The Boston Globe has given us a very sane document about Bishop Richard Williamson and his views on the Holocaust. The report consists of interviews with Fr. John Rizzo, his identical twin brother Joseph Rizzo, and Fr. Augustine Oppenheimer. All three were seminarians at the SSPX seminary in Connecticut during the early 1980s.
Fr. Rizzo was once an SSPX priest, who was greatly persecuted by the organization because he chose to reveal certain problems within. His story was documented in an article you can read here.
According to these three sources, Bishop Williamson’s views on Jews and women were nothing new. As Fr. Rizzo notes, he was once asked by Fr. Williamson on account of his dark appearance whether “he was baptized or a Jew.” Fr. Williamson had also told seminarian Oppenheimer that he didn’t like his name and that “there’s a gas chamber waiting for you in the boathouse.”
Clearly, Bishop Williamson’s ideas on the Holocaust and women were deep-seated. As the article further notes, he regularly told his seminary classes that the Holocaust “was one of the biggest theatrics known to mankind.” According to Joseph Rizzo, this remark completely stunned many seminarians in the classroom. When then seminarian Rizzo pressed Fr. Williamson for an answer as to why he would say such a thing. Williamson replied matter-of-factly that there was no evidence.
As you can see from the article, Bishop Williamson’s ideas have been troubling and have brought him much trouble over the years. Archbishop Lefevbre, the founder of the SSPX and its superior general, knew about Williamson’s problems and heard about them from the Rizzos and Oppenheimer as well as others. If Lefevbre knew about Williamson’s problems, then why didn’t he do anything? Was there something about Williamson that allowed him to stay in the Society for as long as he did? It’s a question that I wonder about now that I have read the article.
It is interesting too that there is mention that the Pope’s staff failed the Holy Father with regard to Williamson. Yet the Pope was acting out of Christian charity by lifting the excommunications of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefevbre in 1988. Fr. Rizzo believes that the lifting of the excommunications is a good thing and could bring about a great deal of good.
One of the things that impresses me personally about this article is the candor with which all three of the interviewees speak about Bishop Williamson’s flaws. In the article linked above, one can see that Fr. Rizzo would have been persecuted by certain members of the Society if he said anything about what Williamson was saying. Now that Williamson’s actions are a matter of public record and that he is suffering a great deal, it is possible for Fr. Rizzo to speak without incurring any repercussions. The fact that he know belongs to another group (the FSSP) also gives him immunity in a sense to speak about what he saw and heard.
It is also very good that Fr. Oppenheimer is willing to say that not all traditionalist Catholics share Bishop Williamson’s views about the Jewish people or the Holocaust. While there are many traditionalist Catholics who are rabid anti-Semites, there are are those who have a great deal of respect for the Jews and their religion. After all, they were the Chosen People of God that were to bring forth the Messiah.
I personally have no sympathy for Bishop Williamson’s views on the Jews, but I do feel that we must pray for him during this time. It certainly must not be easy for him to be persecuted in the way that he is. Indeed, the number of his detractors seems to be growing by the day. The superiors of the SSPX have turned their back on him and he is now being kicked out of his safe haven. While the man’s views may be wrong-headed, he still deserves our charity. Let us pray for him.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!