The book in question is titled “Christus Vincit”, meaning “Christ Conquers” . What kind of a book it is? It’s an interview book; Bishop Athanasius Schneider is interviewed by Diane Montagna. Be advised that I have nothing against Ms. Montagna, and I have no criticisms of her for interviewing Bishop Schneider. However, the title of this article is quite clear, I utterly reject and condemn the contents of this book and its claim to represent the Catholic Christian Faith. The book is filled with heresies; bigotry against Jews and Muslims; conspiracy theories about Freemasons, Communists, and Jews; and the exaltation of Schneider’s own ideas above Church teaching.
This is not a book about Christ, nor about Catholicism. It is a book about the errors of Bishop Schneider, about his unjust condemnation of all religions but Christianity, and the theological acrobatics that he uses to keep non-Christians out of Heaven. When asked if non-Christians can be saved, Schneider sort of says Yes, but then it turns into a No.
“Indeed, someone who is following his conscience in invincible ignorance can be saved through the Blood of Christ, in ways which only God knows.” (p. 91-92).
Bishop Schneider then quotes a teaching of Pius IX on that point. But this assertion is not integrated into the salvation theology of Schneider. He states very clearly that Muslims have only natural faith; that they cannot possibly have supernatural faith. And that necessarily implies, based on the teaching of Trent, that they do not have the state of grace. Why can’t a Muslim, following his own conscience, in invincible ignorance about Christianity, be saved and therefore have the state of grace? And if he has the state of grace, in this life, then he necessarily has supernatural love, supernatural faith, and supernatural hope. But Bishop Schneider does not see it that way. The salvation for those who follow conscience in invincible ignorance is not applied by him to Jews or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or atheists or anyone else. It remains an abstract concession to a papal teaching, that he does not seem to like.
When asked specifically whether the non-Christian believers are helped toward God, while following conscience, by their religions, Bishop Athanasius Schneider rejects this idea:
Schneider: “Non-Christians do not “journey towards God” with their “rites” and “communitarian experiences.” On the contrary: through objectively erroneous religious signs, they move away from God. The Apostles always preached this to pagan societies and to other religions. The Church has always taught this, for two thousand years.” [p. 92]
So this implies that Jews and Muslims, whom Bishop Schneider repeatedly condemns by name, are harmed by their own religion. Somehow, in the narrow, so narrow mind of Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Jews who worship God in good conscience, in the same religion that raised Jesus Christ, the religion of several Catholic Saints (who never Converted to Christianity!!) are moving away from God by their religious symbols, which come from the Christian Bible’s Old Testament. It’s inexplicable.
Most of what Schneider says is not a theological argument at all, but just a series of his own baseless claims. The nice quote from Pius IX is essentially a Catholic teaching which contradicts his own view, but he doesn’t seem to notice.
The interviewer does a good job of pressing Schneider on the point of non-Christian religions and salvation. She asks him if it would not be better for someone to follow “an organized false religion” (such as Judaism and Islam, which Schneider condemns as false) rather than fall into atheism or narcissism? But, no, Bishop Schneider does not think so:
Schneider: “This expression is also incorrect. It is wrong to make a person a member of an idolatrous religion in order that he will be no longer be an atheist.” [ p. 93].
Wow. So being a Jew or Muslim, in Schneider’s view, is not better than being an atheist.
“Why is this wrong? It is wrong because that person would then worship God in a false manner and thereby offend God with idolatry.” [ p. 93]
So you are better off having an “individual religious experience according to natural law”, than to practice Judaism or Islam, which Schneider sees as idolatrous religions, displeasing to God. And Schneider seems to exclude Protestantism and Orthodox Christianity as well:
“the Way, which is Christ and His Church, the Catholic Church, outside of which there are no ways, no religions, no religious rites, and no religious signs which are pleasing to God.” [p. 94]
Outside of the Catholic Church, nothing religious pleases God? Does Schneider not know that the Orthodox Christians have all Seven Sacraments? Does he not realize that the Good Samaritan, whom Jesus praised, was a figure for Protestants? What is Schneider’s claim based on? It isn’t based on Catholicism, I can tell you that.
My book on salvation, Forgiveness and Salvation for Everyone, proves from Catholic teaching that salvation is accessible to Jews, Muslims, other believers, and non-believers. And they do not need to convert to Catholicism, or Christianity, or belief in God. There are many Catholic teachings which make this clear, for example:
Pope John Paul II: “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.”  The holy Pontiff also taught that those who are saved includes some persons who sometimes “outwardly reject” the Church.
