A spokesman for the Society of St. Pius X has denied its leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay, was criticizing Pope Francis for his concern for the poor in a recent letter to supporters.
“It is an analysis of the current situation facing the Church, not a criticism of Pope Francis’ concern for the poor,” said Father Alain Lorans, spokesman for the traditionalist group, which holds no canonical status in the Church.
Reuters reported in an April 19 article that Bishop Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, had “begun criticizing ... Pope Francis for the popular approach he has taken since his election last month.”
It suggested Bishop Fellay had “publicly taken issue with Pope Francis’ approach to the poor, which he believes comes at the expense of leading souls to salvation and denouncing sins against faith and morals.”
Reuters based its report on an extrapolation of an April 14 letter to friends and benefactors of the fraternity. In the letter, Bishop Fellay stressed that the Church has always had a “true concern” for the “poor, the needy, the infirm and the sick.” But he added that if it becomes “merely man-centered philanthropy, then the Church is no longer carrying out her mission; she is no longer leading souls to God, which can really be done only by supernatural means: faith, hope, charity and grace.”
He implored Pope Francis “not to allow souls to perish because they no longer learn sound doctrine.”
“What good is it to devote oneself to serving people if one hides from them what is essential, the purpose and the meaning of their life, and the seriousness of sin that turns them away from it?” he asked.
Bishop Fellay pleaded that sin and errors against faith and morality be denounced to prevent damnation. “The Church’s reason for being is to save them [sinners] and to help them avoid the misfortune of their eternal perdition,” he said. Such an approach “could not possibly please the world,” he argued, and said that history has shown that it “will turn against the Church, often violently.”
But in comments to the Register April 22, Father Lorans disagreed with Reuters’ report and instead contended the SSPX leader’s remarks were in concert with the Church. However, the comments further illustrate that the organization still has ground to make up in order to achieve communion with the Church.
“[They] could even be compared to a passage from the Pope’s first homily (to cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, March 14),” he said, and refers to Pope Francis’ words: “We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO [non-governmental organization], but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.”
Father Lorans then quoted Bishop Fellay’s words from the letter to show their similarity: “Works of charity done for the poor, the needy, the infirm and the sick have always been a true concern for the Church, and we must not excuse ourselves from it, but if it becomes merely man-centered philanthropy, then the Church is no longer carrying out her mission; she is no longer leading souls to God, which can really be done only by supernatural means: faith, hope, charity and grace.”
In his letter, Bishop Fellay noted other concerns that began before the pontificate of Pope Francis. He highlighted how those who adhere to Church Tradition are penalized, while “those who profess doctrines which are heterodox or who commit veritable sacrileges are in no way troubled.” He said it is “the logic of an abuse of authority.”
However, as illustrated by the Holy Father’s affirmation of the “Doctrinal Assessment” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Bishop Fellay’s comment would appear to be incorrect.
He said he believes only the Successor of Peter can save the Church, and he advised the Holy Father to “surround himself with vigorous defenders of the faith.”
“Let him appoint them in the important dioceses,” he said. “Let him deign, by important documents, to proclaim truth, pursue error without fear of contradictions, without fear of schisms, without fear of questioning the pastoral guidelines of the [Second Vatican] Council.”
The latter comment regarding Vatican II would seem to indicate that the SSPX has set its course.
In a June 27, 2012 interview, Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, secretary of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei, discussed the SSPX’s evaluation of the Second Vatican Council:
“To say [the documents of Vatican II] are not binding is sophistry. The Council contains swathes of the ordinary magisterium, which is de fide divina [of divine faith].
“[T]here’s nothing in the Council that is contrary to Tradition and … every text, or every part of it that is controversial, should be read in context of the Council — and read it in light of the Tradition. It seems to me, despite their difficulties, they should be able to do that.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.