Richard Williamson (bishop)
Richard Williamson (1991)
|Installed||30 June 1988|
|Term ended||24 October 2012|
|Ordination||29 June 1976
by Marcel Lefebvre
|Consecration||30 June 1988
by Marcel Lefebvre
8 March 1940 |
Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
|Coat of arms|
|Ordination history of Richard Williamson (bishop)|
|Ordained by||Marcel Lefebvre (SSPX)|
|Date of ordination||29 June 1976|
|Place of ordination||The International Seminary of Saint Pius X, Écône, Switzerland|
|Principal consecrator||Marcel Lefebvre (SSPX)|
|Date of consecration||30 June 1988|
|Place of consecration||The International Seminary of Saint Pius X, Écône, Switzerland|
Richard Nelson Williamson (born 8 March 1940) is an English traditionalist Catholic bishop who opposes the changes in the Catholic Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council. He was originally a member of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), but was expelled from the SSPX in 2012.
In 1988, Williamson was one of four SSPX priests who were illicitly ordained as bishops by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, for which they incurred automatic excommunication. The validity of the excommunication is disputed by the SSPX who say that the ordinations were necessary due to a crisis in the Catholic Church. The excommunications, including that of Williamson, were lifted on 21 January 2009, but the suspension of the bishops from the exercise of ministry within the Catholic Church remained in force.
Immediately afterwards, Swedish television broadcast an interview recorded earlier at the SSPX's Seminary in Zaitzkofen, Germany. During the interview, Williamson had expressed a belief that Nazi Germany did not use gas chambers during the Holocaust and that a total of between 200,000 and 300,000 Jews were killed. Based upon these statements, the Bishop was immediately charged with and convicted of Holocaust denial by a German court. The Holy See declared Pope Benedict had been unaware of Williamson's views when he lifted the excommunication of the four bishops, and that Williamson would remain suspended from his episcopal functions until he unequivocally and publicly distances himself from his position on the Shoah. In 2010 he was convicted of incitement in a German court in relation to those views; the conviction was later vacated on appeal but then reinstated on retrial in early 2013. He appealed again, but his appeal was rejected.
After a number of incidents, including calling for the deposition of Bernard Fellay as the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, his refusal to stop publishing his weekly email and an unauthorised visitation to Brazil, Williamson was expelled from the Society.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Consecration and excommunication
- 3 Views
- 4 Lifting of the excommunication
- 5 In Argentina
- 6 Criminal investigation in Germany
- 7 Expulsion from SSPX
- 8 Second excommunication
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
Williamson was born in Buckinghamshire, England, the middle son of a Marks and Spencers buyer and his wealthy American wife. Williamson attended Winchester College before going on to study at Clare College, Cambridge, where he received a lower second-class degree in English literature. Upon graduating, he taught at a college in Ghana for a brief period. In September 1965 he returned to England and from 1965 to 1970 taught at St Paul's School in London, where records show him to have been a popular teacher and speaker, involved with multiple extracurricular activities.
Williamson, originally an Anglican, was received into the Catholic Church in 1971. After a few months as a postulant at the Brompton Oratory, he left. He became a member of the Society of St Pius X, a traditionalist Catholic faction founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 in protest against what Lefebvre saw as the liberalism of the Second Vatican Council, Williamson entered the International Seminary of Saint Pius X at Écône Switzerland, and in 1976 he was ordained a priest by Lefebvre.
Williamson subsequently moved to the United States, where he served as the rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield, Connecticut from 1983, and continued in the position when the seminary moved to Winona, Minnesota in 1988.
Williamson is fluent in English, French, German and Spanish.
Consecration and excommunication
In June 1988 Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre announced his intention to consecrate Williamson and three other priests as bishops. Lefebvre did not have a pontifical mandate for these consecrations (i.e. permission from the pope), normally required by Canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. On 17 June 1988 Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops sent Williamson a formal canonical warning that he would automatically incur the penalty of excommunication if he were ordained by Lefebvre without papal permission.
On 30 June 1988 Williamson and the three other priests were consecrated bishop by Archbishop Lefebvre. On 1 July 1988 Cardinal Gantin issued a declaration stating that Lefebvre, Williamson, and the three other newly-ordained bishops "have incurred ipso facto the excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See".
