It is with much gratitude that we present today to our readers a lengthy, original interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan. He was so considerate in his answers to the following questions, which we sent to him prior to the recent 3 May meeting of German bishops with the Vatican concerning the current conflict about Communion for Protestant spouses, as well as prior to the scandalous opening of the “Heavenly Bodies” exhibition in New York. It was our intention to put questions to him that would give him an occasion to issue a new sort of “Syllabus of Errors” — our term, not his — for the modern Church, thereby providing fraternal correction of some of the serious distortions of the Faith that are circulating uncorrected in both ecclesial circles and the public.
Bishop Schneider thus comments on issues such as the blessing of homosexual couples, the ordination of female priests, Communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics, Freemasonic symbolism in the Vatican, married priests, the Vatican’s lending of sacred items to the New York fashion exhibition, and, last but not least, the case of little Alfie Evans.
The good bishop does not hesitate to take a clear and principled stance in matters of faith and morals, and we are very grateful to him, once again, for his Catholic witness. May it radiate far and wide, confirming Catholics the world over in their faith.
Maike Hickson (MH): At the beginning of the year, representatives of the German Bishops’ Conference proposed a blessing of homosexual couples. What would be a response to this in light of Catholic doctrine?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider (BAS): Imparting a blessing to a homosexual couple signifies to bless the sin of not only extramarital sexual acts, but what is worse still, sexual acts between persons of the same sex, i.e., to bless the sin of sodomy, which is considered by the nearly entire human history and by the entire Christian tradition as a sin which cries to heaven (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1867). Why does such a sin cry to heaven? Because it nullifies, defiles and contradicts directly the nature and the order of human sexuality in the mutual complementarity of the two sexes, as created by the infinite wisdom of God. Homosexual acts or homosexual relationships are directly against reason and all logic, and against the explicit will of God.
Homosexual acts are intrinsically so nonsensical that one can compare them, for example, with the nonsense of obstructing the mechanism of a seat belt, where the “tongue” (male) connector is pushed into the “buckle” (female connector). Each person with common sense will state the absurdity to use for the seat belt only two tongues or only two buckles. It will not function and it will cause in many cases death because the belt was not fastened. So, too, homosexual acts are causing spiritual death and oftentimes physical death because of the extremely high risk of venereal diseases.
When clerics are promoting the blessing of homosexual relationships, they are promoting a sin, which cries out to heaven, and they are promoting a logical absurdity. Such clerics are committing thereby a grave sin and their sin is even more grievous than that of the homosexual partners whom they bless, because they are giving these people incentives to a life of continuous sins, and exposing them consequently to the real danger of eternal condemnation. Such clerics will surely hear from God – at the moment of their personal judgment – these grave words: “When I say to the evil-doer, death will certainly be your fate; and you give him no word of it and say nothing to make clear to the evil-doer the danger of his evil way, so that he may be safe; that same evil man will come to death in his evil-doing; but I will make you responsible for his blood” (Ez. 3:18). The clerics who are blessing homosexual practices are reintroducing a kind of pagan temple prostitution. Such clerical behavior is akin to apostasy and to them are fully applicable these words of the Holy Scripture: “Certain people have infiltrated among you, who were long ago marked down for condemnation on this account; without any reverence they pervert the grace of our God to lewdness and deny all religion, rejecting our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).
MH: Fr. Anselm Grün, a German book author one of whose books has recently been praised by Pope Francis, now says that he could picture in the future a female pope. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn also said recently that a future council very well might establish a new rule for female priests and even bishops. What is here possible and good in the Church, and what is not? What is the proper role of women in the Church in light of the Gospels?
BAS: By Divine institution, the sacrament of Holy Orders (sacramentum ordinis) can be administered only to a male person. The Church has no power to change this essential characteristic of this sacrament, because she cannot change a substantial aspect of the sacraments, as taught the Council of Trent (cf. sess. 21, chap. 2). Pope John Paul II declared that the impossibility of ordaining women is an infallible teaching of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium (cf. Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, n. 4), hence it is a Divinely revealed truth, belonging to the deposit of faith (cf. Response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith from October 28, 1995).
Whoever obstinately doubts or denies this revealed truth is committing the sin of heresy, and by doing it publicly and pertinaciously, the sin becomes a canonical crime, which entails the automatic excommunication (latae sententiae). There are a number of clerics, and even in the episcopal ranks, who are nowadays committing that sin, thereby separating themselves invisibly from the community of the Catholic Faith. To them one could safely apply these words of God: “They have gone from among us, but they never really belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).