Although Bishop Schneider admits that non-Catholics can be saved, he also repeatedly states that this occurs in ways known only to God. He can’t figure out any way that a non-Catholic could be saved. But then his explanation of salvation leaves no room for them to be saved at all.
Schneider: “The natural act of adoration and of knowledge of God, which He inscribed in the human heart, also pleases God, since He created the natural light of reason. But, according to the express will of God, this is not sufficient for salvation.” [p. 94].
Schneider has decided that only Christians can be saved. To that end, he strangely describes a natural adoration, and even an adoration of God which is somehow displeasing to Him. But adoration means love of God and acknowledgement that God is greater than us. This implies the gift of supernatural love, which implies the state of grace. But Schneider condemns the worship of every religion but Catholicism. His protestations that God has some way of saving non-Catholics keeps him from being a literal Feeneyite. But in principle he does fall into Feeneyism; for his claims that non-Catholics can be saved have no real basis in his salvation theology. He takes every precaution to wall them out of Heaven.
On free will, Bishop Schneider errs by making the claim that only when free will is used properly, to choose what is good, is free will positively willed by God. This is absurd because God does positively will the gift of free will, which is granted when God supernaturally creates each soul at conception. He wills the gift of free will itself, and so the person’s ability in conscience to choose that he thinks is good is a right, a God-given right. But Schneider thinks that any use of free will contrary to truth is not a right. He uses this line of thinking to condemn all non-Catholic religions, and to condemn the document of Pope Francis called Human Fraternity, which says that God wills a plurality of religions.
Bishop Schneider not only rejects the teaching of Pope Francis on other religions, but also the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II. He rebukes John Paul II for his ecumenical prayer meeting in Assisi. Schneider puts himself in the position, in this book, of judging Popes and of rejecting whatever he thinks is error, and of deciding every question on faith and morals. He puts himself above the Magisterium.
Though Schneider rejects all religion except Catholicism, he sets up a new religion for himself, with his own ideas replacing the Magisterium. And this is quite an hypocrisy, as he condemns non-Catholic religions and therefore implicitly condemns himself.
When asked if Catholics can pray with Jews, Schneider calls this “apostasy”. He claims Judaism has been a false religion since the time of Christ.
Schneider then goes on to reject Vatican II. He calls synodality “an extremely cunning method of Satan.” [p. 113] And Schneider does not seem to notice, in condemning the excessive role of Bishops under the term synodality, he himself takes an excessive role, as an individual Bishops, judging and condemning the Church herself: Her Popes, Her Councils, Her teachings. He is a synod unto himself. Judged by his own words, his approach must also be called “extremely cunning”.
And what would replace synods? Obedience to the Popes? But Schneider is not obedience. He rejects anything and everything of a Pope or Council with which he disagrees. So the criticism of synods is a subterfuge. He is criticizing the Magisterium itself.
The book has a section on Vatican II. Schneider takes up the complains of Lefebvre [p. 120] against the Council. And of course he places blame on the Council for any teachings of the Church prior to the Council.
Schneider: “They often dictate by administrative power. There is no argument. The argument is power.”
So, Schneider does not want synodality. That would imply more decision making by fewer persons in the Church, and especially decisions by the Pope alone. But then he also criticizes papal power as if it were administrative. He does not like the fact that the Roman Pontiff can decide questions of doctrine and discipline.
Bishop Schneider: I noticed that, from the side of the Holy See, there is no will to delve deeply into the essence of the questions presented by Archbishop Lefebvre.” 
The year is 2020. Schneider is taking the side of a deceased schismatic, who died separated from the Church. He also takes the side of the SSPX, a schismatic and heretical group. Schneider does not accept that the teachings of the Holy See are of the Magisterium, and are of Christ. He does not accept the recent Council, the synods, the recent Popes. What does he wish for the Church? How will these alleged errors be corrected, if the Magisterium is allegedly the source of these errors? Essentially, Schneider is saying that the Church has defected. And he wants his own views to be place above the Magisterium or as a replacement for the Magisterium.
On Vatican II, Bishop Schneider does not take the position of some on the right, that the Council should be forgotten or nullified en bloc. He approves of most of what the Council taught. The problem is with the alleged errors. Schneider wants the Church to correct Vatican II based on the SSPX and Lefebvre’s criticisms. But they are schismatics and heretics. So Schneider essentially wants the teachings of the Magisterium to incorporate the heresies of the far right.