On 2 July 1988, Pope John Paul II issued the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, in which he reaffirmed the excommunication, and described the consecration as an act of "disobedience to the Roman pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church", and that "such disobedience — which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy — constitutes a schismatic act". Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, head of the commission responsible for implementing Ecclesia Dei, has said this resulted in a "situation of separation, even if it was not a formal schism".
After his episcopal consecration Williamson remained rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. He performed various episcopal functions, including confirmations and ordinations. In 1991, he assisted in the consecration of Licínio Rangel as bishop for the Priestly Society of St. John Mary Vianney after the death of its founder, Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer. In 2006, he ordained two priests and seven deacons in Warsaw, Poland for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat.
In common with his colleagues in the Society of St. Pius X, Williamson opposes the changes in the Catholic Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council. He sees such changes as being unacceptably liberal and modernistic, and as being destructive to the Church. Among the changes he opposes are the Church's increased openness to other Christian denominations and other religions, and changes in the forms of Catholic worship such as the general replacement of the Tridentine Mass with the Mass of Paul VI. Williamson has criticised Pope John Paul II, to whom he attributed a "weak grasp of Catholicism". Williamson holds that the SSPX is not schismatic, but rather is composed of true Catholics who are keeping the "complete Roman Catholic apostolic faith".
Williamson is viewed as being located towards the hardline end of the traditionalist spectrum, though he does not go quite so far as to espouse sedevacantism. In the past, he opposed compromise between the SSPX and the Church leadership in Rome, accusing the latter of deceit and of being under "the power of Satan". He has been reported as viewing reconciliation between the SSPX and the Holy See as being impossible, and he has noted that some SSPX members might refuse to follow the Society in such a direction even if an agreement were reached.
Williamson holds strong views regarding gender roles and dress. He opposes women wearing trousers or shorts, attending college or university, or having a career, and has urged greater "manliness" in men.
He supports authoritarian parenting style, denouncing the film The Sound of Music as "soul-rotting slush" and saying that, by putting "friendliness and fun in the place of authority and rules, it invites disorder between parents and children."
Williamson supports conspiracy theories regarding the assassination of President Kennedy, and the World Trade Center controlled demolition conspiracy theory, denying that the latter were terrorist attacks but were instead staged by the U.S. government. He has also said that the 7 July 2005 London bombings were an "inside job" and propagated rumours about the likelihood of a nuclear attack on the London Olympics in 2012.
Jews and Holocaust denial
Williamson condemns the Jews. He called them the "enemies of Christ" and urges their conversion to Catholicism. He says that Jews and Freemasons have contributed to the "changes and corruption" in the Catholic Church. He has also stated that Jews aim at world dominion and believes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to be authentic. Williamson has denied that he is promoting hatred, asserting that "I was attacking the enemies of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that includes Jews as well as Communists and Freemasons." He argues that "Anti-Semitism means many things today, for instance, when one criticizes the Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. The Church has always understood the definition of anti-Semitism to be the rejection of Jews because of their Jewish roots. This is condemned by the Church."
Since the late 1980s, Williamson has been accused of antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Citing the Leuchter report, Williamson has denied that millions of Jews were murdered in Nazi concentration camps and the existence of Nazi gas chambers and praised Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel. During an interview on Swedish television recorded in November 2008, he stated: "I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against, is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler", and "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them in gas chambers."
Lifting of the excommunication
Wishing to heal the rift with the SSPX, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the declared automatic excommunications of the four bishops Marcel Lefebvre had consecrated, as they had requested. The decree was signed on 21 January 2009, the same day that the interview on Swedish television was broadcast. The decision stirred widespread outrage, particularly in Germany, where the interview was conducted and where Holocaust denial is illegal and punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. Reaction from the State of Israel and much of the worldwide Jewish community was strongly negative, and Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote to Cardinal Walter Kasper in order to express his opposition to any ecclesiastic re-integration of Williamson. In January 2009, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel suspended contacts with the Vatican. The Chief Rabbi of Haifa told the Jerusalem Post that he expected Williamson to retract publicly his statements before any dialogue could resume.
Pope Benedict XVI stated that he deplored all forms of antisemitism and that all Catholics must do the same. The Pope expressed his "unquestionable solidarity" with the Jewish people, and stated his hope that "the memory of the Shoah will induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of hate when it conquers the heart of man", and condemned the denial of the Holocaust. Vatican officials stated that they had not been aware of Williamson's views prior to the lifting of the excommunication; as a result, in a July 2009 Vatican reorganization, the Pope tightened control and supervision over reconciliation efforts with SSPX.
