Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, has given yet another interview, in which he speaks as if he were judge over the Roman Pontiff and over the entire Magisterium: Interview: Bishop Schneider Addresses a New “Syllabus of Errors” for the Modern Church.
His diocese has about 55,000 Catholics [gcatholic.org], making it about the same size as the diocese of Tyler, Texas or Gallup, New Mexico. And Bishop Schneider is an auxiliary Bishop, not the local ordinary. He assists the Bishop who leads his diocese.
Thus, Bishop Schneider does not have a prominent position in the Church. He is not the Roman Pontiff, nor is he a Cardinal, nor is he a Bishop who works for the Holy See. He does not lead his own diocese, which is a small diocese in a remote location.
He is a validly-ordained Bishop in the Catholic Church, who serves the Church and the faithful. He is a successor to the Apostles by episcopal ordination. He does have a right and duty to teach the faith. But he has no role to teach or correct the Pope, nor does he have the authority to stand in judgment over the Magisterium itself.
The problem here is that this bishop speaks as if he were judge over each Roman Pontiff and over the Magisterium and the Church Herself. He is usurping the role of the Pope, and taking for himself a role of judgment over every decision of doctrine and discipline by the Pope. And the only reason that we hear so much about him, and he seems to have so much influence, is that he encourages the papal critics and supports their rebellion against the Vicar of Christ.
Ordination of Women
In the interview, Bishop Schneider claims that the Church has infallibly taught that women cannot be ordained as deacons, priests, or bishops.
He claims: “By Divine institution, the sacrament of Holy Orders (sacramentum ordinis) can be administered only to a male person.”
To the contrary, the Magisterium has never taught that holy orders can be administered only to a male person. The teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II is that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.” [Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4]. Notice that this infallible teaching is limited to “priestly ordination”. Now a Bishop is a kind of priest, and a Pope is a kind of Bishop. Therefore, the Church has no authority to ordain women as priests or bishops, and a woman cannot be Pope. But the question of ordination to the diaconate is still open; the Magisterium has not decided the question.
But Bishop Schneider has decided the question, as if he were the Magisterium. Bishop Schneider falsely claims that “The Church has no power to change this essential characteristic of this sacrament,” that only men can be ordained. And he goes so far as to limit the authority of Popes and Councils: “No Pope and no Ecumenical Council can ever permit a female sacramental ordination (whether deaconate, presbyterate or episcopate).” He has taken an infallible teaching of the Magisterium and distorted it substantially, so as to conform the teaching to his own mind. But as an auxiliary bishop, he has no role to issue a judgment that would bind the universal Church, and no role to bind the authority of Popes and Councils. This type of assertion by a Bishop is a grave error.
And what will happen if a Pope or Council does teach that women can be ordained deacons? Will Bishop Schneider assent to the teaching of the Magisterium, or will he adhere only to his own understanding, as so many papal critics already do? He has given every indication that he will oppose a teaching of the Magisterium on this subject, if it is contrary to his own mind. And that is not faith.
Reception of Holy Communion
Next, Bishop Schneider rejects the decision of discipline of John Paul II on reception of Communion by Orthodox Christians and, in some cases, Protestant Christians. He explicitly rejects this provision of Canon Law, instituted in 1983 by Pope Saint John Paul II, saying that this practice, “even in exceptional cases — by a Protestant or by an Orthodox Christian — constitutes, ultimately, a lie.” On what basis does an auxiliary Bishop reject a law of the Church instituted 35 years ago, which has been approved by the past three Popes? He merely asserts his own judgment and his own understanding of “Apostolic Tradition and the constant practice of the Catholic Church”.
And his objection is a good example of a common error by papal critics. They substitute their own understanding of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture and past magisterial teachings for the authority of the current Pope, and past Popes — even Pope Saint John Paul II. They still complain about Vatican II, an Ecumenical Council. Their own judgment is exalted above Popes and Councils, as if they personally had the role to guard the Deposit of Faith and to stand in judgment over the Magisterium itself — all because they are conservative and they have a groups of conservative Catholics who support them.