Bishop Schneider: “The true intention and teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the laity is being realized now in our days ever more clearly, in many meritorious and courageous lay initiatives for the defense of the Catholic faith. We have arrived at a grotesque situation, in which the sheep are beginning to unmask the infiltrating wolves in sheep’s clothing, i.e., the unbelieving, apostate, and debauched cardinals, bishops, and priests.” 
So it seemed for a few pages in the book, that Schneider had only mild criticisms of Vatican II. And then we come to the conspiracy theories. The idea that Vatican II was part of a plot to destroy the Church from within. And it is worth noting that Bishop Schneider has written the foreword to the book “Infiltration” and has praised the book’s conspiracy theories.
Why does the far right embrace conspiracies? They feel persecuted, as they are a minority in the Church who are often criticized. They are often on the defensive. So an explanation that a group of conspirators has infiltrated the Church is appealing to them, as it means that they are right, are exonerated. It means that everyone in the Church who criticizes them can be dismissed — without taking the criticisms to heart — by saying it’s all part of a conspiracy.
Bishop Schneider adopts this point of view. It’s a conspiracy of Freemasons, Communists, and Jews.
Schneider: “The Magisterium has been so overloaded in the last 150 years with an insane ultramontanism that there emerged an atmosphere of “ecclesiocentrism,” which in turn is a hidden anthropocentrism, and this was not healthy.” 
So here Schneider openly attacks the Magisterium itself, for its reliance on the Pope. He uses the term “the last 150 years”, which is a reference to the conspiracy theories of the book Infiltration by Taylor Marshall. What is the Magisterium without the Roman Pontiff? Schneider does not like synodality; he does not want the body of Bishops deciding much. And then he doesn’t want the Pope making decisions of doctrine either. If the Pope decides, it is “insane ultramontanism” and if the Bishops decide, it is synodality. He will not accept the teaching of the recent Popes and the body of Bishops together in Vatican II, a Council thoroughly approved by successive Popes and the body of Bishops successively also.
And then the reaction to “ultramonatanism” (excessive reliance on the Pope) is supposedly “ecclesiocentrism”, which he also rejects for its “hidden anthropocentrism”. So the Pope, the body of Bishops, the Church Herself, the laity, nothing is acceptable to Bishop Schneider. What is left of Catholicism? Nothing. Bishop Athanasius Schneider does not accept the Papal Magisterium. He puts himself above every Pope to reject whatever he wishes, and to judge it all. He does not accept Vatican II. He give the Council some praise, and seems to criticize it mildly — until the conspiracy theories raise their ugly heads.
The religion that Bishop Schneider follows is his own understanding of the tradition, and nothing else. He feels free to reject any teaching of any Pope or Council, or the body of Bishops. There is nothing here by self-worship. It is just as 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.” Bishop Schneider makes profession of serving Jesus Christ, but on the inside he only adores himself.
Bishop Schneider would say that he wishes the Church to be led by the tradition, and the Magisterium, Popes, and Councils, should be subservient to that tradition. But who decides what is of Sacred Tradition? Who decides the correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture? The traditionalist subculture and traditionalist Bishops like Schneider. This book is an attempt to say that Christ only successfully conquers when we worship the tradition, and try to force the Popes, Councils, Bishops, and the Magisterium itself into subjection to that tradition, not Sacred Tradition itself, but rather the tradition of men, very conservative men. There is the real anthropocentrism.
Bishop Schneider then goes on to claim that the Ecumenical Council of Florence erred in its decree for the Armenians, in saying that the matter of the Sacrament was the handing over of the instruments used by each Order. See how this auxiliary Bishop from Kazakhstan puts himself above the Magisterium, Councils, Popes, and the body of Bishops! No, the Council did not err. At the time, the matter of the Sacrament of Orders included the handing over of the traditional instruments as well as the laying on of hands. Subsequently, the Church changed the matter to only the laying on of hands. And this was in all likelihood the most ancient practice. The first disciples who were ordained by Christ did not receive instruments, but only the laying on of hands.
Accusing the Council of Florence of a grave error on a Sacrament shows the thoroughly schismatic nature of this Bishop’s views. He does not submit to the teaching authority of the Church. He puts himself above the entire Church, to judge all and to reject whatever he wishes, as if he were a king over the Church. He does not realize it, but he is usurping the role of Christ.
And as the book continues, Bishop Schneider returns to the theme of conspiracies and infiltration. He blames Pope Benedict XV for the modernist infiltration. He also blames Pope Saint John XXIII.
