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Behind the Bishop: The Anti-Semitism of the SSPX

By Heidi Beirich on February 26, 2009 - 9:01 am, Posted in Radical Traditionalist Catholic

DICKINSON, Texas — Twenty miles north of Galveston, at the busy intersection of two once-rural state highways that are now crowded with mini-malls and drugstores, stands the oldest church in the United States belonging to the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). A peaceful Catholic church with priests in residence, Queen of Angels shows no sign of the international controversy that erupted in January, when Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of four SSPX bishops.

SSPX in Dickinson, Texas

Most of that controversy has centered on one of the reinstated bishops, Richard Williamson, who is infamous for his Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. In January, just a few days before the pontiff invited Williamson back into the church, he appeared on a Swedish TV program insisting the Nazis had no gas chambers. “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,” Williamson said. “I believe there were no gas chambers.

The Vatican said the pope had been unaware of Williamson’s views, which provoked a firestorm of criticism, some of it from ranking Catholic officials. By the end of January, the pope had decided Williamson would not be allowed to perform priestly functions unless he recanted his views. In early February, Williamson was also suspended from his post as head of the SSPX seminary in La Reja, Argentina, and SSPX Superior General Bernard Fellay issued an order forbidding Williamson to make “any public statements on political or historical issues.” Later in the month, Argentina expelled the bishop and he returned to his native England.

That wasn’t all. Fellay also told the world that Williamson’s beliefs “do not in any way reflect the position of our Society.” But the facts do not support him. The truth is that Williamson’s thinking reflects much of basic SSPX doctrine.

As the international furor over Williamson grew, SSPX officials rushed to scrub their websites of offending material. In February, for instance, a 1997 article by two SSPX priests that called for locking Jews into ghettos because “Jews are known to kill Christians” disappeared. But the makeover was far from complete.

Still on at press time was a 1959 letter from a close friend of SSPX’s founder. “Money, the media, and international politics are for a large part in the hands of Jews,” Bishop Gerald Sigaud wrote. “Those who have revealed the atomic secrets of the USA were … all Jews. The founders of communism were Jews.” And as of early February, the Canadian SSPX website still hosted an archive of Williamson’s anti-Semitic letters, one of which complains that “Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their … drive toward world domination.”

SSPX and Queen of Angels

SSPX, which has chapels and schools across the U.S. and worldwide, was founded in 1970 by the late French archbishop, Marcel-François Lefebvre, a hard rightist who supported the pro-Nazi Vichy regime. Though he participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) that enacted several liberalizing reforms within the church, Lefebvre ultimately refused to sign certain of the council’s final reports and in 1974 publicly denounced the effort as heretical. He was particularly upset by the adoption of the new Mass, celebrated in local languages instead of the traditional Latin. As a result, then-Pope Paul VI ordered the archbishop to shut down his Swiss seminary, but Lefebvre refused to comply, leading the Vatican to suspend his right to perform priestly functions (a step short of excommunication) in 1976. In 1988, Lefebvre took his most radical step yet, consecrating four bishops, including Williamson, in defiance of the Vatican. Pope John Paul II then excommunicated Lefebvre and his bishops, declaring SSPX in formal schism with the church.

Queen of Angels was the first SSPX church founded in the U.S. and served as the group’s headquarters until 1978, when the leadership moved to St. Marys, Kan. Dedicated by Lefebvre in 1977, the property features a pretty white church, set amid dormitories and a shrine to the Virgin Mary, that looks like it was built by Texas’ original Spanish settlers. Attached to the front of the church is a big, bronze plaque announcing that it is part of SSPX and that traditional Latin masses are held twice daily.

SSPX sign

Inside the church itself are an impressive altar, stone sculptures and stained glass windows. Today, the only hint of the recent controversy is a notice on the inner doors of a letter from Superior General Fellay, expressing “our filial gratitude” for the lifting of the excommunications. No mention is made of the Pope’s subsequent demand that Williamson recant his Holocaust denial—even though Williamson’s views, and the Pope’s rejection of them, have been broadcast around the world.

