Christ stilling the waves

The Trumpeteer

  • Global Insanity and The Wisdom of Bishop Athanasius Schneider

    We are living in times, not of global warming but, as far as I can see, global insanity. This insanity is, for the most part affecting the West, and by the West, I mean Western culture be it in Western Europe, North and South America, Australasia, or in certain parts of Africa and Asia. It is all those parts of the World that have been infected by the Enlightenment, and the Enlightenment’s most important goal, which is the perfecting of Man by philosophical, educational, and economic means. This gave birth to Darwinian evolution, Marxism, and Freudian psychology. These three weapons have unleashed the most terrible damage possible, name the destruction of scriptural truth.

    What has happened to Scripture over the last nearly 200 years has been so serious that it cannot be underestimated. It is no longer seen as The Word of God, but as an historical document. What has been jettisoned, especially with the opening chapters of Genesis has been the literal meaning of the text. This secret weapon of the Devil has wreaked the most horrifying spiritual carnage in the Catholic Church.

    The Bible is no longer seen as something living, the very words of God to Man, but as something to be studied. The Western World has become an observer of God, a commentator on him. It is Man who has become a sophisticated, an almost sneering analyst of the Divine.

    For some time now, The Catholic Church has been firstly taken in by pseudoscience, modern psychology, and modern Democracy. As Democracy originated in a slave society, namely Athenian Society, it is highly questionable whether it is the preferred form of government. The Church seems to be cowed by so much of Western Culture, or is she simply mesmerized by it? Precisely because there is now an uncertainty with regard to the literal meaning of Scripture and a ridiculous reverence for modern scripture scholarship by so many in the Church, including Popes; the Church has lost her compass. The great bark of Peter is heading towards the reefs of modern thought, which are no more than passing fashions but, if believed, are deadly to the souls of millions.

    Just when the Church needs a Leo the Great, a Gregory the Great, a Hilderband or an Innocent III at the helm, she finds herself guided by an uncertain pilot. Pope Francis, who on one level, is forceful and decisive, on another is not. That the Holy Father had forgotten footnote 351, is truly extraordinary, and makes him sound like so many politicians trying to get out of a tight squeeze. I think that we should look at the quotes relating to what might become one of the most famous footnotes in history:

    Frank Rocca (Wall Street Journal): Thanks, Holy Father. I see that the questions on immigration that I had thought to ask you have been asked and answered by you very well. If you permit me, I’d like to ask you another question about an event of recent days, which was your apostolic exhortation. As you well know, there has been much discussion about on one of the many, I know that we’ve focused on this a lot…there has been much discussion after the publication. Some sustain that nothing has changed with respect to the discipline that regulates access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried, that the Law, the pastoral praxis and obviously the doctrine remain the same. Others sustain that much has changed and that there are new openings and possibilities. For a Catholic who wants to know: are there new, concrete possibilities that didn’t exist before the publication of the exhortation or not?

    "Pope Francis: I can say yes, period. But it would be an answer that is too small. I recommend that you read the presentation of Cardinal Schonborn, who is a great theologian. He was the secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and he knows the doctrine of the faith well. In that presentation, your question will find an answer.

    Jean-Marie Guenois (Le Figaro): I had the same question, but it’s a complementary question because you wrote this famous ‘Amoris Laetitia’ on the problems of the divorced and remarried (footnote 351). Why put something so important in a little note? Did you foresee the opposition or did you mean to say that this point isn’t that important?

    Pope Francis: One of the recent popes, speaking of the Council, said that there were two councils: the Second Vatican Council in the Basilica of St. Peter, and the other, the council of the media. When I convoked the first synod, the great concern of the majority of the media was communion for the divorced and remarried, and, since I am not a saint, this bothered me, and then made me sad. Because, thinking of those media who said, this, this and that, do you not realize that that is not the important problem? Don’t you realize that instead the family throughout the world is in crisis? Don’t we realize that the falling birth rate in Europe is enough to make one cry? And the family is the basis of society. Do you not realize that the youth don’t want to marry? Don’t you realize that the fall of the birth rate in Europe is to cry about? Don’t you realize that the lack of work or the little work (available) means that a mother has to get two jobs and the children grow up alone? These are the big problems. I don’t remember the footnote, but for sure if it’s something general in a footnote it’s because I spoke about it, I think, in ‘Evangelii Gaudium.’

    Thanks a lot, I feel calm with you. Now, they will give you something to eat!"

