NOVA FRIBURGO, Brazil (Reuters) - Two renegade Catholic bishops plan to consecrate a new generation of bishops to spread their ultra-traditionalist movement called “The Resistance” in defiance of the Vatican, one of them said at a remote monastery in Brazil.
French Bishop Jean-Michel Faure, himself consecrated only two weeks ago by the Holocaust-denying British Bishop Richard Williamson, said the new group rejected Pope Francis and what it called his “new religion” and would not engage in a dialogue with Rome until the Vatican turned back the clock.
Williamson and Faure, who were both excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church when the former made the latter a bishop without Vatican approval, are ex-members of a larger dissenting group that has been a thorn in Rome’s side for years.
Their splinter movement is tiny - Faure did not give an estimate of followers - but the fact they plan to consecrate bishops is important because it means their schism can continue as a rebel form of Catholicism.
“We follow the popes of the past, not the current one,” Faure, 73, told reporters on Saturday at Santa Cruz Monastery in Nova Friburgo, in the mountain jungle 140 km (87 miles) inland from Rio de Janeiro.
“It is likely that in maybe one or two years we will have more consecrations,” he said, adding there were already two candidates to be promoted to bishop’s rank.
The monastery had said Williamson would ordain a priest there at the weekend but he was not seen by reporters, and clergy said it was impossible to talk to him. Faure ordained the priest himself.
Asked what the new group called itself, Faure said: “I think we can call ourselves Roman Catholic first, secondly St Pius X, and now ... the Resistance.”
The Society of St Pius X (SSPX) is a larger ultra-traditionalist group that was excommunicated in 1988 when its founder consecrated four new bishops, including Williamson, despite warnings from the Vatican not to do so.
It rejected the modernizing reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council and stuck with Catholicism’s old Latin Mass after the Church switched to simpler liturgy in local languages.
Former Pope Benedict readmitted the four SSPX bishops to the Catholic fold in 2009, but the SSPX soon expelled Williamson because of an uproar over his Holocaust denial.
In contrast to Benedict, Pope Francis pays little attention to the SSPX ultra-traditionalists, who claim to have a million followers around the world and a growing number of new priests at a time that Rome faces priest shortages. Their remaining three bishops have no official status in the Catholic Church.
Faure said the Resistance group would not engage in dialogue with Rome, as the SSPX has done. “We resist capitulation, we resist conciliation of St Pius X with Rome,” he said.
Faure said he was not sure what it would take for Rome to return to its old traditions but conflict could be a catalyst.
“If there is another World War ... maybe the Church will go back to the way it was before,” he said.
The prior of the monastery, Thomas Aquinas, explained the split simply: “The Pope is less Catholic than us.”
Under Catholic law, Williamson and Faure are excommunicated from the Church but remain validly consecrated bishops. That means they can ordain priests into their schismatic group and claim to be Catholic, albeit without Vatican approval.
By contrast, women supposedly made priests by dissident Catholic bishops are not validly ordained because Catholic law reserves the priesthood only for men.
Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Richard Chang