Holocaust denier cleric refuses to recant views
Jonathan Wynne-Jones in London and Bojan Pancevski in Vienna
February 9, 2009
THE British bishop who questions the Holocaust has defied the Pope's demand for him to recant his views.
Richard Williamson was told he must renounce "in an absolutely unequivocal and public way" his claim that gas chambers were not used to exterminate Jews in World War II before he is readmitted to the Catholic Church.
But the cleric, who also believes between 200,000 and 300,000 rather than 6 million Jews were killed, is refusing to bow to pressure immediately to recant his views.
In an interview with a German magazine he said that he would have to "examine historic evidence" before rejecting his long-held beliefs.
"It is not about emotions but about historic evidence," he said. "If I find this evidence, I will correct myself. But that will take time. I was convinced that my views were right on the basis of my own research from the 1980s. But now I see that there are many honest and intelligent people who think differently and I therefore must look again at the historical evidence."
There was worldwide anger after the Pope lifted the excommunication of Mr Williamson and three other bishops from the ultra-conservative sect of the Society of Saint Pius X, last month. In an attempt to limit the damage, Vatican officials persuaded the 81-year-old German pontiff - who said he had been previously unaware of Mr Williamson's views - to insist that Mr Williamson recant before he is reinstated as a Catholic cleric.
Talking to Der Spiegel, Mr Williamson added insult to injury by also criticising the Second Vatican Council, which revised the tenets of Catholicism during the 1960s. He said it was an event that had led to "theological chaos".
Vatican officials have admitted that the move to rehabilitate the four breakaway bishops was a mistake caused by loss of governance at the centre of power.
A senior member of the curia claimed there was a lack of consultation before the controversial decree was issued lifting the excommunication.
His comments have added to infighting that has broken out among the cardinals over who was ultimately responsible for the mistake.
It has left the Pope looking increasingly isolated, with some Vatican observers suggesting he is personally culpable for the readmission of Mr Williamson. His decision has been attacked by Jewish leaders and raised questions over the failure to check Mr Williamson's anti-Semitic views, which were widely known.
The Reverend Federico Lombardi, whose Vatican office announced the Pope's decision on January 24, said the officials who dealt with the Society of Saint Pius X had focused on the views of the group's leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay. "They didn't take the views of the other bishops enough into account."
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/02/08/1234027855882.html