Richard Nelson Williamson, SSPX (born 8 March 1940) is an English traditionalist Catholic and a bishop of the Society of St. Pius X. Williamson opposes the changes in the Catholic Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council. He sees such changes as being unacceptably liberal and modernistic, and as being destructive to the Church.

In 1988, the Holy See declared that Williamson had incurred automatic excommunication latae sententiae, i.e. as a direct and immediate consequence of his unauthorized consecration as a bishop by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.[1] It lifted his excommunication in January 2009.[2] After reports accusing him of Holocaust denial attracted widespread media coverage, the Vatican declared that "in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the Church, (he) will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted."[3]

Early life

Williamson was born in Buckinghamshire, England,[4] the middle son of a Marks and Spencers buyer and his wealthy American wife.[5] Williamson attended Winchester College and then went to Clare College, Cambridge where he received a degree in English literature.[4][6] Upon graduating, he taught at a college in Ghana for a brief period.[4][5] In September 1965 he returned to England and from 1965 to 1970 taught at St Paul's School in London, where records show him to have been a popular teacher and speaker, involved with multiple extracurricular activities.[5]

Williamson, originally an Anglican, was received into the Catholic Church in 1971.[4][7] After a few months as a novice at the Brompton Oratory, Williamson left.[5] He became a member of the Society of St Pius X a traditionalist Catholic faction founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 in protest of the liberalism of the second Vatican council,[4][7] He entered the International Seminary of St. Pius X at Ecône Switzerland, and in 1976 he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.[6][7]

Williamson's first appointment was as a professor at the German seminary of the Society in Weissbad, and after two years he was named to the St. Pius X International Seminary in Ecône, Switzerland. He subsequently moved to the United States where he served as the rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield, Connecticut from 1983, and continued in the position when the seminary moved to Winona, Minnesota in 1988.[6][8]

SSPX bishop

After his episcopal consecration Williamson remained rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary.[8] He performed various episcopal functions, including confirmations and ordinations. In 1991, he assisted in the consecration of Licínio Rangel as bishop for the Priestly Society of St. John Mary Vianney after the death of its founder, Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer. In 2006, he ordained two priests and seven deacons in Warsaw, Poland for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat.[9]

In 2003 Williamson was appointed rector of the Seminary of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix in La Reja, Argentina.[7]



In common with his colleagues in the SSPX and with many other Traditionalist Catholics, Williamson opposes the changes in the Catholic Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council. He sees such changes as being unacceptably liberal and modernistic, and as being destructive to the Church.[10][11][12] Among the changes he opposes are the Church's increased openness to other Christian denominations and other religions,[10][13] and changes in the forms of Catholic worship such as the general replacement of the Tridentine Mass with the Mass of Paul VI. Williamson has criticised Pope John Paul II, to whom he attributed a "weak grasp of Catholicism".[14] Williamson holds that the SSPX is not schismatic, but rather is composed of true Catholics who are keeping the "complete Roman Catholic apostolic faith".[10][11][12][15]

Williamson is viewed as being located towards the hardline end of the traditionalist spectrum, though he does not go so far as to espouse sedevacantism.[16][17][18] In the past, he opposed compromise between the SSPX and the Church leadership in Rome,[19][20] accusing the latter of deceit[17] and of being under "the power of Satan".[10][18] He has been reported as viewing reconciliation between the SSPX and the Holy See as being impossible, and he has noted that some SSPX members might refuse to follow the Society in such a direction even if an agreement were reached.[6][20][21]


Williamson holds strong views regarding gender roles and dress. He opposes women wearing of trousers or shorts,[22][23][24] attending college or university, or having a career,[25][26] and has urged greater "manliness" in men.[23][24]

He supports authoritarian parenting style, denouncing the film The Sound of Music as "soul-rotting slush" and saying that, by putting "friendliness and fun in the place of authority and rules, it invites disorder between parents and children."[5][27][28]

Williamson supports conspirary theories regarding the assassination of President Kennedy, and the World Trade Center controlled demolition conspiracy theory, denying that the latter were terrorist attacks but were instead staged by the U.S. government.[6][24][29]

