It’s been more than a year since Bishop Robert Williamson gave the television interview that brought international infamy to both the priest and his order, the Society of Saint Pius X.
In January 2009, and coming just four days prior to an order issued by The Vatican lifting the excommunication of four bishops who belonged to the ultraconservative SSPX, Bishop Williamson told Swedish TV that only 200,000 – 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II, and that none of them had been gassed.
Apparently a year’s worth of outrage, fines and a pending trial for inciting racial hatred has not only failed to soften the controversial bishop’s stance, but also has emboldened both Williamson and his ever-growing list of supporters.
According to a report by Der Speigel, Williamson recently wrote an opinion to other SSPX members that reinforced his stance on the Holocaust.
"The fact is that the 6 million people who were supposedly gassed represent a huge lie,” Williamson is quoted as saying, “The Jews became ersatz saviors thanks to the concentration camps.”
The fundamentalist SSPX splinter group has long criticized the reformation and modernization of the Catholic Church that came as a result of the 1962 – 1965 Second Vatican Council.
For the SSPX, ecumenism (the promotion of worldwide unity among religions) is no more than a plot hatched by Satan, and the sect – since its 1970 inception – has always been accused of anti-Semitism.
A 1997 article written by SSPX priests Michael Crowley and Kenneth Novak called for forcing all Jews into ghettos because “Jews are known to kill Christians.”
SSPX writings have also blamed Jews for the French Revolution, communism and capitalism; suggested that a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy has destroyed the Catholic Church; and described Judaism as "inimical to all nations.”
In a 1989 speech, Bishop Williamson – then the rector of an SSPX seminary in Minnesota – told his congregation that, “There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies.”
Williamson was also quoted as saying the Jews had invented Auschwitz as a way to “derive certain benefits.”
The bishop, who has spent most of the last year in relative isolation in a London office that overlooks the famed Wimbledon tennis courts, has also been criticized for his blog posts – written under the pen name Dinoscopus - one of which described unmarried women as “less than zero.”
While Williamson seemingly feels he has remained silent long enough, Der Speigel notes the SSPX has reached a heightened level of notoriety thanks in large part to the outspoken bishop’s outrageous claims. The society maintains six seminaries, 14 districts, 161 priories, 725 mass centers, is active in 1,000 locations worldwide and claims to have more than 600,000 supporters.
In addition, Williamson’s Facebook page has accumulated more than 500 friends.
Infamy aside, the past year has seen the bishop fined nearly $18,000 by a German court for his Holocaust rejection (in Germany denying the Holocaust is a crime), and this April he will stand trial on charges of inciting racial hatred.
Williamson and other ultraconservative fundamentalists have also made it more difficult for Pope Benedict XI to welcome SSPX into the fold – although either decision made by the pontiff risks dividing his church even further - especially if Williamson and other priests break off and establish an even more radical movement toward ultraconservative Catholicism.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the SSPX, told Der Speigel he likens Williamson to uranium.
“It's dangerous when you have it,” Fellay told the German publication, “but you can't simply leave it by the side of the road.”