Williamson sent the Pope a letter expressing his regret about the problems that he had caused, but did not retract his statements. On 4 February 2009 the Vatican Secretariat of State issued a note stating that Williamson would have to distance himself unequivocally and publicly from the opinions that he had expressed before he would be permitted to act as a bishop within the Church. Williamson responded that he would do so only after looking at the historical evidence for himself. On 26 February, he formally apologized for the offence that had been caused by his comments, but did not indicate that he had changed his views. The Vatican rejected his apology, stating that he needed to "unequivocally and publicly" withdraw his comments. Some Jewish groups have expressed disappointment at the ambiguity of his apology, because he failed to address the factuality of the Holocaust. He subsequently repeated the denial to followers, stating that "The fact is that the 6 million people who were supposedly gassed represent a huge lie."
Bishop Fellay of the SSPX initially denied responsibility, stating that Williamson's statements were his alone and that the affair did not concern the SSPX as a whole. However, he subsequently forbade Williamson from speaking out publicly about historical or political matters, and asked Pope Benedict for forgiveness for the damage done by Williamson's statements. In a subsequent interview he likened Williamson to uranium, asserting that "It's dangerous when you have it," but you can't "simply leave it by the side of the road.
The Vatican declared that "in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the Church, (Williamson) will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father (i.e., the Pope) was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted."[dead link]
In February 2009, the government of Argentina asked Williamson to leave the country over irregularities with his visa, and stating that his recent statements about Jews "profoundly offend the Argentinean society, the Jewish people and all of humanity". On 24 February 2009 Williamson flew from Argentina to London, where he was met by Michele Renouf, a former model known for her antisemitic views, with whom he had been put in touch by holocaust denier David Irving.
Criminal investigation in Germany
On 4 February 2009, German prosecutors announced the launch of a criminal investigation into the statements. In October 2009, a German court, using an "order of punishment" fined Williamson €12,000 after finding him guilty of Holocaust denial. Williamson denied the charges and appealed, paving the way for a full hearing that Williamson need not attend. He did not attend the trial, on orders from his society, on charges of inciting racial hatred in Regensburg, Germany on 16 April 2010, and was found guilty. The court reduced the fine to €10,000. The fine was appealed by lawyers from both sides; the lawyer Williamson hired was the former leader of the Wiking-Jugend, an outlawed Neo-Nazi group. The Society of St. Pius X ordered Williamson to find a new lawyer under threat of expulsion. This delayed the appeal which was held on 11 July 2011. At appeal the lower court's decision was upheld but the fine was reduced to €6,500, reportedly due to Williamson's financial circumstances. On 22 February 2012 the higher court dismissed this conviction, finding that the initial charges against Williamson had been inadequately drawn, having failed to specify the nature of his offence, or at what point his filmed comments came under German jurisdiction, or in what sense he could be held liable for failing to prevent their publication in Germany. On 16 January 2013, he was prosecuted and condemned again, but this time with a much reduced fine of €1,600, because of his "unemployed state". He refused to pay the fine and appealed again, but his appeal was dismissed.
Expulsion from SSPX
In August 2012 Williamson administered the sacrament of Confirmation to about 100 lay people at the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Cross in Nova Friburgo, Brazil, during an unauthorized visit to the State of Rio de Janeiro. The society's South American district superior, Father Christian Bouchacourt, protested his actions on the SSPX website saying that it was "a serious act against the virtue of obedience." In early October the leadership of the SSPX gave Williamson a deadline to declare his submission, instead of which he published an "open letter" asking for the resignation of the Superior General. In October 2012 the Society expelled Williamson in a "painful decision" citing the failures "to show respect and obedience deserved by his legitimate superiors".
In the first issue of his weekly blog after his expulsion, Williamson wrote: "Hang tight, everybody. We are in for one 'helluva' ride. Let's just make that a ride to Heaven!" And later he wrote: "For myself, I shall attempt to follow [God's] Providence in the ordaining of priests – or in the consecrating of bishops. God's will be done." He called for the establishment of a loose network of what he called "Catholic Resistance" to any proposal by the Society to drop its opposition to Rome. A fund-raising initiative "for all purposes of the Catholic Resistance patronized by His Excellency Bishop Richard Williamson" was set up under the title "The St. Marcel Initiative".
On 19 March 2015, Williamson ordained Father Jean-Michel Faure as a bishop in a ceremony in Nova Friburgo, Brazil. As this was also without papal mandate, both Faure and Williamson (again) have incurred the latae sententiae excommunication.
