British traditionalist bishop is excommunicated for illicit ordination

Bishop Richard Williamson in a church in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 2008. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)

Rome — A traditionalist bishop who has denied the Holocaust has been automatically excommunicated along with the priest he illicitly ordained a bishop.

British Bishop Richard Williamson violated church law when he ordained Fr. Jean-Michel Faure, 73, a bishop without papal approval during a ceremony in Nova Friburgo, Brazil, on Thursday, the feast of St. Joseph.

While the Vatican did not comment immediately, canon law provides automatic excommunication for the newly ordained bishop and for the bishop ordaining him in cases where the ordination goes against the will of the pope.

Williamson had been excommunicated in 1988 when he and three other traditionalist bishops were ordained against papal orders by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X.

Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 as a first step toward beginning formal talks aimed at reconciliation with the group. However, there was widespread outrage at revelations that Williamson had denied the gassing of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. The Vatican said the pope had been unaware at the time of the bishop's radical views on the Holocaust.

Williamson, who opposed the Society of St. Pius X holding reconciliation talks with the Vatican, was ousted from the society in 2012.

He and a number of followers did not support reconciliation with Rome because they believe the Vatican had strayed from the Catholic faith since the Second Vatican Council.

Faure, who was ordained a priest by Lefebvre in 1977, was also in opposition to reconciliation and left the society in 2013.

In an interview posted on the blog "Non Possumus" on Wednesday, the priest said he was willing to be ordained a bishop despite the penalties because "we cannot leave the resistance without bishops."

"As Archbishop Lefebvre said, Catholic bishops are indispensible for the conservation of the true doctrine of the faith and the sacraments," he said.

In a commentary emailed to subscribers of his newsletter Feb. 28, Williamson said the Catholic church in Rome -- referring to it as "the nightingales' nest" -- was unjustly occupied by "modernist cuckoos."

"Wherever the remainder of the true nightingales are visibly gathered, in whatever makeshift nest, they are in the church, they are the true visible church, and their beautiful song testifies to anyone who has ears to hear that the cuckoos are nothing but cuckoos who have stolen the Catholic nest which they presently occupy," he wrote.

He criticized the leaders of the SSPX for being "tone deaf" and unable "to distinguish the song of cuckoos from that of nightingales."


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