Traditionalists oust Holocaust-denying bishop

The breakaway traditionalist group Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) expelled on Wednesday Bishop Richard Williamson, a British prelate.

Williamson sparked a global crisis in Jewish-Catholic relations in 2009 for denying the Holocaust shortly before Pope Benedict XVI readmitted him to the Church.

The SSPX announced that Williamson had been “excluded” from its ranks on Oct. 4 because of his refusal to “show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors.”

An SSPX statement quoted by Religion News Service described Williamson’s expulsion as a “painful decision” and made no mention of his vocal Holocaust denials.

In January 2009, Williamson denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers in a TV interview with a Swedish documentary program. He also questioned the general consensus among historians that 6 millions Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

His words became public just days before Benedict lifted the excommunication of four SSPX bishops, including Williamson.

The move was aimed at paving the way for full reconciliation between SSPX and Rome, but proved a major embarrassment for Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican.

Jews from all over the world sought reassurance that the Catholic Church was still committed to Jewish-Christian dialogue that was started by the Second Vatican Council.

The SSPX rejects the liberalizing reforms of the council, which opened a new era in Catholic-Jewish relations after centuries of mistrust and religiously motivated violence.

Williamson’s expulsion is unlikely to salvage the Vatican-SSPX negotiations that seem to have arrived at an impasse, the RNS report said.

After more than two years of “doctrinal dialogue,” the Vatican’s doctrinal office in June presented SSPX leaders with a final offer, reportedly requiring acceptance of the Second Vatican Council as part of church doctrine.

The traditionalist group has yet to issue an official response, but its top officials signaled on several occasions that it is unacceptable.


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