Rebel Catholic group expels Holocaust-denying bishop

Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:45am EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters)- A rebel Catholic traditionalist group has expelled British-born Bishop Richard Williamson who deeply embarrassed the Vatican by denying the Holocaust shortly before he was readmitted to the Church three years ago.

The Swiss-based Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), whose four bishops were excommunicated from 1988 to 2009, said on Wednesday it took the step because Williamson had disobeyed his superiors.

Williamson, 72, an opponent of recent SSPX efforts to win full reintegration into the Church, caused an international uproar with his ultra-hardline views broadcast only days before the Vatican lifted the bans on him and three other bishops.

His presence in the SSPX leadership appeared to be a hurdle to any accord with the Vatican. But negotiations have broken down in any case so his departure may not have an effect on the group's relations with Rome.

The statement said Williamson was excluded for "having distanced himself from the management and the government of the SSPX for several years and refusing to show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors".

The Vatican declined to comment on the SSPX statement, which said Williamson was excluded by the group on October 4.

The SSPX opposes modernizing reforms decided by the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council. In his bid to end its schism, Pope Benedict has promoted the old Latin Mass the SSPX champions and lifted the excommunication bans on its bishops.

But talks aimed at creating a special status for the group within the Church have broken down because it has refused to accept the Council as legitimate, especially its recognition of other Christian denominations and Judaism as valid faiths.   Continued...

British-born Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson (2nd L) is escorted by police on his arrival at Heathrow Airport in London February 25, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor