Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
The Superior General of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X has removed Bishop Richard Williamson as a member of the priestly fraternity, it is being claimed.
The reliable Rorate Caeli blog said it could confirm that Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, had removed Williamson from the fraternity, and that the removal "comes at the end of an internal procedure that included repeated entreaties by the higher authorities of the Society regarding Williamson's decisions and actions that apparently went unheeded.”
Other sources say Fellay was not happy with Williamson’s blog and newsletters whose content sowed dissent within the ranks of the SSPX, and which counselled against reconcilation with Rome.
Together with Fellay and two other bishops, Williamson was unlawfully consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 and automatically excommunicated. Pope Benedict XVI lifted their excommunications in 2009, but Williamson remains suspended from the exercise of the episcopal order on account of his denial of the extent of the Holocaust.
The SSPX’s website DICI has yet to make a formal announcement.
Williamson, the most senior of the SSPX bishops, was said by some to be the closest to Archbishop Lefebvre in terms of his ecclesiology. His supporters claim he was the Society’s most able theologian. It’s now thought he will join another splinter group, the SSPX of the Strict Observance, led by the "Vienna Five" – a group of disaffected priests also expelled by Bishop Fellay.
The development is regarded as typical for a breakaway sect, which tends to splinter into further sects in a bid for ideological purity. Observers believe the SSPX-SO is likely to hoover up around 30 other disaffected members of the SSPX who were similarly expelled by Fellay.
Williamson’s expulsion comes as reconciliation talks between the Holy See and the SSPX have reached an impasse. Whether his departure may help to restart them remains to be seen, but it’s widely believed that the German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel has been making representations “at the highest level” to make sure the talks would proceed no further.
Although this is difficult to verify, it would be consistent with the Chancellor’s previous actions. In 2009, she very publicly protested against the Holy Father’s decision to lift the excommunication of Williamson which took place just days after Williamson had denied the extent of the Holocaust on Swedish television.
UPDATE, 24 Oct. - SSPX has confirmed Bishop Williamson's departure with the following statement:
Communiqué of the General House of the Society of Saint Pius X (October 24, 2012)
Bishop Richard Williamson, having distanced himself from the management and the government of the SSPX for several years, and refusing to show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors, was declared excluded from the SSPX by decision of the Superior General and its Council, on October 4th, 2012. A final deadline had been granted to him to declare his submission, after which he announced the publication of an “open letter” asking the Superior General to resign. This painful decision has become necessary by concern for the common good of the Society of Saint Pius X and its good government, according to what Archbishop Lefebvre denounced: “This is the destruction of authority. How authority can be exercised if it needs to ask all members to participate in the exercise of authority? “(Ecône, June 29, 1987)
Menzingen, October 24th, 2012