No Pope and no Ecumenical Council can ever permit a female sacramental ordination (whether deaconate, presbyterate or episcopate). If, in a hypothetical case, they would do it, the Church would be destroyed in one of its essential realities. Yet this can never happen, because the Church is indestructible and Christ is the true Head of His Church, who will not permit that the gates of hell will prevail against her in this concrete aspect.
The most beautiful, unique and irreplaceable role of the woman in the Church is her vocation and her dignity to be a mother, either physically or spiritually, because every woman is by her nature maternal. Inseparably with the maternal is her bridal dignity and vocation. In this her bridal dignity the woman proclaims the truth that each Christian soul, and also the soul of a man, should be a bride of Christ. In her maternal and bridal vocation, the woman is living the interior priesthood of the heart, which is unique to her, and which is complementary to the exterior ministerial manly priesthood of the Apostles. How wisely has God established the order of nature, which reflects itself even more beautifully in the order of grace, in the sacrament of Holy Orders! A female ordination would destroy the Divine order and would consequently bring only spiritual ugliness, spiritual sterility and, ultimately, idolatry.
MH: The German bishops approved in February a handout that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics, in individual cases and after a period of discernment, to receive Holy Communion on a regular basis. In light of the Church’s sacramental order and also in light of the need for Catholics to go to the Sacrament of Penance regularly, is such a move by the German bishops at all licit and possible?
BAS: Since the times of the Apostles (cf. Acts 2:42) the integrity of the Faith (doctrina Apostolorum), the Hierarchical Communion (communicatio) and the Eucharistic Communion (fractio panis) are inseparably connected with one another. In admitting a baptized person to Holy Communion, the Church should never dispense him from professing the integrity of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith. It is insufficient to demand from him only the Catholic belief in the sacrament of the Eucharist (or in the sacrament of Penance and of the Anointing of the sick).
Admitting a baptized person to Holy Communion, and not demanding from him as an indispensable prerequisite the acceptance of all other Catholic truths (e.g., the dogmas of the hierarchical and visible character of the Church, the jurisdictional primacy of the Roman Pontiff, the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff, of the Ecumenical Councils and of the Universal and Ordinary Magisterium, the Marian dogmas etc.) signifies a contradiction to the necessarily visible unity of the Church and to the nature of the Eucharistic sacrament itself. The proper effect of the Eucharistic Communion is namely the manifestation of the perfect union of the members of the Church in the sacramental sign of the Eucharist. Hence, the very reception of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church – even in exceptional cases – by a Protestant or by an Orthodox Christian constitutes, ultimately, a lie. It contradicts the sacramental sign and the interior sacramental reality, inasmuch as they, the non-Catholics admitted to Holy Communion, willingly continue to adhere visibly to the other beliefs of their Protestant or respectively Orthodox communities.
We can discover in this context also the problematic and contradictory principle of canon 844 of the Code of the Canon Law (about the administration of certain sacraments such as the Holy Eucharist to non-Catholic Christians in situations of emergency or danger of death). This principle contradicts the Apostolic Tradition and the constant practice of the Catholic Church throughout two thousand years. Already in the sub-apostolic time of the second century, the Roman Church observed this rule as Saint Justin witnessed it: “This food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true” (Apol. I, 66). The problem created recently by the German Bishops’ Conference is – to be honest – only the logical consequence of the problematic concessions formulated by canon 844 of the Code of the Canon Law.
MH: Some observers feel here reminded of the introduction of communion in the hand, which was first initiated regionally, only in order later to be implemented for the Universal Church. Do you see here parallels?
BAS: According to the logic of human fragility, the dynamism of ideological pressure, and the contaminating effect of bad examples, exceptional cases of Communion given to Protestants will also have over time a large implementation, which will then be very hard to stop.
MH: If this new intercommunion initiative would be approved by Rome in an upcoming 3 May meeting [Please see here the outcome of that meeting, M.H.], could this turn into a second weakening of the Church’s sacramental teaching after Amoris Laetitia and its aftermath?
BAS: Without doubt!
MH: In light of this recent German intercommunion project, do you see here limits to calls for decentralization in the Church?
