The 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II, whose reforms helped to modernize the Catholic Church, is high up on the agenda of the members of the SSPX, who want to see it reversed as much as possible. For them, ecumenism is the stuff of the devil, the recognition of Judaism is a source of contention and the modern form of the liturgy is an impossible act of assimilation to the zeitgeist.
Their goal is to be recognized in Rome again after 22 years. The Vatican also wants to put an end to the division within the Church. But Williamson, who has been a thorn in the side of those seeking rapprochement, isn't going away.
If a fundamentalist bishop like Williamson were to become unaffiliated, he would have the potential to divide the church once again. He could consecrate new priests at any time or establish his own, even more radical movement. This would be inconvenient for both Benedict and the SSPX, which is why Williamson is being tolerated.
Williamson's refuge is a small guest room on Arthur Road in southern London, where he has a view of Centre Court at Wimbledon. The room is in a plain-looking, newer building, adorned only with two columns flanking the front door. A sign at the entrance to a chapel in the garden calls upon the faithful to pray during the SSPX's upcoming "Rosary Crusade." Father Lindström, a gaunt Swede, ensures that only the right people are allowed to visit Williamson.
The bishop has a reputation for being unpredictable. Sometimes he gives the staff instructions to tell visitors that he is not home, but on one occasion he sat down next to a Christmas tree for an interview with a video blogger. An interview with SPIEGEL, which had been scheduled for some time, happened to fall on a bad day. Williamson was only willing to appear on a stair landing, and even then, all that was visible of him were one of his arms and his hand wearing his bishop's ring. His voice was easy to recognize, but he refused to speak directly with his interviewers, leaving Lindström to run up and down the stairs, delivering the questions and answers.
Later, Williamson decided to continue the interview with SPIEGEL by e-mail -- even though he was only in the next room. The visit had made him very angry. "We are at war," he raged, "and you are on the wrong side." German liberal intellectuals are as distasteful to him as short skirts on the tennis court. "These men are, at least objectively, rats," he wrote in a reference to SPIEGEL journalists.
There is a strict regimen at the London headquarters of the Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii X, as the SSPX is called in Latin: wake up at 6:00 a.m., first prayers at 6:30, mass at 7:15, lunch at 12:45 p.m., rosary at 6:30, evening prayers at 9:00.
To the right of the entrance is the library, which has a separate cupboard for banned books. Guarded by two statues, one of Jesus and one of the Virgin Mary, a sign clearly identifies the dangerous publications in the cabinet as "Heresies/Errors." On the top shelf is a book by the liberal German theologian Karl Rahner, a key influence on the Second Vatican Council, and next to it is a book that, though considered an authority by more than a billion Catholics, is far too modern for the SSPX: the "Catechism of the Catholic Church."