    I leave you dear reader not only to reflect on this startling part of the Pope’s interview from the Island of Lesbos, the irony of which seems lost on most people and turn to that great bishop, Athanasius, who like his namesake speaks truth in the following critique, which comes to us via Voice of the Family, which did such sterling work at the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family.

    Official English translation of Bishop Schneider’s reflection on Amoris Laetitia

    Amoris Laetitia , Athanasius Schneider , Catholic , Pope Francis

    Voice of the Family, with the kind permission of His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider, is delighted to share with our readers his approved translation of his reflection on Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

    “Amoris laetitia”: a need for clarification in order to avoid a general confusion

    The paradox of the contradictory interpretations of “Amoris laetitia”

    The recently published Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris laetitia” (AL), which contains a plethora of spiritual and pastoral riches with regard to life within marriage and the Christian family in our times, has unfortunately, within a very short time, led to very contradictory interpretations even among the episcopate.

    There are bishops and priests who publicly and openly declare that AL represents a very clear opening-up to communion for the divorced and remarried, without requiring them to practice continence. In their opinion, it is this aspect of sacramental practice, which, according to them, is now to undergo a significant change that gives AL its truly revolutionary character. Interpreting AL with reference to irregular couples, a president of a Bishops’ Conference has stated, in a text published on the website of the same Bishops’ Conference: “This is a disposition of mercy, an openness of heart and of spirit that needs no law, awaits no guideline, nor bides on prompting. It can and should happen immediately”.

    This opinion was further confirmed by the recent declarations of Father Antonio Spadaro S.J., after the Synod of Bishops in 2015, that the Synod had established the “foundations” for the access of divorced and remarried couples to communion by “opening a door” that had still been closed during the previous Synod in 2014. Now, as Father Spadaro alleges in his commentary on AL, his prediction has been confirmed. There are rumours that Father Spadaro was a member of the editorial group behind AL.

    The way to abusive interpretations appears to have been paved by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn himself, who said, during the official presentation of AL in Rome, with regard to irregular unions, that: “My great joy as a result of this document resides in the fact that it coherently overcomes that artificial, superficial, clear division between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular'”. Such a statement suggests that there is no clear difference between a valid, sacramental marriage and an irregular union, between venial and mortal sin.

    On the other hand, there are bishops who claim that AL ought to be read in the light of the perennial magisterium of the Church and that AL does not permit access to communion for divorced and remarried couples, not even in exceptional cases. This statement is fundamentally correct and desirable. In fact, the content of every Magisterial text must, as a rule, be in its content consistent with the former teachings of the Magisterium of the Church, without any break.

    It is no secret, however, that divorced and remarried couples are admitted to Holy Communion in a number of churches, without their being required to practice continence. It must be admitted that certain statements in AL could be used to justify an abusive practice that has already been going on for some time in various places and circumstances in the life of the Church.

    Certain statements of AL are objectively vulnerable to misinterpretations

    Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has invited us all to make a contribution to reflection and dialogue on the sensitive issues surrounding marriage and the family. “The thinking of pastors and theologians, if faithful to the Church, honest, realistic and creative, will help us to achieve greater clarity” (AL, 2).

    If we analyze certain statements of AL with intellectual honesty within their proper context, we find ourselves faced with difficulties when trying to interpret them in accordance with the traditional doctrine of the Church. This is due to the absence of the concrete and explicit affirmation of the doctrine and constant practice of the Church, founded on the Word of God and reiterated by Pope John Paul II, who said, “However the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who … are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that … they take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples” (Familiaris Consortio, 84).

    Pope Francis had not established “a new general norm of Canon Law, applicable to all cases” (AL n. 300). He says, however, in note 336: “This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists”. Obviously referring to the divorced and remarried, the Pope says in AL, no. 305 that, “because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.” In note 351, the Pope clarifies his statement by saying that “in some cases, this may include the help of the sacraments”.

    In the same chapter VIII of AL, n. 298, the Pope speaks of the divorced involved in “a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate””. In note 329, the Pope cites the document Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council; unfortunately, he does so in an incorrect fashion, because in the passage in question, the council refers only to valid Christian marriage. The application of this statement to divorced persons may cause the impression that a valid marriage is to be equated to the union of divorced persons, if not in theory, then in practice.

