BY DAVID V BARRETT
A GERMAN COURT has fined an English SSPX bishop 10,000 euros (£8,765) for denying the Holocaust.
Bishop Richard Williamson, who was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 after being consecrated a bishop by rebel French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, made his comments in a Swedish television interview recorded in Regensburg, Bavaria, in November 2008. The interview was broadcast in January 2009, just a few days before Pope Benedict XVI lifted his predecessor’s excommunication of Bishop Williamson and three other bishops of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), the traditionalist group founded by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1970.
Bishop Williamson has a long history of holding historically revisionist beliefs, openly espousing conspiracy theories such as the US government being behind the 9/11 attack, Freemasons conspiring against the Catholic Church, and even that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery is authentic. He claims that about 300,000 Jews perished in the war and that the gas chambers did not exist.
In the interview Bishop Williamson called the idea that millions of Jews died in gas chambers “lies, lies, lies”. In Germany it is a hate crime to deny the Holocaust, in which six million Jews and perhaps a million others were murdered.
Bishop Williamson claims he said at the time of his interview that it should not be broadcast in Germany. As he could not have known that it would be shown online through YouTube Judge Karin Frahm reduced his fine from 12,000 euros.
The bishop did not attend the trial at a Regensburg court last week because Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of SSPX, had “prohibited him, pending any new orders, from taking any public positions on political or historical questions”.
Pope Benedict was widely criticised for lifting the excommunication of Bishop Williamson. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel formally broke off relations with the Vatican in protest. The Pope later “deeply deplored” the fact that he had not been fully briefed on Bishop Williamson’s views.
The lifting of the excommunication has opened the way for the bishops to be reconciled with Rome, if they agree to accept its teachings and authority.
Following the publicity about his remarks, Bishop Williamson, who lives in London, wrote a letter of apology but he did not retract his statements, and the Vatican rejected his apology.