Perhaps there is a reason for why nothing is said of Williamson at Queen of Angels. As the place where the SSPX’s Angelus Press first set up shop, the church itself has long been in the business of peddling anti-Semitism. Proudly on display in the small and musty one-room Queen of Angels bookstore, which is located behind the church, are all sorts of Catholic materials, from rosaries to advent calendars — plus hate literature, much of it either published or sold by Angelus Press. The history section prominently displays Hilaire Belloc’s The Jews, which blames Jews for Bolshevism and corrupt financial practices. In a tall turnstile filled with pamphlets are several copies of Time Bombs of the Second Vatican Council, where SSPX’s former superior general, Rev. Fr. Franz Schmidberger, pontificates on the Vatican Council’s evils. Schmidberger denounces Third World immigration into Western countries as “destroying our national identity and, furthermore, the whole of Christianity,” and goes on to accuse the Jews collectively of deicide.

Also on hand at Queen of Angels bookstore are dozens of current and back copies of The Angelus, a monthly magazine put out by the SSPX that has published several extremists. Found in the pages of The Angelus (and carried on the SSPX’s website) are the late Father Denis Fahey, whose main topic was the inherent evil of the “Jewish Nation” and who is quoted on a white supremacist site devoted to “1,001 Quotes By and About Jews;” John Vennari, who publishes Catholic Family News and has written of a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy to destroy the church; and Robert Sungenis, the leader of a particularly virulent group called Catholic Apologetics International who frequently reminds people that the 1911 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia “predicts the anti-Christ will come from Jewry.”

One item that was not on hand at Queen of Angels was the viciously anti-Semitic conspiracy tome, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which has been sold in the last few years by representatives of Angelus Press at far-right Catholic conferences and, in the past, from its headquarters in St. Marys, Kan. The Protocols probably won’t surface again — SSPX officials have been cleaning their websites of controversial materials since the Williamson controversy erupted.

The 1997 article that was scrubbed, published by The Angelus and written by Michael Crowdy and Kenneth Novak, didn’t stop at accusing Jews of murdering Christians. The article also blames Jews for the French Revolution, communism and capitalism; suggests a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy has destroyed the Catholic Church; and says Judaism is “inimical to all nations.” The Williamson letters remaining on the Canadian SSPX website also were revealing. In “WTC—The Wage of Sin,” Williamson blames the 9/11 terrorist attacks on “the would-be architects of the New World Order” who are clearly Jews, although he is not explicit. “In the Catholic Middle Ages the Jews were relatively impotent to harm Christendom, but as Catholics have grown over the centuries since then weaker and weaker in the faith, especially since Vatican II, so the Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their substitute-Messianic drive towards world dominion,” he added.

Assessing SSPX

Williamson is only one of many SSPX leaders who have expressed anti-Semitic views. Also on the Canadian site at press time was a piece by SSPX Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Herkel called “Is Anti-Christ Coming?” Herkel asserts that Jews are considering rebuilding “the ancient Temple of Jerusalem” which he argues “would fit in with the devil’s desire to mock the holy places of God.” “If the ancient Temple is rebuilt and is the place where the Antichrist will receive divine worship, it must follow that the Antichrist will be Jewish,” Herkel writes. “The devil will not fail to make use of their blindness to foist the Antichrist upon them,” he concludes.

Other SSPX officials sound similar. In 1997, French SSPX Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four bishops excommunicated by Pope John Paul II, wrote that “Jews are the most active partisans for the coming of the anti-Christ.” After the Williamson controversy broke out, Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz, a pastor and spokesperson for the SSPX in Northern Italy, defended Williamson and said he, too, was unsure if gas chambers were used for anything but disinfection or whether 6 million Jews were really murdered. He called the Jews a “people of deicide.”

Not all members of SSPX agree. Father Paul Morgan, the SSPX district superior for Great Britain, issued a statement in late January denouncing Williamson and declaring his division’s opposition to “all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.” Even so, the anti-Semitism that has been expressed by SSPX leaders, sold by Angelus Press and published on the group’s websites makes a mockery of Superior General Fellay’s statement that Williamson’s beliefs “do not in any way reflect the position of our Society.” Williamson is also making a mockery of Fellay’s demand that he not “make any public statements on political or historical issues.”

