VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop who made headlines in 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI rehabilitated him and members of his breakaway traditionalist society is heading for new trouble with the Vatican.
Bishop Richard Williamson is planning to consecrate a new bishop Thursday in Brazil without Pope Francis' consent — a church crime punishable by excommunication.
The Rev. Rene Miguel Trincado Cvjetkovic confirmed the planned consecration of the Rev. Christian Jean-Michel Faure in an email to The Associated Press. The consecration was first reported by the traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli.
Williamson, Trincado and Faure have all been, or are in the process of being, kicked out of the Society of St. Pius X, which was formed in 1969 by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in opposition to the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. They have opposed the society's recent efforts at reconciliation with the Holy See.
In 1988, the Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre, Williamson and three other bishops after Lefebvre consecrated them without papal consent.
In 2009, Benedict removed the excommunications in a bid to bring the group back into full communion with Rome and prevent further schism. But an uproar ensued after Williamson said in a television interview aired just before the decree was made public that he did not believe Jews were killed in gas chambers during World War II.
Trincado said neither Williamson nor Faure fear a new excommunication "because what we intend with this consecration is to preserve the true Catholic faith from the greatest crisis that the church has suffered in her history."
The Rev. Robert Gahl, a moral theologian at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome, said the planned consecration incurs automatic excommunication for both Williamson and Faure.
He said the church is concerned because "such an act of disobedience" can deepen the schism across generations because of the attempt to make a new bishop who is capable also of ordaining priests.
Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield