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.

Vatican boosts pressure on bishops to widen use of traditional Latin mass

(Pope Benedict XVI (R) leads the Easter Vigil mass in Saint Peter Basilica in Vatican April 23, 2011/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Vatican told Catholic bishops around the world on Friday they had to obey a papal order allowing priests to say the old-style Latin mass for traditionalist Catholics, whether they liked it or not. The Vatican issued an “instruction” to bishops as a follow-up to a 2007 papal decree authorizing the wider adoption of the Latin Mass, which was in universal use before the 1962-1965 Vatican Council introduced masses in local languages.

The re-instatement of the Latin mass was one of the demands of ultra-traditionalists whose leaders were excommunicated in 1988, prompting the first schism in modern times. The pope, in a nod the traditionalists, satisfied many of them in 2007 when he allowed a wider use of the Latin mass, in which the priest faced east with his back to the faithful for most of the service.

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.

UK envoy feared anti-Catholic violence after Vatican offer to Anglicans

vaticanLondon’s Vatican ambassador feared anti-Catholic violence in Britain after Pope Benedict offered to accept traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks. Catholic-Anglican relations faced their worst crisis in 150 years because of the offer, which undercut the authority of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the cable quoted Ambassador Francis Campbell as saying after the offer last year. (Photo: Pope Benedict and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at the Vatican, November 21, 2009/Osservatore Romano)

The cable, dated November 30, 2009 and published by The Guardian newspaper in London on Saturday, reflected concerns that have since eased. Tensions that it predicted for the pope’s visit to Britain in September this year did not materialise.

The confidential cable, signed by U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Miguel Diaz, said Campbell noted that England’s Catholics were a minority and mostly of Irish origin. “There is still latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not take much to set it off,” it said, paraphrasing his words. “The outcome could be discrimination or in isolated cases even violence against this minority.”

Catholic Church launches ordinariate for Anglicans in January

benedict and williams (Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (L) and Pope Benedict in London September 17, 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

The Roman Catholic Church will launch its first ordinariate for disaffected Anglicans in England and Wales in January and take in bishops, priests and laity over the following months, the Church announced on Friday.

Five traditionalist Church of England bishops have applied to join the ordinariate, a Church subdivision retaining some Anglican traditions, and about 30 groups of parishioners are due to cross over, Church leaders told journalists.

It was not clear how many priests would convert in the move, prompted by traditionalist opposition to Church of England plans to ordain women bishops. Married Anglican priests will be accepted but married bishops cannot retain their higher status.

“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.

UPDATE: SSPX to ordain new priests despite Vatican warning

econe-1The Vatican warning to the ultra-traditionalist SSPX not to ordain new priests this month without Roman approval had no discernible effect on the rebel Catholic group. Soon after the Vatican declared the ordinations would be illegitimate, Father Yves Le Roux, rector of the SSPX’s St Thomas Aquinas seminary in Winona, Minnesota, said the ordination of 13 new priests there would go ahead on Friday.

“Absolutely. We are doing it,” he told our Vatican correspondent Philip Pullella by telephone. “This is something the Vatican feels it has to say. It’s a political statement but the reality is totally different.” (Photo: SSPX ordains deacons in Écône, Switzerland, 3 April 2009/Valentin Flauraud)

The SSPX seminary at Zaitzkofen, in the German state of Bavaria, declared its intention to go ahead with its June 27 ordinations in a statement posted on its website on Monday (here in German original and in English). It argued that Pope Benedict’s decision in January to lift the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops was a “confidence-building measure for the coming theological discussions with representatives of the Holy See” meant to thrash out an official position in the Church for the SSPX.” Further ordinations are due at the SSPX headquarters in Écône, Switzerland on June 29.

Vatican throws down gauntlet to ultra-traditionalist SSPX

bollettinoThe Vatican has thrown down the gauntlet to the ultra- traditionalist Society of Saint Piux X (SSPX), which planned to ordain 27 new priests this month without approval from Rome. A statement by the Vatican press office today declared that the ordinations would be illegitimate. The four SSPX bishops were only readmitted into the Roman Catholic Church in January after 20 years of excommunication. If they go ahead and ordain the priests anyway, they could risk being disciplined — possibly even excommunicated — again.

The SSPX claims its fidelity to the old Latin Mass and rejection of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) reforms represent authentic Catholicism as opposed to the “modernism” practiced in the world’s largest church since then. It has also claimed to be loyal to the pope, although this was always hedged with reservations about his authority because of the doctrinal dispute over Vatican II. Having won its bishops’ readmission without making any concessions, it looked set to test the limits again by ordaining priests without Vatican permission.

The Vatican statement quoted a March 10 letter by Pope Benedict to Catholic bishops saying the SSPX did not have any official status within the Church and would have to negotiate it in discussions with Rome. “Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church,” he wrote.

SSPX set to push the envelope against the Vatican again

mueller-regensburgThe ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), recently in the headlines for having a Holocaust denier as one of its four bishops recently readmitted to the Roman Catholic Church, looks set to push the envelope with Rome again by ordaining 21 new priests in three different countries on June 27.* Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Regensburg, the German diocese where the SSPX seminary at Zaitzkofen plans to ordain three of those men, has declared the planned ordinations a violation of Church law and has urged the Vatican to warn the SSPX not to go through with them. He told Bavarian Radio on Sunday that he hadn’t heard back from Rome yet and would bring up the issue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) personally on his next monthly trip there.

*CORRECTION: Not all will be ordained that day — 13 priests will be ordained in Minnesota on June 19. (Photo: Bishop Müller, 21 Sept 2007/Michael Dalder)

In the subtle ways of the Vatican, a non-response from Rome to a bishop’s query is like the yellow signal on a traffic light. It’s neither yes nor no, in that vague way that says if it’s not openly forbidden, one might be able to live with it, but, uh, we don’t want to put that in writing, so over to you. The question now is whether the Vatican will opt to live with this latest challenge to its authority.

Tens of thousands sign petitions backing or criticising pope

Tens of thousands of people have signed petitions either backing or criticising Pope Benedict for readmitting ultra-traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson into the Roman Catholic Church. The supporters are ahead in statistical terms, but this isn’t really a representative sample so it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions. It does give some idea, though, of how much interest the issue has created. (Photo: Bishop Williamson leaves for London after expulsion order from Argentina, 24 Feb 2009/Enrique Marcarian)

The Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich reports today that about 30,000 people, including many theologians,  have signed a petition criticising the readmission of ultra-traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson and urging Pope Benedict to defend the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The petition (here in English translation) was launched by the lay reform movement Wir sind Kirche (We are Church), which the SZ says will present it to German bishops holding an assembly in Hamburg next week.

Searching on the support side, I found a French-based petition claiming 47,222 signatures so far. It praises Benedict for lifting the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops and adds: “By this brave gesture, You acted (as) the Good Shepherd of the flock entrusted to You by God.” The site includes a “letter of encouragement” by Rev. Régis de Cacqueray, head of the large French chapter of the SSPX, and sports a selection of logos from traditionalist websites — mostly not SSPX — supporting the petition.