In a Feb. 9 interview with the leading German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Williamson, who is being investigated in Germany for having violated that country’s criminal laws forbidding Holocaust denial, said he would reevaluate the facts of the Holocaust — including, presumably, his claim that fewer than 300,000 people died in Nazi death camps. But he added that the information available in the 1980s put the existence of the gas chambers and the entire Holocaust in question. Asked if he would visit any concentration camps, he declared, “I will not travel to Auschwitz.”

How any of this squares with Pope Benedict XVI’s statement on Feb. 12 that the Catholic Church “is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism” is unclear. Meanwhile Rev. Arnaud Sélégny, the general secretary of the SSPX international headquarters in Menzingen, Switzerland, is on record saying that Williamson would certainly be included in any reconciliation between SSPX and the Vatican because “everybody is allowed to have his opinion in the Society.”

  • Don Flood

    Ms. Beirich,

    You are a poor historian. Archbishop Lefebvre signed all 16 documents of the Second Vatican Council:

  • Chris Elliott

    Archbishop Lefebvre was a missionary in Gabon from 1935 to 1945, how could he have supported Vichy France? Also, his father Rene died in a labour camp? SPLC manages to bend the truth once again to suit their agenda, which is anything but equality and an end to bigotry.

  • Jeff Davis

    The SSPX has real problems with anti-Semitism. No question.

    But one side-note about Robert Sungenis. He’s a lone extremist who works out of the basement in his house from what I’ve been told. He picked the name “international” to make him sound like something much more than he is. He’s not the leader of a “group.” That description gives him way too much clout.

  • Dolorosa
  • Dominic McCaffrey

    What gives the SPLC the right to tell the SSPX what to believe?!? The jews commited the evil act of deicide and that is much worse than this holocaust. Its not a ‘hate crime’ to deny Stalins murder of 20 million, now WHY IS THAT? It is not a ‘hate crime’ to deny that Polish Catholics died in your holocaust, WHY is that? Pray that the perfidious Jews finally have the veil taken away from their hearts and accept Jesus Christ, without Whom there is NO salvation.

  • beaxdom miss

    thats a pretty church.i dint know the jews hated worried about this maddof and others gettin the jews in catholic and you can come down here any time.seems the baptist arnt being blamed for anything .i feel guilty about all kind a stuff.what do i file this under.

  • Snaggle-Tooth Jones

    A beautiful church, that one, a church that exudes both holiness and gravitas.

    Unlike anything that transpires here.

    Reminds me of St. Mary’s Anglican Catholic Church in Denver:

    Soli Deo Gloria.

  • Lisa Thaviu

    In response to the person who asked about Jews. It’s a difficult question to answer as to what, exactly, is a Jew. Our tradition of questioning everything has led to people who identify as Jews who are agnostics or atheists. So, I would say it is more of a cultural identification with many of us. I am married to a non-Jew, so we celebrate some non-Jewish holidays (but not Easter – I just don’t feel comfortable with Easter). Not all Jews are “Zionists” either. (Ironically, many ultra-Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionists because they believe the Messiah will return the Jews to Isreal and that Jews should not go there until the Messiah returns.) I don’t have any idea what the percentages are. At this point, there are Zionists with opinions that range the spectrum as well. Many Jews (including me) do not agree with the path the Israeli government seems to be taking. This multiplicity of opinions is a constant in Judaism – my daughter and I have joked that anyone who knows even a few Jews would know that there can’t be a “Jewish conspiracy” because it’s doubtful there is any group of more than 3 Jews that could agree on anything! (And if they could, there’s no way they could keep it a secret!) When you consider the many cultures in which Jews exist, what is surprising is the religious ties they do have.

