Completing the clergy honors today, we present, in alphabetical order, the Tower of Trent Trophy to Bishop Richard Williamson, who has been a Rector of Seminarians for 21 years and has taught for nearly 40 years. Like Bishop Bernard Fellay who we honored this past Tuesday, Bishop Williamson was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in the landmark consecration of June 29, 1988 which, to the modernists, was the straw that broke the progressive camel's sensus Protestantius. As we all know, Archbishop Lefebvre and the four he elevated to the episcopacy were summarily and illegally excommunicated without proper canonical procedure. It was the scare tactic the New Order liberals had been planning for well over 15 years. As we have seen since 1988, the resolve of these newly ordained four men has strengthened, especially in God's Brit with the wonderful wit.
Richard Williamson was born into an Anglican family in England on March 8, 1940. Though he did not realize it at the time, he was born literally in the shadow of the feast of angelic Doctor Saint Thomas Aquinas on March 7 and who would come to play such an important role in his life. His early childhood was spent being carried into bomb shelters when the air-raid sirens went off to warn Englanders of impending Nazi Luftwaffe planes approaching. Surviving the war and the bombings, he grew into a sturdy young man who matriculated to the great and prestigious Cambridge University where he obtained his degree in Literature. Little is known of his life in the early years but after college he caught on as a professor of Literature in Ghana, Africa. During this time he was greatly influenced by the indomitable Malcolm Muggeridge and many believe that sparked his conversion to Catholicism. Bishop Williamson wrote last August, "I can remember Malcolm Muggeridge saying that just when the modern world had proved itself a busted flush in the aftermath of WWII, and just when the Catholic Church could and should have accepted the world's unconditional surrender to her Truth, just then the Catholic churchmen themselves surrendered at the Second Vatican Council, and went over to those modern principles which are the dissolution of Catholicism." His search for the truth led him to an old Irish priest who, as God so deigned, had a great influence on converting a maturing Richard and possibly, guiding him to Econe for the priest of the olde sod realized the Church had embarked on a fateful path by following Vatican II.
Richard's path led to Switzerland and the Seminary in Econe. It is most interesting to this editor that the Seminary in Econe was established in the very year - 1970 when many seminaries in the the world were closing - including the Jesuit college in St. Mary's, Kansas and some 250 miles due southeast of there the very orthodox Catholic seminary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which I attended from 1957 to 1963, in Carthage, Missouri. It was closed because of a lack of vocations when, during my time there, vocations were flourishing. How sad to see these seed beds of priestly vocations being abandoned. To some those things discarded can be treasures and that is what Archbishop Lefebvre found in Econe. Another treasure, though the Archbishop may not have known it at the time, was Richard Williamson whom the Archbishop needed to draft onto the faculty in order to teach his fellow seminarians in 1976 when undue and unlawful pressure from modern Rome - beginning with the Secretary of State Cardinal Jean Villot - scared off many of the ordained professors. Archbishop Lefebvre recruited those who could teach and there was none better in literature than Richard Williamson. His maturity and mastery of handling students impressed the Archbishop greatly, so much so that upon his ordination to the priesthood in 1982, he was sent to teach at the Society's Seminary in Zaitzkofen, Germany - International Seminary of the Sacred Heart which had been moved there from Weissbad in 1978.
He was there for only a short-while before he was transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1983. Ridgefield was the Society's American Seminary which had begun in Armada,Michigan and moved to Ridgefield in 1979. Shortly after arriving, with the blessing of the Archbishop the new Vicar General Father Franz Schmidberger appointed Father Williamson as Rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary.
Little did Richard know he would be affiliated with St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary for the next twenty years. The seminary continues to grow with 19 new aspirants enrolling in 1987. By mid year the seminary had grown too small and Providence provided the answer by directing the Society to a vacant property owned by the Dominicans above the banks of the Mississippi in Winona, Minnesota on Stockton Hill. With some repairs and God's Providence, the Society was able to move from Ridgefield to set up shop at the new St. Thomas Aquinas on the sprawling property with the magnificent marble chapel in southeast Minnesota. Just as Armada was not abandoned, but turned into a novitiate, so also Ridgefield was not closed. Rather it became a retreat house as the American seminary was now fully headquartered in the heartland in the upper midwest.
In 1988 Father Williamson was chosen among three others to be elevated to the bishopric and that august honor was bestowed on June 29, 1988 by His Excellency Archbishop Lefebvre. As we mentioned in our tribute to His Grace, we encourage you to read Mario Derksen's excellent twelve-part series on the ordinations listed in the archives at The Illicit Episcopal Ordinations of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
In true shepherd fashion he was sent on Confirmation trips back to his homeland of England, and then on to Ireland before heading for South Africa, Zimbabwe and then the really long trek to Oceania with visits in New Zealand, Australia and finishing up in Hawaii. In 1993 he dedicated the beautiful church of St. Pius X in Cincinnati, Ohio and a year later hosted in Winona the annual Priests Conference where 41 SSPX priests gathered on Stockton Hill. Besides special assignments of missionary nature, Bishop Williamson spent most of his time as the Rector at the seminary in Minnesota where he was ensconsed until last Fall when he was named the new Rector of the Seminary of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix in La Reja, Argentina which had been built in 1981 for South American seminarians.
He was replaced by Father Albert Le Roux whom he ordained in 1990 as pictured here.
