Former SSPX Bp. Williamson, soon to be excommunicated … again

I saw at CWR that former SSPX Bp. Richard Williamson intends soon in Brazil to consecrate at least one priest as a bishop.

He will immediately incur, again, the excommunication which he had incurred at the time of his own illicit consecration in 1988 by the late Archbp. Marcel Lefevbre. That excommunication had been lifted by Benedict XVI as a sign of good will toward the SSPX. Williamson was subsequently expelled from the SSPX for his extreme positions.

So… I am reminded of my old analogy of old fashioned women’s silk stockings. Once they get a snag in them the fabric starts to run and there’s almost no way to stop it.

BTW… it seems to me that one of the reasons that Pope Francis is turned off by things traditional may be his hearing about what Williamson was like as rector of the SSPX seminary in Argentina. In 2009 the head of the SSPX, Bp. Fellay, removed Williamson from that seminary after Williamson denied the Holocaust. After that he was removed from the SSPX.

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  1. Maltese says:

    Once you look past +Williamson’s eccentricities and zaniness regarding the Holocaust (vis-à-vis his view of the gas chambers) and topics such as 9-11, he is pretty spot-on on theological matters. Personally, I also look with high regard to Cardinal Burke on theological matters, and also his sound, prudential judgment.

    But, how can one judge how Christ would see His Church today?

  2. Ignatius Loyolensis says:

    Will the soon to be Bishop Jean-Michel Faure confect valid Sacraments?

  3. Hank Igitur says:

    Do you have specific information concerning the then Archbishop Bergoglio’s views of Williamson’s rectorship of the seminary or are you speculating? Williamson has made his personal opinions on a range of issues known publicly and these are not limited to the holocaust as you would be aware.

  4. WmHesch says:

    Weird that the man to be consecrated in his 70’s… So much for preserving his legacy

  5. pmullane says:

    Unfortunately it seems Williamson cannot be protected from himself.

    Im also not looking forward to people taking the impending (and inevitable) excommunication of Williamson as ‘evidence’ of of Francis’ hatred and punshment of ‘tradition’.

    I weep for the SSPX, they really messed up when they thumbed their nose at Benedict. I fear what is coming for them, in this life and the next.

  6. Gabriel Syme says:

    It is really bad news about Williamson’s intentions, I hope he reconsiders. He cannot legitimately make the same arguments today, as ++Lefebvre and +de Castro Mayer made in the 80s.

    I read the man he intends to consecrate is 75 years old (?) and so he seems a strange choice – hardly a man who has many years ahead of him, to carry on whatever it is Williamson thinks he is doing (indeed he is older than Williamson).

    It is true that Williamson is / was bad for the image of the SSPX, tradition and Catholicism in general. However, I think Francis, like many Prelates (and many Jesuits) is simply a modernist, of the type Pope St Pius X warned us about; while Williamson’s antics would give him ammunition, I do not think they are the basis of his views on Catholic tradition. Most (not all) Jesuits I have ever discussed tradition with have reacted with open disdain, not even prepared to tolerate it as the preference of others.

    Anyway the Williamson situation is a big reason why the remaining issue of the SSPX canonical status requires to be ironed out asap. Although none of the remaining three SSPX Bishops is “the next Williamson”, (they have their heads screwed on properly), the chance for such a situation to arise not be allowed to remain. Runaway chains of Apostolic succession are not good and are to be avoided at all costs.

    I am hopeful that this regularisation will occur in due course. If one reviews the chronology of the situation between the SSPX and Church authorities, it is obvious that (since 1988) the authorities have had to continually roll back / soften their formerly hardline stance towards the Society. This is due to the continued great success of the Society, the stark failure of the agenda-driven VII reforms and the authorities becoming more reasonable in general (for example, via clarifying that the traditional mass was never abrogated and that Catholics have a right to their religious heritage).

    I was impressed by the personalities chosen to conduct the latest visits to the SSPX Seminaries: Cardinal Brandmuller and Bishop Schneider. These men are not enemies of the Society, indeed they are sympathetic, and so I think there is good cause to expect that things will be resolved in due course. I will keep up my daily prayers for this, in any case!

  7. Filumene says:

    “BTW… it seems to me that one of the reasons that Pope Francis is turned off by things traditional may be his hearing about what Williamson was like as rector of the SSPX seminary in Argentina.”

    It’s possible. But every group has it’s “crazy town” and it only takes a little sense to know you can’t use such examples to define a whole group of people. A little critical thinking is necessary.

  8. Legisperitus says:

    Sad. Still, one could say that 1 out of 4 bishops being a schismatic nutcase is not a worse track record than the Church at large these days.

  9. Eliane says:

    I must take great exception to the notion that Bishop Williamson “denied the Holocaust.” Here is exactly what he said in his own words:
    He may or may not be wrong as to historical realities, but I see no evidence that he is malicious or dishonest. There are thousands of inmates on death row in the United States, and most will die there because carrying out even a single execution is so difficult — which is not to say that Jews were not killed in gas chambers, but is meant to say that Bishop Williamson’s intellectual and scientific questioning does not render him the evil idiot that mainstream and Catholic media make him out to be.
    As to the current pope not liking him, that is the pope’s option, but I cannot accept that Bishop Williamson is the central cause of the pope’s open contempt for and sometimes outright maltreatment of those Catholics who do not happily embrace all that Vatican II has produced. The pope allows Cardinal Kasper to circulate the globe as his emissary and thus permits the possibility that moral dimensions are soon to be divorced from human sexuality in Catholic practice or even teaching. If that happens, it won’t be Bishop Williamson’s fault.

  10. Sonshine135 says:

    When the SSPX throws you out for being too extreme, it might be time for a little self-examination.

  11. Jack Orlando says:

    Your view that Holy Father’s view of Traditionalists is colored by his experience with Williamson makes sense. Williamson is a good reminder to all Traditionalists that they need to take care in what they say and do so as to win friends for the Traditionalist movement, and to be the very first to repudiate words and deeds that damage the reputation of the same movement. We should have nothing more to do with Williamson and also nothing more to do with assorted Sedevacantists.

  12. APX says:

    What I find most disturbing about this is how many traditional Catholics see nothing inherently wrong with this because of x,y, or z.

  13. asperges says:

    What is more worrying is that Sspx or ex-sspx, Williamson’s foolishness will destabilise an already prickly relationship between the present chiefs and all traditionalists of whatever hue. In other words, things will get worse for us all.

  14. TWF says:

    His comments were deeply offensive to Jews and all decent human beings and have no basis in history whatsoever. I for one choose not to accept that the entire body of historical scholarship on the Holocaust is some sort of conspiracy.

  15. Priam1184 says:

    Williamson is very foolish, and this sanction is not undeserved, but can somebody please tell me when something will be done about the Cardinal Archbishop of New York after that fiasco that was yesterday witnessed by the whole world?

  16. Athelstan says:

    Hello Eliane,

    There is, unfortunately, a long track record of Bishop Williamson’s remarks, both public and private. Remarks that reasonably lead an objective observer to consider that he has anti-Semitic beliefs. You don’t have to take the SPLC’s word for it (which I certainly do not). And his constant obsession with the Holocaust, and the numbers killed, is ominous.

    One other story that could be highlighted, just to pick one:

    But for some of the young men who spent time with Williamson in Connecticut in the 1980s, the only surprise is that anyone is surprised to learn that Williamson harbors views that are anathema to his church.

    “He got his point across, right from the start,” said the Rev. John Rizzo, who in 1985 was ordained a priest of the Society of St. Pius X, which broke with Rome over the liturgical and theological reforms instituted during the Second Vatican Council of the mid-1960s. John Rizzo left the Society of St. Pius X in 1993 and joined a different traditionalist society, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which is in union with Rome.

