Overlooked: SSPX: It’s a ‘waste of time’ to call Pope a heretic

SSPX chief Fr David Pagliarani

What happened?

The traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX) has said it is a “waste of time” to accuse Pope Francis of heresy. Last month, academics and priests signed a letter arguing that the Pope had committed heresy, and asking bishops to investigate – as only bishops, they said, have the canonical right to declare a pope a heretic.

Why was it under-reported?

The media, including the Catholic media, sometimes prefer a simple story: in this case, it’s easy to talk of “pro- and anti-Francis” factions. But as the SSPX article – unsigned but presumably approved by some SSPX authorities – showed, things are more complicated than that.

The article agreed that Pope Francis’s “teaching in moral matters” was troubling, and had led to “an apparently unprecedented situation”. But it argued that the heresy letter was excessive, and a distraction from a long-term crisis in the Church.

What will happen next?

The signatories to the heresy letter hoped to encourage bishops to look into the Pope’s alleged heresies. But as the SSPX article noted, the bishops seem unlikely to do so.

One of the few bishops who has criticised Francis, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, told EWTN last week that the heresy letter went too far. “A heresy is a formal statement which denies in formal speech the real truth,” Bishop Schneider said. The Pope may have contradicted Church teaching by implication, but it did not rise to the level of heresy, he said.