Breakaway Catholic order ‘hides priests accused of sexual crimes’ in British coastal town
A renegade Catholic bishop who has been excommunicated twice is being accused of harboring clergy accused of sexual abuse.
Two priests were found taking refuge in Broadstairs, Kent, where Society of St Pius X (SSPX) clergyman Richard Williamson leads the ‘SSPX Resistance’ movement.
Williamson, who was illicitly ordained a bishop in 1988 by the ultra-conservative Catholic group, has also been found guilty of Holocaust denial in a German court. He was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis for being ordained and ordaining others without papal approval.
On Wednesday, a documentary aired on Swedish television also claimed that he had been protecting men accused of sexual abuse from the police and other authorities. SSPX confirmed that two of its former members were accused of sexual abuse.
A French man, known as Father P, and an Englishman, Father S, were put before internal canonical trials with the Vatican’s approval. But they are now both celebrating mass and are active members of SSPX Resistance. Both declined to comment to the press.
It is understood that Father S was reported to the authorities in France and sent to Bristol for therapy. The case was closed without further action. Father P was found guilty and banned from working with children, but allowed to celebrate mass. The families of the alleged victims did not want to make official complaints to the police.
“The SSPX, under no legal obligation to report at that time, chose to respect the wishes of these parents,” the group said in a statement. One of the alleged victims has since made a historical complaint to police, who are now investigating.
“A number of our priests are cooperating,” the force said.
SSPX, also known as Respice Stellam, defines itself as “a group of traditional Catholics who wish to practise their faith without compromise to liberalism or modernism.”
They argue that reforms implemented by more liberal popes, such as Pope Francis, have “contributed and are still contributing to the destruction of the church, to the ruin of the priesthood, to the abolition of the sacrifice of the mass and of the sacraments, to the disappearance of religious life.”
The Vatican has attempted a series of rapprochements with the order, including reversing Williamson’s excommunication under Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Rome later said it did not know of his Holocaust denial comments.
More recently Pope Francis has also tried to make amends with SSPX by allowing the group’s priests to celebrate marriages.
Williamson, however, was kicked out of SSPX in 2012 for disobedient behavior and started the ‘Resistance.’
In a 2015 email to his followers, Williamson argued that the “nightingale’s nest” that is the Catholic Church had been taken over by “modernist cuckoos.”
“Wherever the remainder of the true nightingales are visibly gathered, in whatever makeshift nest, they are in the church, they are the true visible church, and their beautiful song testifies to anyone who has ears to hear that the cuckoos are nothing but cuckoos who have stolen the catholic nest which they presently occupy,” he said.
In 2009 he was fined €12,000 (about US$12,800) by a German court for insisting that no Jews died in the Nazi Holocaust. The fine was reduced to €1,600 in 2014 under appeal.