    “I have a sizable nose, and he would say to me, ‘Rizzo, are you baptized, or are you a Jew?’ ” John Rizzo, who is now based in New Zealand, said in a phone interview from Australia. “There was another seminarian named Oppenheimer, and he would say: ‘Oppenheimer, I don’t like your name. If you keep it up, there’s a gas chamber waiting for you at the boathouse.’ ”

    Oppenheimer, now the Rev. Dom Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer, got to know Williamson while at the Society of St. Pius X’s seminary in Switzerland; he said in a phone interview from California that he would not describe specific language used by Williamson, but that “when I met him he made a number of remarks to me that made it clear to me that this was not where I belonged.” Oppenheimer was ordained a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and went on to found another traditionalist organization, the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, which is also in union with Rome.


  17. madisoncanonist says:

    Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication that was incurred by Bishop Williamson for being consecrated without a mandate (c. 1382), which was subsequently formally declared, but he did not lift the excommunication that was almost certainly incurred (never formally declared but made abundantly clear in the m.p. Ecclesia Dei) for schism (c. 1364 §1). Whatever might be said of the SSPX as a whole, or of the faithful who habitually associate with the SSPX, does anyone doubt that the SSPX bishops are schismatics? So Bishop Williamson might soon be excommunicated under a new title, but I believe he has been excommunicated since 1988 or likely beforehand, even though only the Holy See would be competent to declare that excommunication.

  18. dans0622 says:

    madisoncanonist: do you think it would have been reasonable for Benedict to lift the declared excommunication but leave in place an undeclared one, if he thought the undeclared one was actually present? As for the rest of the FSSPX bishops, one can argue that they are schismatic. At the same time, they do seem to desire some sort of reconciliation with the Holy See (on their own terms, yes, but there appears to be at least an implicit recognition of the authority of the Holy See. That’s a start.).

  19. Gerard Plourde says:

    The interview of Bishop Williamson provided in the link does not really help his credibility. He parses his words too carefully. For example, take his initial premise – “the historical evidence is hugely against 6,000,000 Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.” By framing the debate in this manner he skirts the issue of the Third Reich’s Antisemitism which undergirded the policy that instituted concentration camps, the Nuremberg Laws, specifically the Reich Citizenship Law that deprived German Jews of their citizenship and rights, and the practice of enforced slave labor that killed a vast number of inmates through a combination of starvation and exhaustion. He later references Fred Leuchter, whose report attempting to debunk the existence of gas chambers and crematoria was discredited by the very analysts he had employed because he left out critical information that contaminated the samples they tested and led to false results.

    If Bishop Williamson exhibits similar behavior in his theologial musings, it is clear that he is detrimental to the Traditionalist movement.

  20. HeatherPA says:

    Pray for this priest… oh my goodness, the horror of being excommunicated, and then an excommunicated priest! I hope and pray he repents before it is too late.

  21. Wiktor says:

    This was to be expected.
    But I wonder if we’ll see now any official document from the Vatican explicitly stating Bp. Williamson’s excommunication.

    I wouldn’t think of it in terms of “SSPX good, Williamson bad”, however. If no reconciliation comes in a couple of years, SSPX would just do the same.

  22. Andrew Rivera says:

    A bunch of questions spring to mind – the tl;dr is “mayhap what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

    1) Assuming the SSPX is not in favour of the proposed Consecration, would they be willing to formally announce that the Crisis in the Church and their situation with Rome has substantially changed since 1988 re: the necessity of a new “Operation Survival”? Does the SSPX still believe there is a Crisis in the Church to justify their ongoing operations?

    2) Would the SSPX be willing to note that +W and Bishop-elect Faure’s faculties rely upon the same canons the SSPX themselves use, and therefore that one may avail himself of the Sacraments from either the SSPX or the “Resistance” with equal scruple? Or will they pull the “crypto-sedevacantist” card?