    The admission of divorced and remarried persons to Holy Communion and its consequences

    Unfortunately, AL contains no verbal quotes of the principles underlying the moral teaching of the Church in the form in which they are formulated in no. 84 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio and in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor of Pope John Paul II, particularly on the following topics of paramount importance: “fundamental choice” (Veritatis splendor, nos. 67-68), “mortal and venial sin” (ibid., n. 69-70), “proportionalism, consequentialism” (ibid., no. 75), “martyrdom and universal and unchanging moral norms” (ibid., no. 91 et seq.). However, a verbal quote from Familiaris Consortio n. 84 and of some of the most significant affirmations in Veritatis splendor would render AL unassailable by heterodox interpretations. General allusions to moral principles and to the doctrine of the Church are certainly insufficient in a controversial matter that is both sensitive and of fundamental importance.

    Representatives of the clergy and even of the Episcopate are already affirming that according to the spirit of Chapter VIII of AL, the possibility that in exceptional cases, the divorced and remarried may be admitted to Holy Communion without being required to live in perfect continence cannot be excluded.

    If we accept such an interpretation of the wording and spirit of AL, we must, if we want to be intellectually honest and respect the law of non-contradiction, also accept the following logical conclusions:

    • The sixth Divine Commandment, which prohibits any sexual act that does not take place within a valid marriage, would no longer be universally valid, but would admit exceptions. In the present case, this would mean that the divorced could practice the conjugal act and even be encouraged to do so to help them maintain “mutual fidelity”, cf. AL, 298. There could therefore be “fidelity” in a lifestyle that directly contradicts the express will of God. However, to encourage and legitimize acts that are and will always be, as such, contrary to the will of God, would mean to contradict Divine Revelation.

    • The words of Christ himself: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt 19:6) would no longer apply always and to all spouses, without exception.

    • It would be possible, in a special case, to receive the sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion while intending to continue one’s direct violations of God’s commandments: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex 20, 14) and “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt 19, 6; Gen 2, 24).

    • The observance of these commandments and of the word of God would, in such a case, be a matter of theory rather than of practice, and would, therefore, lead the divorced and remarried into “deceiving themselves” (James 1:22). It would, therefore, be possible to believe perfectly in the divine nature of the sixth Commandment and in the indissolubility of marriage without however acting accordingly.

    • The divine word of Christ: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if a wife divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mark 10, 12) would no longer be universally valid, but would be subject to exceptions.

    • A permanent, deliberate and free violation of God’s sixth Commandment and of the sacredness and indissolubility of true and valid marriage (in the case of divorced and remarried couples) would no longer be always a grave sin, that is to say, a direct opposition to the will of God.

    • There could be cases of serious, permanent deliberate and free violation of one of the other commandments of God (e.g. in the case of a lifestyle of financial corruption) in which the person concerned could be granted access to the sacraments due to mitigating circumstances, without such access being made contingent upon a sincere resolution henceforth to abstain from such acts of sin and scandal.

    • The permanent and infallible teaching of the Church would no longer be universally valid, particularly the teaching confirmed by Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, n. 84 and by Pope Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis, 29, according to which the precondition for admission to the sacraments of the divorced and remarried is perfect continence.

    • The observance of the sixth Commandment of God and of the indissolubility of marriage would become an ideal that is not attainable by all, but only by a kind of elite.

    • The uncompromising words of Christ commanding men to observe the commandments of God always and in all circumstances, and even to take upon themselves considerable suffering in order to do so, in other words, to accept the Cross, would no longer be valid as absolute truth: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that youlose one of your members than that your whole body be cast into hell” (Mt 5, 30).

    Admitting couples living in “irregular unions” to Holy Communion and allowing them to practice acts that are reserved for spouses in a valid marriage would be tantamount to the usurpation of a power that does not belong to any human authority, because to do so would be a pretension to correct the Word of God himself.

    The danger of the Church’s collaboration in spreading the “plague of divorce”

    Professing the eternal doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church teaches: “The Church, since she is faithful to her Lord, cannot recognize the union of people who are civilly divorced and remarried. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12). The Church manifests an attentive solicitude toward such people and encourages them to a life of faith, prayer, works of charity and the Christian education of their children. However, they cannot receive sacramental absolution, take Holy Communion, or exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities as long as their situation, which objectively contravenes God’s law, persists” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 349)

    Living in an invalid marital union and constantly contradicting the commandment of God and the sacredness and indissolubility of marriage signifies not to live in the truth. To declare that the deliberate, free and habitual practice of sexual acts in an invalid marital union could, in individual cases, no longer constitute a grave sin is not the truth, but a serious lie, and will therefore never bring genuine joy in love. Consequently, to grant permission to such persons to receive Holy Communion would be a bluffing, a hypocrisy and a lie. The Word of God in Scripture is still valid: “He who says ‘I know him’, but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him”(1 John 2: 4).

