half of October

St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, 24 Dec. 2007/Max RossiDoctrinal discussions between the Vatican and the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) will begin in the second half of October, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi has said. He also confirmed the Vatican delegation will be made up of the Swiss Dominican Rev. Charles Morerod, the German Jesuit Rev. Karl Josef Becker and the Spanish vicar general of Opus Dei, Rev. Fernando Ocariz Brana. The Vatican Radio report gave no further details. (Photo: St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, 24 Dec. 2007/Max Rossi)

This shoots down one part of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s interview last weekend in the Passauer Neue Presse, where he said the first meeting would take place “in the next few days.”

It says nothing about his other point, that the Vatican will insist the SSPX accepts “such fundamental conclusions of the Second Vatican Council as its positions on Judaism, other non-Christian religions, other Christian churches and on religious freedom as a basic human right.” That point is far more important than the date, which is why our news item on Sunday led off with that angle, and it remains the main issue at these talks.