    3) If the SSPX go so far as to declare that there is no necessity for the Faure Consecration, how do they regard their own faculties and the continual exercise thereto, and what could they say differently should they go ahead with their own Consecrations in the future?

  23. madisoncanonist says:

    Dans0622: I do think it would be reasonable of Benedict XVI, and moreover, I think it would be just his style. It would say, in effect, “I’ve removed every possible barrier to reunion except the one that by its very nature only you can remove: your persistence in schism. Your move.”
    But at the same time I should say that I don’t follow this issue very closely at all, and you should take my opinion with a grain of salt.

  24. Stephen Matthew says:

    This should be no surprise to anyone.

    What is tragic is this man was a seminary rector. If you know the amount of influence a rector has on the formation of seminarians, you would be deeply troubled that such a man was allowed to form future priests.

    Frankly, Willaimson is like the lunatic that G.K. Chesterton talks about in Orthodoxy. He has not lost his reason, he is fully and perhaps even uniquely rational. The trouble is he has lost everything other than his reason (or at least some essential element). His reason, while still functioning, is no longer anchored to all the other aspects of the mental and spiritual life that are necessary to guide the intellect. Something has gone wrong, and I suspect it is deeply connected to his antisemitism. Hatred and bigotry blinds.

    I hope I am wrong about this. I fear I am not.

  25. Andrew_81 says:

    Incosequential, but slight correction :

    Bishop Williamson was not expelled from the Society not for his “extreme” views — silly as they are. He was expelled because after years of tacit disobedience to his religious superiors, which was tolerated (ostensibly in order to try to gently bring him into line, and because of the dignity of his office, not his person), when finally threatened with expulsion if he refused to fall in line and close his mouth/blog, he not only refused, but then forcefully and actively tried to undermine the whole Society and its superiors. He did so not over matters of the Faith or the good of souls, but over personal qualms.

    If one looks at Williamson’s history in the SSPX before 1988, you see a well-educated man who defended Archbishop Lefebvre against the sedevacantist who were expelled, saw the deficiencies in the formation of the youth in the humanities and philosophy, and did a lot of good. The recent history, however as Stephen Matthew notes, sounds an awful lot like Chesterton. Certain issues which are in no way connected with the Faith (such as the history of Europe during 1930-1950), have become, for him, matters of Faith. It’s rigorously logical and reasonable … just completely disconnected from reality.

  26. Geoffrey says:

    I seem to recall that Pope Benedict XVI had some interesting comments about Williamson; I think it can be found in the book-length interview he did a while back?

  27. Gabriel Syme says:


    You ask: “does anyone doubt that the SSPX bishops are schismatics?”

    1. Joseph Ratzinger obviously does not regard them as schismatics, given (as Pope) he rescinded the (always disputed) excommunication of the Bishops.

    2. Former head of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, obviously does not regard them as schismatics, given he stated “they are not schismatics” five times in a single interview.

    3. The three SSPX Bishops themselves acknowledge the Pope as head of the Church and state they are not schismatics.

    4. The SSPX priests and associated lay people obviously do not regard the Bishops as schismatics, because they are faithful Catholics – and faithful Catholics do not follow schismatics.

    I could go on and on.

    Really the onus should be on accusers to demonstrate there is schism, not on the accused to demonstrate there is not. It should be noted that to disagree, or even to be disobedient, does not constitute schism.

    If people want to talk of schismatics, they should talk of the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

    Yet, the Orthodox are greeted by Francis with hugs, humility and kisses – yet the SSPX (the great hope of the Church) are castigated as “schismatics”.

    Is that how the SSPX should gain the respect and acceptance of the Catholic hierarchy? By copying the Orthodox – ie to deny the proper authorities and cause a millenium-long separation?

    It seems to me that “schismatic” is a meaningless word these days, except when being used to undermine faithful Catholics, who only want solid doctrine/teaching and authentic liturgy (instead of novelties and pandering to the secular world.)

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