    The Magisterium of the Church teaches us about the universal validity of the Ten Commandments: “Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2072). Those who claimed that God’s commandments, including the commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery” admit of exceptions and that, in some cases, people should not be held accountable for the fault of divorce were the Pharisees and, later, the Christian Gnostics of the second and third centuries.

    The following statements of the Magisterium are still valid because they are part of the infallible Magisterium as expressed by the universal and ordinary Magisterium: “The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception. … are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response. … The Church has always taught that one may never choose kinds of behaviour prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments. As we have seen, Jesus himself reaffirms that these prohibitions allow no exceptions: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments… You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness” (Mt 19:17-18)” (St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, 52).

    The Magisterium of the Church teaches us even more clearly: “A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time “from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith” (1 Tim 1: 5; cf. 3: 9; 2 Timothy 1: 3; 1 Peter 3 21; Acts 24, 16)” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1794).

    In the event of a person committing objectively sinful moral acts in full awareness of the sinfulness of such acts, freely and deliberately, and with the intention of repeating such acts in the future, it is impossible to apply the principle of imputability for a fault because of mitigating circumstances. The application of the principle of imputability to such divorced and remarried couples would constitute hypocrisy and a Gnostic sophism. If the Church were to admit such people to Holy Communion even in a single case, it would contradict its own doctrine, give public testimony against the indissolubility of marriage and thus contribute to the spreading of the “plague of divorce” (II Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 47).

    In order to avoid such an intolerable and scandalous contradiction, the Church, in its infallible interpretation of the divine truth of moral law and of the indissolubility of marriage, has, for two thousand years, steadfastly observed the practice of admitting to Holy Communion only those divorced who live in perfect continence and “remoto scandalo”, without any exception or exceptional privilege.

    The first pastoral task that the Lord entrusted to His Church was to teaching, the doctrine (cf. Mt 28, 20). The observance of the commandments of God is intrinsically linked to doctrine. For this reason the Church has always rejected any contradiction between doctrine and practical life, referring to such contradictions as “gnostic” or as the heretical Lutheran theory of “simul iustus and peccator”. There should be no contradictions between the faith and the daily life of the children of the Church.

    When dealing with the observance of the express commands of God and the indissolubility of marriage, we cannot speak of opposing theological interpretations. If God says, “thou shalt not commit adultery”, no human authority could say “in some exceptional cases or for a good purpose you can commit adultery”.

    The following assertions of Pope Francis are very important; the Pope speaks about the integration of the divorced and remarried in the life of the Church: “This discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church. … The following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching. … There can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard” (AL, 300). These laudable statements in AL, however, remain without concrete specifications on the question of the obligation of the divorced and remarried to separate or at least to live in perfect continence.

    When it is a question of the life or death of the body, no physician would express his opinions in an ambiguous manner. The doctor cannot tell the patient: “You have to decide whether or not to take the medicine in accordance with your conscience, while at the same time respecting the laws of medicine”. Such behaviour on the part of a doctor would very likely be considered irresponsible. And yet, the life of our immortal soul is more important, since it is on the health of the soul that its fate for eternity depends.

    The liberating truth of penance and of the mystery of the Cross

    To say that remarried divorcees are not public sinners in the Church is a pretence of wrong facts. The true condition of all members of the Church militant on earth, moreover, is that of sinners. If the divorced and remarried say that their voluntary and deliberate acts against the sixth commandment of God are not always sinful or, at least, do not constitute major sins, they are deceiving themselves and the truth will not be in them, as St. John says: “If we say,’We have no sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, ‘We have not sinned,’ we make him a liar, and his word is not in us”(1 John 1: 8-10).

    The acceptance on the part of the divorced and remarried of the truth that they are sinners and even public sinners will not deprive them of their Christian hope. Only the acceptance of reality and truth will enable them to take the path of a fruitful penitence according to the words of Jesus Christ.

    It would be very beneficial to restore the spirit of the early Christians and of the time of the Fathers of the Church, when there was a living solidarity with public sinners on the part of the faithful; however, this solidarity was based on the truth. There was nothing discriminatory in such solidarity; on the contrary, the whole Church participated in the penitential progress of public sinners by prayers of intercession, tears, acts of expiation and acts of charity for their benefit.

    The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio teaches that “even those who have strayed from the Lord’s command and are still living in this state (divorced and remarried) may obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, if they persevere in prayer, penance and charity “(n. 84).

