Recently, two renegade Catholic bishops have announced their plan to consecrate a new generation of bishops as part of an ultra-traditionalist movement called “The Resistance”. The movement is led by French Bishop Jean-Michel Faure and controversial Holocaust-denying British Bishop Richard Williamson. The two bishops claimed that they refused to speak with Rome or Pope Francis until the Vatican turned back the clock. Williamson and Faure were both excommunicated from the Catholic Church after the former made the latter a bishop without Vatican approval, and are former members of a larger “dissenting” group of Catholics.
The splinter movement led by the two bishops is tiny, but the fact that they plan on consecrating bishops means that their schism can continue as a “renegade Catholicism”. They claim to follow the “popes of the past”, and intend to consecrate more bishops in the future. The group has numerous names; they consider themselves Catholic first and foremost, but have also been dubbed followers of Pope Pius X (the ultra-conservative pope from the early 20th century) as well as “The Resistance”. The society has its roots in the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), a larger ultra-traditionalist group that was excommunicated in 1988 after its founder consecrated four new bishops, including Williamson, despite being warned by the Vatican not to. They rejected the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and stuck with Catholicism’s old Latin Mass after the Church switched to local languages.
Former Pope Benedict XVI readmitted the four SSPX bishops to Catholicism in 2009, although Williamson was expelled from the group for his Holocaust denial. Unlike Benedict, Pope Francis pays little attention to SSPX. Unlike SSPX, Faure said that The Resistance wouldn’t engage in dialogue with Rome. He claimed that he didn’t know what it would take for the Vatican to return to its old traditions, but suggested that a major war could serve as a catalyst. Under Catholic law, although Williamson and Faure are excommunicated from the Church, they remain validly consecrated bishops, meaning that they can still ordain priests into their group and claim to be Catholic, even if it doesn’t have Vatican approval.