The auxiliary bishop of Astana, formerly bishop of Karaganda [Kazakhstan], Athanasius Schneider, has received a verbal injunction from the Vatican asking him to reduce the frequency of his foreign trips.
This measure was taken last spring; the bishop was informed in April by the Nuncio in Kazakhstan, Francis Assisi Chullikatt, of this extraordinary restriction on his freedom.
Yet another unique aspect of this affair is that Archbishop Schneider only received a verbal notice of this restriction, which was given directly to him by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The Nuncio did not give him anything in writing, no document which could serve as the basis for the bishop taking any sort of legal initiative [to appeal the matter] to the Congregation for Bishops or the Apostolic Signatura which, until the advent of Pope Bergoglio, was the court of instance where lay people, priests, and bishops could make appeal against decisions of ecclesiastical authority which they believed to be unjust.
No reason was given to Archbishop Schneider to explain this extraordinary request, according to persons close to him whom we have contacted. Each time he is planning a foreign trip, he is supposed to inform the Nuncio. We do not know if the Nuncio has also been given the power to refuse to authorize any such foreign travel.
As readers of Stilum Curiae know, Bishop Athanasius Schneider is one of the most free and frank voices denouncing the deviations and confusion present in the Church today, always in a respectful and filial yet firm manner. It is impossible not to notice the disparity of treatment between Schneider and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who, restricted by the sanctions of Benedict XVI (one of which was being forbidden to travel), was sent by Pope Francis to China, the Philippines, and Armenia, and who acted like a personal link [of the Pope] with Cuba to prepare for the papal visit there. Or also towards Cardinal Maradiaga, chief counselor of the Pope, who for the sake of his frequent travels abandoned the Diocese of Tegucigalpa into the hands of his auxiliary bishop Juan José Pineda, his right hand man who was forced to resign by the open letter sent by a dozens of seminarians who accused him of misconduct, and whose recent exploits are described by Religion Confidencial.
On the other hand, there is no reason to be surprised by these actions, which are a sign of an ever growing unease with voices that speak freely under a regime which speaks much about dialogue but where in fact any criticism is feared. And in which there is a preference for silent and hidden means of limiting freedom of expression, like the “counsel” given to the American bishops – always only orally, always by a nuncio – to not invite people like Cardinal Burke to their diocese, and, if it is not possible to prevent his coming, not to attend any event at which he is present…
Originally published at MarcoTosatti.com. Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino.
Marco Tosatti is a renowned Italian journalist and Vatican expert. He has been covering the Holy See since 1981. His written work appears in La Stampa and La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. He is the author of several books, including The Prophecy of Fatima and Investigation of the Holy Shroud. He blogs at Marcotosatti.com.