Jews and holocaust denial

Williamson has expressed controversial views about Jews. He called them the "enemies of Christ" and urges their conversion to Catholicism.[30][31][32] He claims that Jews and Freemasons have contributed to the "changes and corruption" in the Catholic Church.[33][34][35][30] He has also stated that Jews aim at world dominion[6][36] and believes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to be authentic.[6] Williamson has denied that he is anti-semitic, stating, " Anti-Semitism means many things today, for instance, when one criticizes the Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. The Church has always understood the definition of anti-Semitism to be the rejection of Jews because of their Jewish roots. This is condemned by the Church. Incidentally, this is self-evident in a religion whose founders and all important individuals in its early history were Jews. But it was also clear, because of the large number of Jewish Christians in early Christianity, that all men need Christ for their salvation—all men, including the Jews."[37][30][31]

Since the late 1980s, Williamson has been accused of anti-semitism and Holocaust denial.[30][34][35][38][39] Citing the pseudoscientific Leuchter report,[37] Williamson has denied that millions of Jews were murdered in Nazi concentration camps and the existence of Nazi gas chambers[7][40][41] and praised Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel.[30][31][34][35] During an interview on Swedish television recorded in November 2008, he stated: "I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against, is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler",[41] and "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them in gas chambers."[7][40][42]

Lifting of the excommunication

Wishing to heal the rift with traditionalist Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the four bishops Lefebvre had consecrated.[39][40] The decree was signed on January 21, 2009, the same day that the interview on Swedish television was broadcast.[40][43][44] The decision stirred widespread outrage,[40] particularly in Germany, where the interview was conducted and where Holocaust denial is illegal and punishable by imprisonment of up to five years.[45] Reaction from much of the Jewish community was strongly negative, and Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote to Cardinal Walter Kasper in order to express his opposition to any ecclesiastic re-integration of Bishop Williamson.[46] On 4 February 2009, German prosecutors announced the launch of a criminal investigation into the statements.[47] In October 2009, a German court, using an "order of punishment" fined Williamson €12,000 after finding him guilty of holocaust denial.[48][49] Williamson denied the charges and appealed, paving the way for a full hearing that Williamson need not attend.[49][50]

The Catholic Church authorities made a number of statements on the matter. Pope Benedict XVI stated that he deplored all forms of anti-semitism and that all Catholics must do the same.[51] The Pope expressed his "unquestionable solidarity" with the Jewish people, and stated his hope that "the memory of the Shoah will induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of hate when it conquers the heart of man",[52] and condemned the denial of the Holocaust.[53][54] Vatican officials stated that they had not been aware of Williamson's views prior to the lifting of the excommunication;[55][56] as a result, in a July 2009 Vatican reorganization, the Pope tightened control and supervision over reconciliation efforts with SSPX.[57]

Williamson sent the Pope a letter expressing his regret about the problems that he had caused, but did not retract his statements.[58][59] On 4 February 2009 the Vatican Secretariat of State issued a note stating that Williamson would have to distance himself unequivocally and publicly from the opinions that he had expressed before he would be permitted to act as a bishop within the Church.[60][61] Williamson responded that he would do so only after looking at the historical evidence for himself.[62] On 26 February, he formally apologized for the offense that had been caused by his comments, but did not indicate that he had changed his views.[63][64] The Vatican rejected his apology, stating that he needed to "unequivocally and publicly" withdraw his comments. Some Jewish groups have expressed disappointment at the ambiguity of his apology, because he failed to address the factuality of the Holocaust.[63]

Bishop Fellay of the SSPX initially denied responsibility, stating that Williamson's statements were his alone and that the affair did not concern the SSPX as a whole.[65] However, he subsequently forbade Williamson from speaking out publicly about historical or political matters, and asked Pope Benedict for forgiveness for the damage done by Williamson's statements.[66] Williamson was sacked as the head of the seminary of in La Reja, Argentina[41] and Bishop Fellay stated said that if Williamson again denied the Holocaust, he would be excluded from the Society.[37]

On February 19, 2009, the government of Argentina gave him 10 days to leave the country voluntarily or he would be expelled. Interior minister Florencio Randazzo said that the irregular presence in the country of someone who had "deeply offended Argentine society and humanity with antisemitic statements" was "intolerable".[67][68][69] On 24 February 2009 Williamson flew from Argentina to London, where he was met by Michele Renouf, a former model known for her [[Antisemitism}anti-semitic]] views, with whom he had been put in touch by Holocaust denier David Irving.[37][70][71][72]


