ROME –– A traditionalist bishop who has denied the Holocaust has been automatically excommunicated along with the priest he illicitly ordained a bishop.
Traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson is seen in a church in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 2008. A letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the world’s bishops candidly addresses the crisis brought on by Bishop Williamson’s denial of the full extent of the Holoc aust. Controversy erupted after Pope Benedict XVI approved lifting the excommunication of the traditionalist bishop. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)British Bishop Richard Williamson violated church law when he ordained Fr. Jean-Michel Faure, 73, a bishop without papal approval during a ceremony in Nova Friburgo, Brazil, March 19, the feast of St. Joseph.
While the Vatican did not comment immediately, canon law provides automatic excommunication for the newly ordained bishop and for the bishop ordaining him in cases where the ordination goes against the will of the pope.
Bishop Williamson had been excommunicated in 1988 when he and three other traditionalist bishops were ordained against papal orders by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X.
Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 as a first step toward beginning formal talks aimed at reconciliation with the group. However, there was widespread outrage at revelations that Bishop Williamson had denied the gassing of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. The Vatican said the pope had been unaware at the time of the bishop’s radical views on the Holocaust.
Bishop Williamson, who opposed the Society of St. Pius X holding reconciliation talks with the Vatican, was ousted from the society in 2012.
He and a number of followers did not support reconciliation with Rome because they believe the Vatican had strayed from the Catholic faith since the Second Vatican Council.
Fr. Faure, who was ordained a priest by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1977, was also in opposition to reconciliation and left the society in 2013.
In an interview posted on the blog “Non Possumus” March 18, the priest said he was willing to be ordained a bishop despite the penalties because “we cannot leave the resistance without bishops.”
“As Archbishop Lefebvre said, Catholic bishops are indispensible for the conservation of the true doctrine of the faith and the sacraments,” he said.
In a commentary emailed to subscribers of his newsletter Feb. 28, Bishop Williamson said the Catholic Church in Rome – referring to it as “the nightingales’ nest” – was unjustly occupied by “modernist cuckoos.”
“Wherever the remainder of the true nightingales are visibly gathered, in whatever makeshift nest, they are in the church, they are the true visible church, and their beautiful song testifies to anyone who has ears to hear that the cuckoos are nothing but cuckoos who have stolen the Catholic nest which they presently occupy,” he wrote.
He criticized the leaders of the SSPX for being “tone deaf” and unable “to distinguish the song of cuckoos from that of nightingales.”
Meanwhile, the Society of St. Pius X expressed its “regrets” over the episcopal ordination, underlining that both Bishop Williamson and Father Faure were not members of the society “because of their violent criticisms of any relations with the Roman authorities,” referring to the Holy See.
In a communique published March 19 on its website, the society said it “denounces this episcopal consecration of Father Faure, which, despite the assertions of both clerics concerned, is not at all comparable to the consecrations of 1988” when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops against papal orders.
The society said Archbishop Lefebrve had “done everything conceivable to gain permission from the Holy See” before ordaining bishops in 1988, but in the end, he felt he had to proceed to ensure there were bishops who could ordain priests to serve the faithful.