Argentine seminary ousts Holocaust-denying bishop
Associated Press | Feb. 9, 2009
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – A Roman Catholic bishop whose denials of the Holocaust led to Vatican demands he recant has been removed as the head of an Argentine seminary. The ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X said in a statement e-mailed Monday to The Associated Press that it has dismissed British Bishop Richard Williamson as director of its seminary in La Reja, outside Buenos Aires.
"The statements from Monsignor Williamson do not in any way reflect the position of our congregation," said Father Christian Bouchacourt, the society's South American superior. "A Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesiastical authority except on matters concerning faith and morality. Our brotherhood does not claim any authority over other questions."
Williamson is one of four bishops from the society whose excommunications were lifted in January by Pope Benedict XVI. But under pressure from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Vatican has demanded that Williamson recant his denial of the Holocaust before he can be admitted as a Roman Catholic bishop.
Williamson has said he does not believe Jews were gassed during the Holocaust. He has apologized to the pope for having stirred controversy, but has not repudiated his comments that only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II rather than the 6 million commonly estimated.
He reportedly also expressed similar views while serving as rector of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, between 1988 and 2003. "There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies," Williamson said in a 1989 speech at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes church in Sherbrooke, Canada, the Winona Daily News reported Sunday. In the same speech, the paper said Williamson also claimed that "the Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new State of Israel ... Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism."
The Daily News reported that the bishop also wrote letters in 2001 and 2002 blaming "Judeo-Masonry" for the two world wars and claiming that Jews were bent on world domination.
The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday that Williamson does not plan to immediately comply with the Vatican's demand that he recant and has rejected a suggestion that he might visit the former Auschwitz death camp.
Williamson said he would correct himself if he is satisfied by the evidence, but insisted that examining it "will take time," Der Spiegel reported. Several efforts by The Associated Press to reach Williamson at his home in La Reja have been unsuccessful. On Sunday, Merkel spoke by phone with the pope in a conversation characterized by "common deep concern about the perpetual warning of the Shoah for humanity," according to a joint statement with German-born Pope Benedict XVI. Shoah is a Hebrew word for the Holocaust. The reversal of Williamson's excommunication has revived strains in relations between the Vatican and Jews.