Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony has banned Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson from entering any Catholic church, school or facility of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles until he retracts his remarks minimizing Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.
The announcement came in a statement published online in the March 6 edition of The Tidings, the diocesan newspaper. The cardinal authored the statement jointly with Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, the U.S. Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, and Seth Brysk, Los Angeles Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee.
Bishop Williamson was one of four bishops leading the breakaway Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) whose excommunications were lifted by Pope Benedict XVI in January.
Footage from a television interview showed the bishop denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers and claiming only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had died at the hands of the Nazis, causing an international uproar.
The statement in the Tidings said that Bishop Williamson’s “outrageous comments” alarmed Jews and Catholics alike.
“Jews wondered whether the lifting of Williamson's excommunication suggested that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial would be seen as acceptable positions for those within the Catholic Church,” it stated. Both Jews and Catholics questioned why the Vatican apparently had not thoroughly investigated Williamson, an unrepentant Holocaust denier and open anti-Semite, prior to the lifting of his excommunication.”
Subsequent statements from the Vatican rebuked Bishop Williamson and other Holocaust deniers and Pope Benedict reiterated the Catholic Church’s “deep respect and esteem for the Jewish people,” the statement reported.
According to the statement, Catholics and Jews were reassured by the Vatican declaration that the SSPX must fully recognize the Second Vatican Council and the legitimacy of all Popes before it may rejoin the Catholic Church.
Noting that Bishop Williamson is required to distance himself from his positions on the Holocaust in an “absolutely unequivocal and public way,” the statement said his recent comments “fall far short of satisfying the letter or the spirit of the Vatican’s directives.”
“In the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Williamson is hereby banned from entering any Catholic church, school or other facility, until he and his group comply fully and unequivocally with the Vatican's directives regarding the Holocaust,” Cardinal Mahony wrote.
He also mentioned that he will visit Israel later this year and pay his respects to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust at the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem.
“Holocaust deniers like Williamson will find no sympathetic ear or place of refuge in the Catholic Church, of which he is not --- and may never become --- a member,” the statement continued, saying that the SSPX’s rejection of the Second Vatican Council also rejects Nostra Aetate, the document which explicitly rejected the charge of deicide against the Jews and affirmed “the kinship between the Catholic and Jewish faiths.”
Noting that Nostra Aetate had been composed after close work with the American Jewish Committee, the statement then quoted the document:
“The Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”
Saying the past two months have been “difficult” for Jews and Catholics, the statement closed:
“We can take heart that Catholic-Jewish relations in Southern California remain strong… For our part, as Catholic and Jewish leaders in Los Angeles, we recognize that only by working together with renewed vigilance will we be able to keep anti-Semitism at bay and prevent its reassertion as a legitimate expression.”