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- Fourth Trial
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- Arco, Anna (3/5/2008). "Lefebvrists face crisis as bishop is exposed as 'dangerous' anti-Semite". The Catholic Herald (Catholic Herald Limited). Retrieved 2008-06-24. Check date values in:
|date=(help)Archived June, 2009
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- Apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei (2 July 1988). Vatican.va. Accessed 2008-01-01.
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- "Ukrainian priest excommunicated". Catholic World News (CWN). 2007-11-23. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson illicitly ordained two SSJK priests and seven deacons.
- Moylan, Martin J. (11 December 1988). "US Seminary of front line in Catholic Doctrine Battle". The Dallas Morning News.
- Neuerbourg, Hanns (1 July 1988). "New Traditionalist Bishop Says Fight Just Beginning". The Associated Press.
- McAteer, Michael (3 April 1989). "Liberalism destroying church, bishop says". The Toronto Star.
- Wilkins, Emma (19 September 1988). "Bishop attacks Rome 'poison';Bishop Richard Williamson". The Times.
- Owen, Richard (2003-04-21). "Pope woos conservatives expelled for rebellion". Times Online (London). Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- Stowell, Linda (13 August 1988). "Ousted bishop says pope ruining church". Houston Chronicle.
- Ein Damenbesuch und andere unbekannte Seiten des Papstes
- Richard Owen and Ruth Gledhill (2005-08-29). "Pope opens talks with Latin Mass renegades". Times Online (London). Retrieved 2009-09-12.
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- Lefebvrist bishop says no reconciliation with Rome
- "Pope meets head of ultraconservative movement". USA Today. 29 August 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-02.
- SSPX bishop sees little hope for agreement with Rome
- Farney, Dennis (23 August 1995). "Paranoia Is Becoming An Article of Faith In a Tiny Kansas Town – A Split Among Its Catholics Is as Much About Suspicion As It Is About Doctrine". The Wall Street Journal.
- Papadakis, Mary (14 July 2002). "Catholic right over 'sect'". Sunday Herald Sun.
- "Bishop's homily ranges from Columbus to 'JFK'". The Salt Lake Tribune. 28 March 1992. pp. A12.
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A woman can do a good imitation of handling ideas, but then she will not be thinking properly as a woman. Did this lawyeress check her hairdo before coming into court? If she did, she is a distracted lawyer. If she did not, she is one distorted woman.
- Bess Twiston Davies (26 February 2009). "Bishop Williamson, shrinks, and The Sound of Music". Timesonline. Retrieved 2009-09-12.[dead link]
- Williamson, Richard. "Letter to Friends & Benefactors – November 1997". www.sspxseminary.org. Retrieved 2009-09-12.[dead link]
- Koch, Einar. "Bishop Williamson's mad conspiracy theories". Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- Coppen, Luke. "Morning Catholic must-reads: 26/07/12". Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- Traditional Catholicism and the Teachings of Bishop Williamson. J. Christopher Pryor, Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (Vol. I, Issue 2, p. 233 2009)
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- "The Holocaust: Zeal and ignorance". The Windsor Star. 20 April 1989. pp. A.10.
- Wallace P. Sillanpoa (1992). The Chief Rabbi, the Pope, and the Holocaust: an era in Vatican-Jewish relations. Transaction Publishers. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-88738-416-5.
Williamson denies that Catholics and Jews worship the same god. Jews worship the god of the Talmud who is "a devil, an absolute devil"
|last1=in Authors list (help)
- National Catholic Reporter, 30 March 2001, quoting a 3 October 2000 letter by Williamson.
- McAteer, Michael (21 April 1989). "Catholic bishop won't be charged for remarks about Jews, police say". The Toronto Star. pp. A10.
- McAteer, Michael (14 April 1989). "Chief Canadian bishop denounces clergyman's anti-Jewish comments". The Toronto Star. pp. A11.
- 1 February 1991 Letter
- "SPIEGEL Interview with Bishop Richard Williamson: 'I Will Not Travel to Auschwitz'". Spiegel.de. 9 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
- Robert G. Weisbord and Wallace P. Sillanpoa: The Chief Rabbi, the Pope, and the Holocaust (Transaction Publishers 1991 ISBN 0-88738-416-1), p. 202
- "Pope to cancel excommunication of rebel bishops". London: The Daily Telegraph. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- Willan, Philip (2009-01-25). "Pope readmits Holocaust-denying priest to the church". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2009-05-11.
