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Catholic controversy

June 27, 2009

The Society of St. Pius X, a controversial ultraconservative Catholic group, has ordained three new priests despite being warned by German bishops and the Vatican that the move would be considered illegitimate.

SPSX priest celebrates mass
The Scoiety of Pius X is ignoring Vatican ordersImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The ordinations took place on Saturday, June 27, at the seminary in the Bavarian town of Zaitzkofen. The local Catholic bishop of Regensburg earlier accused the group of defying his authority.

Father Stefan Frey, the head of the seminary, told 1,500 guests who had gathered for the ceremony, that they were being criticized by the German Catholic Church.

"We deplore the verbal bullying we have been receiving in recent days from several German bishops," Frey said.

But he conceded that the group was still operating in what he called a "grey area" under church law.

Swedish, Polish and Swiss seminarians aged 26 to 30 were declared priests in the Saturday ceremony.

The schismatic society

An aerial view of St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's square jammed with faithful
The Vatican says the SSPX has no status in the churchImage: AP

The Society of Pius X (SSPX) consists of Catholics who do not agree with the modern developments in the church that were introduced by the Second Vatican Council, including detente with Judaism and a conversion of worship from Latin to vernacular languages.

Ahead of the ordination, the Vatican said that the ordinations would not be permissible under church law. Frey, however, said the Vatican had not demanded that the Society stop administering Catholic sacraments.

The pope has urged the SSPX to rejoin the church, but has been assailed by other Catholics for allowing the traditionalists to use old, anti-Jewish prayers.

The group ordained 13 new priests in Winona, Minnesota last weekend.

International scandal

Richard Williamson
Richard Williamson cast doubt on the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust

The SSPX was the subject of controversy last year when one of their bishops, Richard Williamson, said in an interview that he believed there were no gas chambers and that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the 6 million accepted by most historians.

Williamson's comments stirred anger in Jewish communities throughout the world, as well as in Catholic circles, especially after it became known that Pope Benedict XVI had lifted the excommunication of Richard Williamson and three other SSPX bishops in an attempt to bring the sect closer to Rome.

The Vatican said it was not aware of Williamson's views on the Holocaust at the time, even though critics pointed out that Internet-based material written by Williamson on the matter had existed for some time.

Editor: Toma Tasovac