  • The Rural Solution: Modern Catholic Voices on Going Forward to the Land (2003, with P. Chojnowski, W. Marx, W. Nutting, C. McCann)
  • Letters from the Rector by Bishop Richard Williamson
    • Volume 1: The Ridgefield Letters covering 1983–1988 (2007)
    • Volume 2: The Winona Letters Part I covering 1988–1994 (2008)
    • Volume 3: The Winona Letters Part II covering 1984–1999 (2009)
    • Volume 4: The Winona Letters Part III covering 2000–2003 (2009)


  1. Apostolic Letter 'Ecclesia Dei'
  2. Press release on the lifting of the excommunication, with full translation of the decree remitting it
  3. Owen, Richard; Gledhill, Ruth (February 5, 2009). "Pope insists Bishop Richard Williamson must renounce Holocaust denial". Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Bishop on the run: Holocaust denier back in Britain". The Independent. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Levy, Geoffrey (6 February 2009). "Does the outcast bishop who denies the Holocaust have a grudge against M&S?". Mail Online (Daily Mail). Retrieved 2 March 2009. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Arco (3/5/2008). "Lefebvrists face crisis as bishop is exposed as 'dangerous' anti-Semite". The Catholic Herald (Catholic Herald Limited). Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Walker, Peter (25 February 2009). "Profile: Richard Williamson". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Holocaust-denying bishop lived in Minn. 15 years". Star Tribune. February 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  9. "Ukrainian priest excommunicated". Catholic World News (CWN). 2007-11-23. Retrieved 2008-06-24. "SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson illicitly ordained two SSJK priests and seven deacons." 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Moylan, Martin J. (11 December 1988). "US Seminary of front line in Catholic Doctrine Battle". The Dallas Morning News. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Neuerbourg, Hanns (1 July 1988). "New Traditionalist Bishop Says Fight Just Beginning". The Associated Press. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 McAteer, Michael (3 April 1989). "Liberalism destroying church, bishop says". The Toronto Star. 
  13. Wilkins, Emma (19 September 1988). "Bishop attacks Rome 'poison';Bishop Richard Williamson". The Times. 
  14. Owen, Richard (2003-04-21). "Pope woos conservatives expelled for rebellion". Times Online. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  15. Stowell, Linda (13 August 1988). "Ousted bishop says pope ruining church". Houston Chronicle. 
  16. Ein Damenbesuch und andere unbekannte Seiten des Papstes
  17. 17.0 17.1 Richard Owen and Ruth Gledhill. "Pope opens talks with Latin Mass renegades". Times Online. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 McAteer, Michael (15 April 1989). "Maverick bishop confirms Lefebvre's way". The Toronto Star. 
  19. Lefebvrist bishop says no reconciliation with Rome
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Pope meets head of ultraconservative movement". USA Today. 29 August 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  21. SSPX bishop sees little hope for agreement with Rome
  22. Farney, Dennis (23 August 1995). "Paranoia Is Becoming An Article of Faith In a Tiny Kansas Town - A Split Among Its Catholics Is as Much About Suspicion As It Is About Doctrine". The Wall Street Journal. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Papadakis, Mary (14 July 2002). "Catholic right over 'sect'". Sunday Herald Sun. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "Bishop's homily ranges from Columbus to 'JFK'". The Salt Lake Tribune. 28 March 1992. pp. A12. 
  25. "Profile: Bishop Richard Williamson". BBC NEWS. 4 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12. "A woman can do a good imitation of handling ideas, but then she will not be thinking properly as a woman. Did this lawyeress check her hairdo before coming into court? If she did, she is a distracted lawyer. If she did not, she is one distorted woman." 
  27. Bess Twiston Davies (February 26, 2009). "Bishop Williamson, shrinks, and The Sound of Music". Timesonline. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  28. Williamson, Richard. "Letter to Friends & Benefactors - November 1997". Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  29. Koch, Einar. "Bishop Williamson's mad conspiracy theories". Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 30.4 Legge, Gordon (April 15, 1989.). "Holocaust stance probed". Calgary Herald.. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 "The Holocaust: Zeal and ignorance". The Windsor Star.. April 20, 1989. pp. A.10. 
  32. Robert G. Weisbord and Wallace P. Sillanpoa: The Chief Rabbi, the Pope, and the Holocaust (Transaction Publishers 1991 ISBN 0887384161) p. 194