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- "Pope to cancel excommunication of rebel bishops". Telegraph (London). 23 January 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
- Pope lifts excommunications of Lefebvrite bishops
- Agnew, Paddy (23 January 2009). "Pope to lift excommunications of four 'Lefebvre' bishops". Irish Times. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
- CBCP News, Vatican: Bishop's Holocaust statements 'strongly rejected' by pope
- Reaktioner i Tyskland – redan före sändning!
- ADL To Vatican: Do Not Rehabilitate Holocaust Denier Bishop
- BBC: Pope in bid to dampen bishop row
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- Pope tries to heal rift with Jews over Holocaust denier
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- "Pope condemns denial of Holocaust". BBC. 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
- David, Ariel (29 January 2009). "Priest in Italy Defends Holocaust-Denier". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-09-12.[dead link]
- Pope denies feeling alone over Holocaust-denying bishop
- "Pope orders reform after Holocaust denial flap". USA Today. 9 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- Bishop Williamson apologizes for 'imprudent' Holocaust remarks
- "Bishop who denied Holocaust apologizes to pope". The Boston Globe. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- Bulletin of the Press Office of the Holy See, 4 February 2009
- "Holocaust bishop' told to recant". BBC NEWS (news.bbc.co.uk). 4 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- "I Will Not Travel to Auschwitz." Spiegel Online. 9 February 2009.
- "Vatican rejects bishop's apology". BBC News. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
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- Winfold, Nicole (27 January 2009). "Forgiveness Sought for Holocaust-Denying Bishop". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-09-12.[dead link]
- "Lefebvrist bishop leaves Argentina". Catholic News Agency. 2009-02-25. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
- Holocaust-denying bishop leaves Argentina for Britain after airport scuffle The Times. 24th February, 2009.
- "Holocaust-denying bishop lands in UK after expulsion from Argentina", The Guardian, 25 February 2009
- Totaro, Paola (26 February 2009). "Renouf greets expelled bishop". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
- CNN: Vatican: Bishop must recant Holocaust denial
- Pidd, Heidi (26 October 2009). "German court fines British bishop for Holocaust claims". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
- Hall, Allan (10 November 2009). "British bishop Richard Williamson to go on trial in Germany for Holocaust denial". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
- Foreign, Our (10 November 2009). "British bishop 'to go on trial' in Germany over racial hatred". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
- Associated Press (16 April 2010). "British bishop convicted of Holocaust denial: German court fines cleric $13,000 for saying Jews were not gassed to death". Retrieved 16 April 2010.
- WINFIELD, NICOLE (23 November 2010). "Holocaust-denying bishop threatened with expulsion". Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.V.). p. A.9.
- General House Press Release
- "German trial of Holocaust-denying bishop set for July". Earth Times. 23 March 2011.
- "German court fines bishop for denying Holocaust". Reuters. 11 July 2011.
- Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson loses appeal by Jessica Elgot, Jewish Chronicle, 11 July 2011.
- Wooden, Cindy (24 October 2012). "SSPX expels Bishop Williamson, who opposed talks with Vatican". catholicnews.com. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- Squires, Nick (24 October 2012). "Holocaust denying British bishop expelled from religious order". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- Eleison Comments CCLXXVI ― 27 October 2012.
- Eleison Comments CCLXXVIII ― 10 November 2012.
- Catholic Herald, 9 November 2012, p. 2, "Expelled bishop urges network of 'Catholic resistance'"
- The St. Marcel Initiative
- The Rural Solution: Modern Catholic Voices on Going Forward to the Land (2003, with P. Chojnowski, W. Marx, W. Nutting, C. McCann)
- Letters from the Rector by Bishop Richard Williamson
- Volume 1: The Ridgefield Letters covering 1983–1988 (2007)
- Volume 2: The Winona Letters Part I covering 1988–1994 (2008)
- Volume 3: The Winona Letters Part II covering 1994–1999 (2009)
- Volume 4: The Winona Letters Part III covering 2000–2003 (2009)
- Bishop Williamson Collection, a collection of video clips from his seminary lectures
- Website of St. Marcel Initiative
- Weekly columns by Williamson, in German and English, since June 2000
- Controversial interview with Williamson
- Anti-Defamation League Report: ″Society of St. Pius X — Mired in Anti-Semitism″