What do you think Christ would say? He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11). He rebuked the disciples for trying to stop a man who was acting in the name of Jesus, doing good work, because “he does not follow us” (Mk 9:37). He spoke to the Samaritan woman, and accepted her invitation to preach in her town in Samaria (Jn 4:1-30). I can reach no other conclusion, based on the words and deeds of my Lord, other than that He would permit reception of Communion, in some cases, by Orthodox and Protestant Christians, despite their failure to believe all that the Church teaches.
But if this were not true, then most of the papal critics would also be unfit, by their own standard, to receive Communion, since they too refuse to believe all that the Church teaches, for example, Vatican II, or the more liberal teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II on salvation (e.g. RM 10), or the teachings of Pope Francis. There is no double standard. If you cannot receive Communion unless you believe all that the Church teaches, then any Catholics who refuse to believe must not receive.
And if you cannot receive Communion due to the objective mortal sin of divorce and remarriage (on the condition that it is not also an actual mortal sin), then how can so many Catholics receive who are unrepentant from the objective mortal sin of contraception and various sexual sins and various popular heresies? The standard for reception of Communion proposed by some papal critics is a double standard.
But Bishop Schneider is welcomed and praised by the papal critics because he is so much like them. He substitutes his own judgment and understanding for Church teaching. He accepts nothing of doctrine and discipline that is contrary to his own thinking. What kind of faith only trusts in one’s own understanding, and rejects openly any teaching or decision of the Church contrary to one’s own heart and mind? This is not faith in Christ, but only faith in one’s self.
Consider what the Blessed Virgin Mary said at La Salette: “Tremble, earth and you who make profession of serving Jesus Christ and who on the inside you adore yourselves, tremble”.
This type of rebellion against the authority of the Roman Pontiff over doctrine and discipline is not true worship and faith in God, but rather a worship of one’s own heart and mind, of one’s own understanding. So it is ironic that the same interview with Bishop Schneider should make mention of a vision of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich:
“Each member of the congregation drew an idol from his breast, set it up before him, and prayed to it. It was as if each man drew forth his secret thoughts or passions under the appearance of a dark cloud which, once outside, took some definite form.”
The papal critics are doing just that. They take from within themselves their own understanding, misunderstanding, and distortions of doctrine, and their own preferences for discipline, and they set it up as if it were an idol to be worshiped. For they do not give the submission of mind and will to the ordinary teachings of Popes and Councils, nor do they give the full assent of faith to infallible teachings (such as Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4), and instead they adhere to whatever is within themselves. Faith in the teachings of the Church is a type of true worship of God, whereas belief only in one’s own understanding and judgment is a type of idolatry, of self-worship.
Many times the complaints of papal critics seem to be designed, not so much to correct a particular alleged error, but to combine to undermine the very authority of the Roman Pontiff over doctrine and discipline. They criticize everything they can possibly criticize. They continually seek every possible complaint, and every possible claimed error. The point is: “Listen to us, not to the Pope,” and, “Believe what we teach, not what he teaches”. Their goal seems to be to usurp the role given by God to the Roman Pontiff, so that the faithful worldwide would conform their beliefs and practices to the judgment of the conservative Catholic subculture. This attitude is schismatic. It is, at its core, a full rejection of both types of authority, over doctrine and discipline, by the Pope, by Councils, by the Church Herself. They are like Jezebel, who usurped the authority of the king.
I see no other possible end to this process than a conservative schism. Is the Roman Pontiff going to submit his authority to the conservative Catholic subculture? Will the Vicar of Christ treat an auxiliary bishop from a small diocese as if he were above the Pope and the Cardinals? Will some future Ecumenical Council nullify Vatican II and excommunicate Pope Francis? No, of course not. But will the conservative papal critics humble themselves to believe whatever the Roman Pontiff teaches? They should, but they are unwilling.
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