  33. National Catholic Reporter, 30 March 2001, quoting a 3 October 2000 letter by Williamson.
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 McAteer, Michael (21 April 1989). "Catholic bishop won't be charged for remarks about Jews, police say". The Toronto Star. pp. A10. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 McAteer, Michael (14 April 1989). "Chief Canadian bishop denounces clergyman's anti-Jewish comments". The Toronto Star. pp. A11. 
  36. 1 February 1991 Letter
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 "SPIEGEL Interview with Bishop Richard Williamson: 'I Will Not Travel to Auschwitz'". February 9, 2009.,1518,606323,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  38. Robert G. Weisbord and Wallace P. Sillanpoa: The Chief Rabbi, the Pope, and the Holocaust (Transaction Publishers 1991 ISBN 0887384161), p. 202
  39. 39.0 39.1 "Pope to cancel excommunication of rebel bishops". The Daily Telegraph. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 40.4 Willan, Philip. "Pope readmits Holocaust-denying priest to the church". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 "Seminary sacks 'Holocaust bishop'". BBC News. 9 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  42. "Pope to cancel excommunication of rebel bishops". Telegraph. 23 January 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2009. 
  43. Agnew, Paddy (23 January 2009). "Pope to lift excommunications of four 'Lefebvre' bishops". Irish Times. Retrieved 23 January 2009. 
  44. CBCP News, Vatican: Bishop's Holocaust statements 'strongly rejected' by pope
  45. Reaktioner i Tyskland - redan före sändning!
  46. ADL To Vatican: Do Not Rehabilitate Holocaust Denier Bishop
  47. CNN: Vatican: Bishop must recant Holocaust denial
  48. Pidd, Heidi (26 October 2009). "German court fines British bishop for Holocaust claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  49. 49.0 49.1 Hall, Allan (10 November 2009). "British bishop Richard Williamson to go on trial in Germany for Holocaust denial". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  50. "British bishop 'to go on trial' in Germany over racial hatred". Daily Telegraph. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  51. Nicole Winfield (January 26, 2009). "Vatican: Comments by Holocaust Denier Unacceptable". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  52. Pope tries to heal rift with Jews over Holocaust denier
  53. Pullella, Philip (2009-02-12). "Pope tells Jews Holocaust denial is "intolerable"". Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  54. "Pope condemns denial of Holocaust". BBC. 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  55. David, Ariel (January 29, 2009). "Priest in Italy Defends Holocaust-Denier". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  56. Pope denies feeling alone over Holocaust-denying bishop
  57. "Pope orders reform after Holocaust denial flap". USA Today. July 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  58. Bishop Williamson apologizes for 'imprudent' Holocaust remarks
  59. "Bishop who denied Holocaust apologizes to pope". The Boston Globe. January 31, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  60. Bulletin of the Press Office of the Holy See, 4 February 2009
  61. "Holocaust bishop' told to recant". BBC NEWS ( 4 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  62. "I Will Not Travel to Auschwitz." Spiegel Online. 9 February 2009.
  63. 63.0 63.1 "Vatican rejects bishop's apology". BBC News. February 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  64. ZENIT article
  65. The Remnant
  66. Winfold, Nicole (January 27, 2009). "Forgiveness Sought for Holocaust-Denying Bishop". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  67. IHT:Argentina expels Holocaust-denying bishop
  68. Faries, Bill (19 February 2009). "Argentina Will Expel Bishop Who Denied Holocaust". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  69. Colonna, Lucas (20 February 2009). "Expulsan del país al obispo que negó el Holocausto". La Nacion. Retrieved 2010-01-03. ""Para el gobierno argentino, resulta intolerable la presencia irregular en el país de una persona que ha agraviado a la humanidad con manifestaciones antisemitas"" 
  70. Holocaust-denying bishop leaves Argentina for Britain after airport scuffle The Times. 24th February, 2009.
  71. "Holocaust-denying bishop lands in UK after expulsion from Argentina", The Guardian, 25 February 2009
  72. Totaro, Paola (February 26, 2009). "Renouf greets expelled bishop". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2009-09-13. 

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Richard Williamson (bishop). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.