Bishop loses appeal over Holocaust remarks

July 11, 2011

BERLIN (RNS) A schismatic British bishop who said he didn't believe the
Holocaust claimed 6 million Jews faces a reduced fine of 6,500 euros
($9,110) for incitement, a German appeals court ruled Monday (July 11).

The fine levied against Bishop Richard Williamson is less than both
the 12,000 euros prosecutors had demanded and the 10,000 euros he was
fined in an initial 2010 court case.

Still, Monday's failed appeal is nonetheless a blow for the defense
team, who had insisted that Williamson, 71, should be spared because he
did not know the comments he made in Germany to a Swedish film crew
would be available in Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime.

"The accused knew about the possible consequences," stated Chief
Judge Birgit Eisvogel of the Regensburg Provincial Court, noting that
Williamson himself had noted during the interview that his statements
were illegal in Germany and punishable, according to Spiegel magazine.

Williamson's attendance in court was not required and he did not
appear. His legal team immediately told reporters that they would file
an appeal.

According to the German Press Agency dpa, there are two more German
courts that could consider appeals before Williamson's lawyers will have
exhausted their legal options.

At issue is Williamson's 2008 interview in Germany in which he
stated that "no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps ... not
one of them by gassing in a gas chamber."

A video of the Swedish interview eventually became viewable on
German websites, and prosecutors quickly moved to charge Williamson with
Holocaust denial.

The case is especially embarrassing for the Vatican after Pope
Benedict XVI lifted the 1988 excommunication of Williamson and three
other priests aligned with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X
(SSPX) just as the scandal broke. The Vatican has insisted that it was
unaware of Williamson's Holocaust views at the time.

SSPX generally rejects the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican
Council of the 1960s, and Benedict lifted the excommunications in a bid
to normalize relations with the schismatic SSPX.

During the trial, Williamson's defense team argued that the bishop
could not be held responsible for what others had posted online. But his
case was not helped when SSPX representatives told the court that the
bishop had a history of being out of touch with reality.