BAS: When there is a real danger that in a particular Church the integrity of the Catholic Faith and the corresponding sacramental practice are damaged, the Roman Pontiff has to exercise his proper duty and correct these defections in order to protect the simple faithful from a deviation from the integrity of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith. When bishops act contrary to their duty, which says that they have “to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the discipline common to the whole Church” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 23), the Roman Pontiff has to intervene because of his task of being “the teacher of all faithful” and the “supreme teacher of the universal Church” (Lumen gentium, 25). When during a navigation, some of the ship’s officers start to drill holes in the vessel’s side, the ship’s captain cannot say: “I will not interfere, because I want to follow the principle of decentralization”. Each person with common sense will consider such behavior to be irresponsible and absurd, because it will have fatal consequences. When this is true for the physical life, how much more is it true for the supernatural life of the souls! When, however, local bishops do their work well in promoting and safeguarding the faith, the discipline and the liturgy of the Church, the Pope should in no way restrict their initiatives. In this case, there would be a sane decentralization. In “everything that is true, honorable, upright, pure, good, and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8), what the local bishops do, the Pope should not interfere with, and he should let them be in these good works decentralized.
MH: In the context of the upcoming 2019 Amazon synod, there are many calls now issued for an allowance of the married priesthood in the Latin Rite. What is your own response to it. Should and can the Catholic Church go this path?
BAS: The Roman Catholic Church should not fall for the trick of the “viri probati” or be overwhelmed by the fact of a drastic shortage of priests in some regions. Such a reaction would be all too human, and there would be a lack of a supernatural view of the Divine Providence, which is always guiding His Church. There are sufficient proofs of periods and regions in Church History with a drastic shortage of priests, in which the Catholic Faith of the lay people was nevertheless flourishing because of the transmission of the faith in the family and because of the witness of virtuous single persons. I myself spent my childhood in such conditions, where there was no priest for several years.
It is sufficiently demonstrated by documents of the Early Church that the priestly celibacy or the law of priestly continence is of Apostolic origin. In the Apostolic times and the times of the Fathers of the Church it was a transmitted and initially not-written norm, that, from the moment of the sacred ordination (deacon, presbyter and bishop), the ordained cleric had to live in perpetual sexual continence, regardless if he was married or single. There exist solid scientific studies, which confirm this fact, e.g., the studies of Christian Cocchini, Cardinal Alfons Stickler, Stefan Heid et al. The Synod of Carthage (390) in the time of Saint Augustine had declared perpetual continence to be “what the apostles taught and what antiquity itself has observed.” Pope Leo the Great (+ 450), a scrupulous observer of the Apostolic traditions, stated: “The law of continence is the same for the ministers of the altar, for the bishops and for the priests; when they were still lay people or lectors, they could freely take a wife and beget children. But once they have reached the ranks mentioned above, what had been permitted is no longer so” (Epist. ad Rusticum). The categorical prohibition to contract marriage after the ordination was universally valid, and is still valid even in the Orthodox churches, where celibacy for diocesan priest is abolished. This is a clear demonstration of the fact that the law of continence for higher orders is of Apostolic origin.
The first attempt to break the Apostolic Tradition of the law of continence, i.e., of the law celibacy in a wider sense, constitutes the legislation of the Byzantine Church in the so-called Second Trullan Synod (691), which, however, the Apostolic See has not recognized. According to the Byzantine legislation, the married priest has to observe sexual continence the night before he will celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Yet a true Catholic priest, who is day and night “another Christ” (alter Christus), and who therefore should celebrate daily the Holy Sacrifice, has to live always in perfect continence. This is a logical consequence of the ontological dignity of the New Testament priesthood and of his perpetual connection with the offering of Christ’s Sacrifice upon the altar, unlike the carnal dynastical priesthood of the Old Testament, which was obliged to sexual continence only during their periodical service in the Temple. It was precisely with the reference to the Old Testament priests, to whom it was allowed to have sexual intercourse with their wives, that the Trullan Synod in 691 dispensed married priests from the law of continence.
If the planned Amazonia Synod in 2019 will introduce married priesthood, even in singular cases and in specific geographical areas, the very dynamism of such an innovation – the phenomenon of married priesthood – will doubtless gradually inundate the entire Latin Church. We hope that the Amazonia Synod 2019 will not promote the introduction of the life style of the Old Testament priests, a lifestyle alien to the example of Christ the Eternal High Priest and of the Apostolic Tradition. Besides, there exists an excellent novel of the Argentinian writer Hugo Wast (a pseudonym of Gustavo Adolfo Martínez Zuviría, + 1962) with the title “Lo que Dios ha unido” (“What God has joined”), in which the author demonstrates, convincingly and brilliantly, the incompatibility between the Catholic priesthood and a sexually active conjugal life.
MH: At a recent Vatican conference, there were gifts handed to the participants that have a strong resemblance to Freemasonic symbolism. Is this a problematic development in light of the preservation of the Catholic teaching whole and entire?