Schneider: “Surely, ever since Paul VI, ecclesiastics with a liberal Modernist spirit and with a worldly and careerist mentality began to dominate in the positions of power in the Church. Many of them were and still are united among themselves in true clerical old-boy networks.” 
Notice the distrust for the papacy and the Cardinals and Bishops who lead the Church. Schneider lacks power in the Church. And his book reads like a lower-level manager of a company criticizing everything that happens in the company above him, out of jealousy. Schneider wishes he had more power in the Church. So he criticizes everything those above him in the Church do.
Bishop Schneider is then asked about the Declaration of Truths document which he and a few other Bishops signed. See my critique of the document here. The document has grave errors in it. It is an attempt by a few disgruntled Bishops to usurp the role of Popes and Council in deciding truths of faith and morals.
Schneider hopes a future Pope or Council will affirm these truths. So he admits that this is not entirely the teaching of the Magisterium yet. And he says: “Therefore, I think it is not a matter of “should.” In the future a pope must do this, because the Church is divine, and she has always condemned errors.” 
Right, the Church “must” do as the auxiliary Bishop of Kazakhstan says. We can’t depend upon Popes, or Councils or the body of Bishops led by the Pope, or the Magisterium, or the Holy See. What is left?! The pattern for the Church laid out by Bishop Schneider is absurd. Nothing is left but for the Church to submit to, and worship the traditionalist subculture.
Bishop Schneider: “Papal authority is a subordinate magisterium. It is subordinate to the written Word of God and to the transmitted Word of God in Sacred Tradition, and also to the constant teaching of all of the pope’s predecessors according to the perennial sense of the entire Church (perennis sensus ecclesiae). Papal authority therefore has an essentially vicarious character. The pope is ultimately the person in the Church with the least freedom, because his authority is very limited, since he is only an administrator of something which does not belong to him, but to Christ.” 
Astounding. This attack on the papacy by Bishop Schneider is just astounding. The Pope is subordinate to Bishop Schneider’s interpretation of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, AND “the perennial sense of the entire Church”. Is Bishop Schneider submissive to the authority of the Roman Pontiff, or to the authority of Ecumenical Councils? Not at all. He sees the Pope as subordinate and as an administrator.
When asked about the role of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ, Bishop Schneider tells a malicious joke in reply:
I once heard an amusing joke about the meaning of the Latin word vicarius. When you write “vicarius” vertically, you can get this decipherment: V (vir, man); I (inutilis, useless); C (carens, lacking); A (auctoritate, authority); R (raro, rare); I (intelligens, intelligence); U (umbra, shadow); S (superioris, of the superior).” 
So the Vicar of Christ is “man useless lacking authority rare intelligence shadow of the superior”. This is not only inappropriate for a Bishop, but shows contempt for the authority of Peter.
Schneider wants the Pope to be subordinate to the tradition, to the interpretation of Church tradition held by Catholics on the far right.
Schneider goes on to criticize episcopal collegiality, and papal-centrism in the Church. What is left? He hates the authority of the Pope, and the authority of the body of Bishops. And this is clearly because the Pope and the body of Bishops do not teach what Bishop Schneider thinks is true.
Bishop Schneider: “I think that a future pope has to issue a document on the papal ministry itself, correcting the errors of papolatry, but also stating that it is sometimes possible and necessary for bishops—of course with respect and prudence—to publicly admonish the pope, when he departs from the uninterrupted and constant Tradition of the Church, and that such an act should not be considered irreverent, disobedient, or schismatic.” 
So the solution, proposed by Schneider, is for a future Pope to unilaterally use his authority, to undermine the authority of the Papacy itself, and to approve of individual Bishops, like Schneider, “correcting” the errors of the Pope, when he is judged to depart from the tradition by that individual Bishop. Schneider desperately wants such a correction to not be labeled “schismatic” — because that is what it is.
Bishop Schneider is a schismatic. He rejects anything of any Pope that he judges to be incorrect, and the same for the body of Bishops and the Ecumenical Councils. He submits himself to nothing of the Magisterium other than what he happens to think is true by his own judgment. That is the definition of schism. A schismatic does not accept the authority of the Church over doctrine or discipline, but puts his own judgments above the Church.
And he fails to realize the inherent contradiction in his plan. A future Pope would use his authority to undermine his own authority. Why should we listen to that future Pope, if any Pope can err gravely and be corrected by any individual Bishop. Surely, there will be individual Bishops who disagree. Bishop Schneider wants the faithful to only listen to the Pope when he speaks from the mind of Schneider, not from the mind of Christ.
[To Be Continued]
Ronald L. Conte Jr.