  • Lisa Thaviu

    In response to the French gentleman – the reason many Jews went to Poland was because they were invited to move there by the king. Many Jews went to other Catholic countries in which the Inquisition was less severe. The Spanish Inquisition was not controlled by Rome. It was the only Inquisition that existed apart from the Vatican’s Inquisition. I have nothing against religious Catholics (including my husband’s family). However, dogmatic Catholics such as Williamson seem to have a fixed belief that 51% of the population (women) should be subject to men, and that everyone who does not believe what they believe is somehow less human and are heading for Hell (in the case of the Spanish Inquisition, they were willing to help them get there early). Orthodox Jews and other religious extremists have the same case of testosterone poisoning and inherent fear of those who are different. This is a far cry from being merely religious. Its the difference between controlling by good example and controlling by fear.

  • John P. Curry

    Can you answer some questions which I and which probably many others have.
    1. I presume (and may be wrong) a Jew is one who practices the Hebrew religion. I know many who claim to be Jewish but who are not practising the Hebrew religion (according to them). But they have in the past, possibly from their youth.
    2. If a Jew is one who has been or is currently practising the Hebrew religion, is he (or she) a Zionists? If not what is the difference between a Jew and a Zionist and what approximate percentage of Jews are Zionists. For example is is possible to be a Zionist and not be Jewish? If so, what approximate percentage of Zionists are not Jewish?

    I have often wondered about this and hope you can clear this up for me.

    Thank you.

  • Chaim Lehman, Strasbourg, France

    Stop the Black Legend against Spain, above here. The Spanish Inquisition was not what English and Puritan propaganda made of it. The Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, all left for Portugal, ór for the Papal States, and others went to Croatia and Hungary. Why did all Jews live in very Catholic Poland and Austria, if pre-Vatican II Catholics were “that hateful”? Why? Because in reality the anti-Catholic version of history is as evil as the antisemitic version of history made by certain others in the late 19th century, and by the first antisemite (and anti-Christian) Voltaire. Christians and Jews must be friends! In France, I as a Jew, am friends with several traditionalist Catholics. They are principled and great people, who love their families, their country, Europe. Some are even huge Israel supporters. Things are not black and white and one-sided!

  • Chaim Lehman, Strasbourg, France

    I find this article highly biased. I know two elderly priests of the SSPX associated to them, they are both friends of Msgr. Ducaud-Bourget, and during WW2 were in anti-Nazi French Resistance. One of them has a Yad Vashem medal. Just because some individuals believe they must blame Jews, does not mean all of these conservative Roman Catholic Christians do this. The SPLC should be more objective and not try to push its own world view by falsely accusing the Society of St. Pius X, whom I know perfectly from Paris and Strasbourg. My cousin, a rabbi from Nantes, spoke at their university faculty at the Sorbonne, and talked with their priests. The father of Archbishop Lefebvre (who was not “pro-Nazi”, but a bit naive on Vichy government, as he was in peaceful colonial Africa at that time) was in French Resistance and helped several Jews escape to safe Spain. But Falangist Spain of Franco is probably “antisemitic” to the SPLC too. However the fact remains, that for me as a Jew, I do not think the SPLC is doing a good job. By demonizing conservative Roman Catholic people, honest people, and allying with leftist radicals, SPLC is harming Jewish-Catholic reconciliation. I am good friends with traditionalists. I do not want a dictatorship of relativism. Our Jewish favourite, good Austrian Emperor Franz-Joseph, was a pious “reactionary” Catholic, but a great man for my Jewish ancestors in what is now Romania. He favoured the Jews and opposed antisemitism. Some Protocols and Henry Ford literature among some lay supporters, do not represent this organization as a whole. As a French Jew, I demand the SPLC correct their one-sided report on this FSSPX organization. Tolerance for all! Also for Catholic conservatives!

  • Lisa Thaviu

    The Inquisition persecuted and burned not only Morranos, but “Moriscos” (secret Muslims) with equal ferocity. It was a shame for the Jews, the Muslims and the Spanish, because it ended the “Golden Age” of Spain, during which the Jews and Muslims cooperated and both cultures thrived. My own view is that if the Isrealis and Arabs could end their conflicts, both cultures would benefit as a result.
    If you think about, the countries that accepted the Sephardic Jews, such as Holland, Venice and Poland, enjoyed an era of prosperity, perhaps as a result. I don’t attribute this to some divine favor, but rather, to an influx of educated immigrants who carried with them the seeds of a trading network which Medievil Europe lacked. Spain began its long decline, probably because of the influx of gold from the new world. There were probably no or few Jews with the Conquistadors, because their aim was to grab riches and return to Spain. One would think that this example would teach the rewards of tolerance, but some people prefer to think that every situation must conclude in such a way to benefit themselves alone. My point is that the SSPX’s position is to justify any attrocity so long as it results in the deaths of those they fear. I wonder wht they say about the deaths of the many Polish Catholics during WWII – do they think this was fabricated as well?

