On Wednesday, the Vatican made a dramatic move to tamp down growing worldwide furor over its late January decision to revoke the excommunication of Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) Bishop Richard Williamson, who has a 20 year track record of vocal Holocaust denial.
What the Vatican has not yet addressed is SSPX’s clear record of anti-Semitism. The SSPX as a whole, which has chapels and schools across the United States and in several other countries, is a font of anti-Semitic propaganda. It is in The Angelus, published monthly by the SSPX, and on SSPX’s website, that the radical anti-Semitism of the order is most evident. One example now on the website is an Angelus article by two SSPX priests that calls for locking Jews into ghettoes because “Jews are known to kill Christians.” Further examples of the group’s anti-Semitism can be found here.
The statement demanding Williamson recant was issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the pope to clearly reject Holocaust denial. Condemnation of the Pope’s decision has been widespread. Top German church officials, Jewish groups and the head of the U.S. bishops conference also denounced Williamson. On Tuesday, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said he considered the matter “closed” after Benedict issued a lengthy denunciation of Holocaust deniers. By Wednesday, it was clear that the matter was far from closed and the Vatican had to return to the issue and call on Williamson to recant.
Williamson heads SSPX’s La Reja, Argentina seminary and has held several high level posts in the organization. At one point, SSPX materials were banned from Canada after Williamson defended Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel during a presentation to a Montreal audience. Williamson, who was then rector of SSPX’s main North American seminary in Winona, Minn., told his audience: “There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies.” (More videos of Williamson expressing his extremist views can be found at the Huffington Post here.)
Just a few days before the Pope revoked his excommunication, Williamson appeared on Swedish television claiming that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to murder people. “I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against — is hugely against — 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler,” he said in the interview. “I believe there were no gas chambers,” he added.
On Jan. 27, the American branch of SSPX for the first time ever publicly denounced Williamson’s Holocaust denial. “Bishop Williamson’s statements do not in any way reflect the position of our Society,” read SSPX Superior General Bernard Fellay’s letter. “This is why I have forbidden him, until further notice, to make any public statements on political or historical issues.”