Bishop Schneider on the Pan-Amazon Synod, Married Priests, and Female Preachers

In a new interview, Bishop Athanasius Schneider discusses the working document of the upcoming 2019 Pan-Amazon Synod and rejects the idea of ordaining married men. He argues that priestly continence is a Church tradition that goes back to Apostolic times. As to the role of women, he fears that the Church might soon imitate the German model of female pastoral assistants who now already preach and hold liturgies of the word in Germany.

In a 30-minute-long interview with the traditional media outlet that took place on 10 June in the Czech Republic, Bishop Schneider, the auxiliary bishop of St. Mary’s in Astana, Kazakhstan, comments on several themes, among them the importance of the traditional Latin Mass, the grave consequences of the papal document Amoris Laetitia, as well as the split within the Catholic Church.

In light of the 8 June working document (Instrumentum Laboris) for the upcoming 2019 Pan-Amazon Synod, Bishop Schneider also touches upon the problem of ordaining married men to the priesthood, as well as the danger of giving women more prominence on the altar.

Bishop Schneider sees that this new Vatican document tries to prepare the way for the priestly ordination of married men for that particular region in the world. However, he makes it clear that this initiative would soon spread throughout the world. He says that, with such a permission, “celibacy would de facto be abolished.” “One can see that immediately,” he adds, saying that only a child would not understand this deeper consequence of an exception granted for the Pan-Amazon region.

The German prelate explains that such married priests “are in reality against the continuous tradition of the Church.” “To live as a priest in continence,” according to Bishop Schneider, “goes back to Apostolic tradition, this is not merely Church Law.” Already St. Augustine stated this, as did the Synod of Carthage. As Schneider says, it was already known in the fourth century that priestly continence goes back to Apostolic times. (Here the concept means a chaste life. Some priests might have been previously married, but they embraced perfect continence upon ordination.)

As Bishop Schneider reminds us, all the popes in the Church’s history have insisted upon the priests’ and bishops’ chaste way of life, against all opposition – also from European rulers – and against all abuse in practice. When the Eastern Church, in the 7th century, broke away from this principle, “the Holy See never accepted it,” explains the prelate.

With regard to the Eastern Rites and their permission of married priests, Bishop Schneider explains that this allowance is a “concession that was given to those of the Orthodox Church who wished to return to the Catholic Church.” These clerics, says Schneider, were given permission to “maintain a practice that they had for nearly 1,000 years.” The Roman Catholic Church, however, “should never give it up,” he adds, saying that a change of this discipline would be “against Apostolic tradition” and would have a “domino effect.”

Were the Church to grant such a permission to ordain married priests for the Pan-Amazon region, Bishop Schneider fears that “other bishops or other bishops’ conferences would come and wish to apply it also to other regions.” “In a short time, priestly continence would be destroyed,” the prelate warns, adding: “And that is not to be.” Bishop Schneider therefore says “I hope that the Providence of God will not allow this to happen.”

Bishop Schneider makes a similar comment when talking about the probability that the Pan-Amazon Synod will make proposals for some forms of female ministry for the Catholic Church of the Pan-Amazon region. “A sacramental ordination is impossible,” says the prelate. Rather, he could imagine that the Church would perhaps imitate the German model of female pastoral assistants who are already now receiving a blessing from the German bishops. They already now give homilies, preside over liturgies of the word which include the distribution of the Eucharist. “They do everything, except the Canon of the Mass,” Schneider explains. “We have it already!” exclaims the bishop. For decades, German Catholics have already seen women on the altar, wearing an alb, and presiding over liturgies.

Thus, Schneider adds, the Pan-Amazon region could do it as it is in Germany. “I hope and pray that the dear Lord, the Providence of God, will not permit it,” Schneider says once more.

In his conclusion to this section of the interview, Bishop Schneider insists that we have to protect and preserve “the pearl that Jesus gave us.”

At the same time, the bishop of Astana encourages the Catholic faithful, in view of the current crisis in the Church: “Where sin abounds, grace superabounds,” he says with joy in his voice. Where there is so much darkness, “there shines a light, grace, even more.” He himself sees it in the whole world when traveling that there exist small pockets of the Faith everywhere. “I see in the whole world that the Holy Ghost is at work, that is to say through the many small groups, many young families, the youth, many seminarians and priests who live the Faith.” These Catholics try to live a moral life and be models for others.

For Bishop Schneider, those who are in power in the Church – he calls them “the Church’s Nomenklatura” – are permeated with “the spirit of the world, with the naturalistic spirit, they lack the supernatural Faith.” They might have entered ecclesiastical offices, the prelate explains, and they might “have power over the small and the pure, and even try to suppress them”; they might also have “the power of the administration, money, reputation, media support, and public praise”; “But we have the Faith!” the bishop exclaims.

“You have the power, but we have the Faith.” That is what the simple faithful can say to those in power, says Bishop Schneider. “We are richer and more powerful.” In his eyes, the Holy Ghost is already preparing “a spring in the Church.” “The snow field is still covered with snow, but one already see the little snowdrops which announce the the coming of spring. And these are all the small groups [in the world], who have no power, who are being suppressed, but who have power before God.” In conclusion, this faith-filled prelate says: “And the Mother of God is our mother, the mother of the Church, she holds us in her hands.” “And she is the conqueror of all heresies.”

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