  • Carter

    Trolling must be good fun….As it’s done with such vast pluralism in these blogs.

    If you do have an interest in the complications & challenges of the “People of The Book”, read:

    Then make a LOGICAL case for one religion being somehow responsible for wrong-doings in totality. No one group of people is in the wrong; we all have an equal share of responsibility in the spread of hate.

  • neoconsarecommies

    “Obviously, if the practices of the Inquisition were not horrendous, people would not have risked everything, including their families, to get away”

    Either that or the more plausible lust for mayan “geld” as desperados in De Soto’s gang.

    “Under the law of the time, the Inquisition had no jurisdiction over non-Christians (although they stripped non-Christians of all possesions and forced them to leave their homes).”

    Because they were grave-robbers and early Bernie Madoffs, they were usurers and confidence salesmen just like they are today, society is near that alhambra point once again.

    You begrudge the world against your people’s supposed greatness (and individuality and style and medieval GLBT rights before that awful unhip inguisition came along and deprogressed everything for 400 years), so cruel is the world that never recognized your people’s greatness: this is not Christian, you hold on to this Marrano identity and you have no concept of sin, that you are a sinner and that there is no case for pride, any true Christian recognizes sin, not “Chosen” status, not pagan/kabbalah spiritual nonsense, not the changralla that once was, before the evil white christian bigot arrived and cruely threw a few money changers out of a few temples, how hateful.

    Neoconservatives, which the SPLC has formed a courtship with, who worship the modern day jews and call for Mecca to be nuked amongst other atrocity cheerleading are the real extremists, but the SPLC is here only to attack goyim. Go. Go form your alliance. Your outreach with these neocons. Because you are a liberal and a neocon is liberal except taking a more liberal approach to the duties of our military. You are pro-war, you are imperialist: reckless wars, this is inescapible, it is written on the flesh of your ideology, judeoliberalism as neoconservatism (adding judeo- to that would be redundant).

    An Allah Akbar to my hate-sharing brethern in Iraq, Afganistan, and Palestine.

  • Lisa Thaviu

    The SSPX hasn’t cleaned up enough. Having read your artucle on the SSPX, I went to their website and, in a matter of seconds, was able to find an article defending the Spanish Inquisition on the basis that the Marranos, or secret Jews, were all set to take over Spain, but that the Inquisition prevented greater bloodshed. They claim that the descriptions of the murders of individuals are imaginary and that the numbers of victims were imaginary. As a member of a family that includes Spanish and Portugese refugees to this country in its ancestry, I think the SSPX needs to ask itself what kind of fear motivation would be needed in order for people to flee to a place completely devoid of any government and likely to be extremely dangerous (as Marranos did when they came to the New World in the 1500’s)? Obviously, if the practices of the Inquisition were not horrendous, people would not have risked everything, including their families, to get away. Further, if the conversion practices of the Catholic Church were not “forced conversions” (as the SSPX has denied – based upon no evidence), then why would the Inquisition exist at all? Under the law of the time, the Inquisition had no jurisdiction over non-Christians (although they stripped non-Christians of all possesions and forced them to leave their homes). It was only when the victims had been baptized (even when it was performed forceably), that the Inquisition was allowed to step in. Obviously, the SSPX’s only talent is to rationalize and justify all actions the Church and others (such as the Nazis) have taken in the past to murder and steal from groups that the SSPX believes are threats to them. I must wonder whether a belief system which must be enforced by these means contains any truths at all. Ironically, if the SSPX is correct in its extreme Catholic, anti-semetic view, do they really think Jesus would be pleased with them if they somehow managed to kill all of the remaining Jews?