BAS: The mentioned “gifts”, which one can see described and displayed in the internet, are openly pagan, esoteric, and Masonic. These actions, which took place in the Vatican, where is the seat of the truth (“cathedra veritatis”) of Saint Peter, are able to remind us the frequent episodes in the Old Testament, where the people of God and some of their leaders had fallen away from the true and unique worship of God. For, according to the opinion of some religious leaders in the Old Testament it was licit to unite the worship of the true God with the cult of idols. However, God through the voice of all His prophets scourged this as an abomination. There can be no doubt that about the mentioned pagan cultic display in the Vatican there will sound the same condemning voices of all the Biblical prophets. This tragic episode in the Vatican reveals some similarity with the following prophetic vision of Blessed Anne Catharine Emmerich: “I saw again the present Pope and the dark church of his time in Rome. […] And lo, a most singular sight! 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 most singular part of it was that the idols filled the place; the church, although the worshippers were so few, was crowded with idols. When the service was over, everyone’s “god” re-entered into his breast. The whole church was draped in black, and all that took place in it was shrouded in gloom” (Vision from May 13, 1820).
MH: The Vatican recently decided to loan many sacred vestments and other sacred items to a secular fashion exhibition in New York which will also show clothing for a female priest, a female bishop, a female cardinal, and even a female pope. Is such a decision on the side of the Vatican not confusing the sacred with the profane and even the cause of moral and spiritual confusion of the faithful?
BAS: Such an action is clearly a profanation of sacred things, which were blessed for the exclusive worship of the true God, the Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One can’t help being reminded of the profanation of sacred objects in the Old Testament by King Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Dan. 5:2). However, “God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7). The following words of God through the mouth of the prophet Daniel are quite applicable to the mentioned episode of profanation of the sacred vestments, consented to by a Vatican authority: “You have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. Then from his presence, the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Tekel, Parsin” (Dan. 5:23-25). If the prophet Daniel were to live today and were to know of the mentioned profane use of sacred vestments, he doubtlessly would direct the same words to those people, who consented to such a profanation or collaborated with it.
MH: Recently, the world witnessed the Alfie Evans case where the state decided to end the life support of a sick child. Archbishop Paglia and some British bishops praised the state for this decision with reference that one should not use excessive treatments. What is your own response to this Alfie case? Did the state make the right decision, and is the secular world going into the right direction here? What should be the principles for dealing with the gravely ill – whether children or adults?
BAS: The Alfie case revealed itself as the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg is the modern anti-culture of killing unborn children, a practice started as a legal action for the first time in human history by the Communist and Marxist dictatorship of Lenin in 1920. Since the sixties of the last century, the legal killing of unborn children was spread gradually like an orchestrated action in almost all Western countries. The worldwide ideology of killing unborn babies is essentially an ideology of contempt of humanity under the cynical mask of the alleged rights of the woman or of the nebulous “reproductive health.”
The Abortion industry and its political ideology had always categorically refused the comparison of abortion with infanticide. Yet, the case Alfie showed, in full view, to the whole world that the worldwide political, juridical and media power of annihilating the unborn – the vulnerable and weak unborn human life – want to make the next quality step by introducing the legality of infanticide, by initially starting with a legal killing of a seriously ill child. With the Alfie cause, they wanted to set an example in this direction. Indeed, that is only a logical consequence of abortion, combined now with the euthanasia ideology. The Alfie case demonstrated truly, who is who in the issue of the uncompromising defense of the inviolability of human life. It united spontaneously from all corners of the earth the defenders of life into a common battle line. It was a small, but noble, spiritual army unit against the powerful conspiracy of an agreed agenda of politics, of the judiciary and – to our great astonishment – also of medicine. The army of life seemed to be a new David in front of the modern Goliath of infanticide. It seemed that this time Goliath has won. Yet, in fact, this Goliath has lost. Because in the case of Alfie the parties of politics, judiciary, and medicine involved lost the moral credibility of impartiality, transparency, and of the sense of justice. The winner was nevertheless the little army of Alfie. For in the eyes of God and even in the eyes of History, those who defend the most weak and vulnerable human beings, who are in the first place the unborn and ill-born children, will always be the winners. Political, juridical and medical conspiracy against human life will one day surely collapse, because it is inhuman.
To the Alfie case and to the little life-army around him, one can apply these words of the Holy Scripture: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” (Ps 126:5).
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana
Dr. Maike Hickson, born and raised in Germany, studied History and French Literature at the University of Hannover and lived for several years in Switzerland where she wrote her doctoral dissertation. She is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.
Her articles have appeared in American and European journals such as Catholicism.org, LifeSiteNews, The Wanderer, Culture Wars, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Apropos, and Zeit-Fragen.