While he was a tiller of souls as the gardener of the harvest, he also found the necessity to weed out those who would weaken the soil. Such was the situation in 1997 when he expelled Father Carlos Urrutigoity and two seminarians from St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary. They subsequently took up refuge in the troubled diocese of Scranton, welcomed by the undiscerning Bishop Timlin who ignored the warnings of Bishops Williamson and Fellay. Now Timlin's successor in Scranton is reaping the bitter fruits of sexual abuse lawsuits by priests of the Society of Saint John which the rebellious Urrutigoity formed when he could not pass muster under Williamson's watchful, careful scrutiny. Thank God the Bishop was a good gardener and one of the signs of the SSPX to guard carefully not only the Sacred Deposit of the Faith, but the virtues of chastity and modesty.
To thank benefactors and keep them abreast of situations, Bishop Williamson began a monthly letter that soon became must reading for everyone. With the advent of the internet it became most popular and we picked it up in 2001 and published as many as we could. It was an opportunity to find some reason and Catholic sense in the madness coming out of Rome and Bishop Williamson was never one to shy away from controversy of calling a spade a spade. He made no bones about saying there are nice liberals and nasty liberals but one fact remains: they're both liberals. This message came through loud and clear in his letters and in his final letter to benefactors in August he wrote:
Many of you, bless you, have been asking whether on the eve of leaving the United States I plan still to write a monthly letter. If I do, it will certainly not be this letter, which belongs to the Seminary and will therefore go to the new Seminary Rector, to do with as he wishes. Nor should anyone interfere with a successor in a post of command by "hanging around." Nor would any letter written for an Argentinian readership be quite the same. But time may have me pick up the pen again - I could even be driven onto the Internet ! But not willingly!
May we pray that one day he will find his way back to the worldwide web for his writings are sorely missed. As witty as he could be, he always has a method to his madness in warning the faithful of the madness going on by the modernists in Rome and even in his final bonjour column Persevere in the Truth he wrote,
Meanwhile enclosed you have the promised poem of farewell. Brother Marcel did the cartoons. I hope he and it suggest how much I have enjoyed my 21 years in the United States, and I thank all of you for your support and friendship. When I get to the Argentine, I shall need a hole-in-the-heart operation - the hole left by all of you! Lest however the light-hearted poem give anyone to think that this time I have really lost my marbles, let me sketch out one last time the serious danger represented by today's Rome.
He finished off last letter with a witty poem that sums up much more than we can write here and we include it again along with the cartoons by Brother Marcel of Winona that show him skipping off barefoot with his British bag toward La Reja. The other is a weeping Williamson, which says "Don't cry for me, Argentina, for the land of Evita will never be the same!" For that we say with Bishop Williamson forming holy priests in South America now, Argentina and all of Christendom will be the better.
Following is the poem His Excellency penned in his farewell.
So, dear friends, after one and twenty years
I leave the United States, with many tears
At sixty-three, I've given what I can,
It's time to yield my place to a younger man.
When I came here, I came with heavy heart,
And now with equal sadness I depart.
For when I came, I did not want to leave
Where I had been before. So now I grieve.
To quit the scene of one third of my life,
Laden with priestly toil and happy strife.
Yet clearly I remember, when I came,
To three companions on the aeroplane
I said "I shall in the U.S.A. have fun!"
And that proved true. So now my time is done,
I might expect the same fun where I go,
Except - America's unique, and so
The fun-ny third of my career must end,
As to a serious land my way I wend.
My friends may shed a tear, but not my foes
Who think my leaving terminates their woes.
But let them not exult! "I SHALL RETURN"
As Bishop, to ordain and to confirm!
So if the liberals dare to rise again
I'll thunder, growl, and strike with might and main!
No let me hear of women growing S-L-A-C-K,
Or instantaneously I will be back!!
And if they're S-L-A-C-K-I-N-G off when I am dead,
My ghost will come to haunt them, fierce and dread!
Meanwhile, dear U.S. ladies, girls, God bless
Your being so docile with your feminine dress!
Never have men so need women true!
In Europe they could learn a thing or two
From Yankee gals, in gracious dresses dressed!
Well done! - by your own children you'll be blessed
Who learn what is a mother - NOT A MAN!
Alas, it's difficult to make a plan
For future Newsletters. They hardly fit
In countries lacking ripe old Yankee...wit!
But trust that I support you from afar.
Men, be good fathers. In the house you are
By God's design the head. Do not wimp out!
Not only women are meant to be devout!
Be full of God, and lead against the world -
By Catholic men the Devil must be hurled
Back into hell! Pray hard! Pain's on the way
With shrieks and howls of grief, nor is that day
Far off. Then gird your loins, be strong, stand tall -
Tomorrow has no room for spirits small.
Flee electronics. Stay with real life.
Give time, love and attention to your wife.
Forget "The Sound of Music", silly stuff
Of which the world has had more than enough.
So ends the last Newsletter I shall write.
Soon I must fly far south into the night.
Ah, my dear friends! - I feel like I could cry!
SO LONG! FAREWELL! AUF WIEDERSEHEN! GOOD-BYE!
Though not being on the internet, he may not receive this tribute unless someone writes him or when he returns to Winona in June to ordain the four new priests. But it is not important that he sees it, but that others see it and in prayer give thanks for men like Bishop Richard Williamson as we enshrine him in the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor on the feast of his holy countryman the first Archbishop of Canterbury Saint Augustine of Canterbury and present him with the Tower of Trent Trophy and declare this day Bishop Richard Williamson Day in all of Christendom.
For other charter members honored in this inaugural presentation of the Tower of Trent, see Charter Recipients of the Tower of Trent Trophy