Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) has given an interview to the German magazine Der Spiegel, saying that he will “review the historical evidence” on the Holocaust and voicing his reservations about the Second Vatican Council.
Bishop Richard Williamson is one of the four bishops leading the breakaway “traditionalist” SSPX whose excommunications were lifted in January. The lifting of the excommunications caused international complaints and protest after footage of an interview with Swedish public television showed Bishop Williamson denying that six million Jews were killed in the Nazi genocide.
He also denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers and claimed only two to three hundred thousand Jews were murdered.
Der Spiegel asked Bishop Williamson how he would react to Vatican demands that he retract his view of the Holocaust.
“Throughout my life, I have always sought the truth,” the bishop said. “That is why I converted to Catholicism and became a priest.”
Saying he realizes there are “many honest and intelligent people who think differently,” he said he must once again review the historical evidence.
“Historical evidence is at issue, not emotions,” he claimed. “And if I find this evidence, I will correct myself. But that will take time.”
The bishop stated that he had read various writings in the 1980s, such as a report claiming that the Nazi gas chambers were technically impractical, and said “it seemed plausible to me.”
“Now I am told that it has been scientifically refuted. I plan now to look into it,” he told Der Spiegel.
Bishop Williamson said he would not travel to Auschwitz himself but would instead read and study Jean-Claude Pressac’s book "Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers."
Discussing Pope Benedict XVI’s lifting of the excommunication of the SSPX bishops, Bishop Williamson said adherents of his group “just want to be Catholic, nothing else.” He claimed that they have not developed their own teachings but are “merely preserving the things that the Church has always taught and practiced.”
He argued the way “everything” was changed after the Second Vatican Council made this position “a scandal” and pushed them to the “margins of the Church.”
“Now that empty churches and an aging clergy make it clear that these changes were a failure, we are returning to the center,” he argued. “That's the way it is for us conservatives: we are proved right, as long as we wait long enough.”
Bishop Williamson said it was “absolutely unclear” what the SSPX is supposed to recognize about the Second Vatican Council, charging that some passages of the documents are “already outdated.”
“These Council documents are always ambiguous. Because no one knew what exactly this was supposed to mean, everyone started doing as he wished shortly after the Council,” he told Der Spiegel. “This has resulted in this theological chaos we have today. What are we supposed to recognize, the ambiguity or the chaos?”
The bishop insisted that the Second Vatican Council declared that it would proclaim no new dogmas and charged “the liberal bishops” with using the Council as “justification for a dictatorship of relativism.”
Responding to the charge of anti-Semitism, the bishop said the Church has understood and condemned anti-Semitism as a rejection of Jews because of their Jewish roots.
When Der Spiegel asked whether he would apologize for causing “great injury and outrage in the Jewish world,” he answered:
“If I realize that I have made an error, I will apologize. I ask every human being to believe me when I say that I did not deliberately say anything untrue. I was convinced that my comments were accurate, based on my research in the 1980s. Now I must review everything again and look at the evidence.”