    During the first centuries, public sinners were integrated into the praying community of the faithful and were instructed to kneel, with arms raised, to implore the intercession of their brothers. Tertullian gives us this moving testimony: “The body cannot rejoice when one of its members is suffering. It must suffer and strive for recovery in its entirety. When you stretch out your hands towards the knees of your brothers, it is Christ that you touch, it is Christ that you implore. Similarly, when they weep over you, it is Christ who sympathizes” (De paenitentia, 10, 5-6). St. Ambrose of Milan found similar words: “The whole church took upon herself the burden of the public sinner, suffering with him through tears, prayers and pain” (De paenitentia 1, 81).

    It is true, of course, that the forms of the penitential discipline of the Church have changed. However, the spirit of this discipline must remain alive in the Church at all times. Today, priests and bishops relying on certain statements of AL are beginning to imply to the divorced and remarried that their condition does not render them public sinners from an objective point of view. They tranquillize them by stating that their sexual relations are not a grave sin. Such an attitude does not correspond to the truth. They are depriving the divorced and remarried of the possibility of a radical conversion to the obedience of God, letting these souls live in an illusion. Such a pastoral approach is very easy, cheap and costs nothing. There are no tears, prayers and intercessory works inspired by brotherly love to be offered for the benefit of the divorced and remarried.

    In admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, even in exceptional cases, without asking them to stop performing acts contrary to the sixth commandment of God, and also presumptuously declaring that their manner of life is not a serious sin, we take the easy way out by pushing aside the scandal of the cross. Such pastoral care of the divorced and remarried is ephemeral and misleading. To all those who advocate this cheap and easy way out for the divorced and remarried, Jesus is still addressing the words, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan! Thou art an offence unto me because your thoughts are not those of God, but of men!’ What Jesus said to his disciples was that “If anyone would be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16: 24-25).

    Regarding the pastoral care of divorced and remarried couples, we must rekindle in our day the spirit of following Christ through the truth of the cross and of penance, which alone can bring lasting joy, avoiding ephemeral pleasures that are ultimately misleading. The following words of Pope Gregory the Great are not only truly applicable to our current situation, but also shine a bright light on it: “We must not become too attached to our earthly exile, the conveniences of this life must not make us forget our true homeland lest our spirit become drowsy in the midst of these amenities. For this reason, God combines his gifts with visitations or punishments, to ensure that everything that delights us in this world becomes bitter for us and the soul is filled with the fire that always rekindles in us the desire of heavenly things and enables us to progress. This fire makes us suffer with pleasure, crucifies us gently and fills us with a joyful sadness” (In Hez., 2, 4, 3).

    The spirit of the genuine penitential discipline of the early Church always remained alive in the Church at all times, until today. We have a shining example of it in the Blessed Laura Vicuna del Carmen, born in 1891 in Chile. Sister Azocar, who took care of Laura, recalled: “I remember that the first time I explained the sacrament of marriage, Laura fainted, probably because she understood from my words that her mother was living in mortal sin as long as she remained with that gentleman. During that time in Junín, only one family lived in accordance with God’s will.” Therefore, Laura multiplied her prayers and penances for her mother. She received her first communion on June 2, 1901 with great fervour; she wrote the following resolutions: “1. I want to love and serve you all my life, oh my Jesus; for this, I offer you my soul, my heart and my whole being. – 2. I prefer to die rather than offend you by sin; so I want to distance myself from anything that could separate me from you. – 3. I promise to do my best, even if I have to offer great sacrifices, that you may be ever more known and loved, and to repair the offences inflicted upon you daily by men who do not love you, especially the ones you receive from those who are close to me. – Oh, my God, grant me a life of love, mortification and sacrifice!” But her great joy was clouded by seeing her mother, present at the ceremony, not receiving communion. In 1902, Laura offered her life for her mother who was living with a man in an irregular union in Argentina. Laura multiplied her prayers and sacrifices for the true conversion of her mother. A few hours before she died, she called her mother to her bedside and said to her, “Mother, I am going to die. I have asked Jesus for this and my prayers have been heard. Almost two years ago, I offered my life for the grace of your conversion. Mother, will I not have the joy of seeing you repent before I die?” Her mother, shocked and overwhelmed, made the promise: “Tomorrow morning I will go to the church and I will go to confession.” Laura caught the eye of the priest attending her and said: “Father, my mother has just promised to abandon this man; bear witness to her promise!” Then she added: “Now I can die happy!” With these words, she expired on 22 January 1904 in Junin de los Andes (Argentina), at the age of 13, in the arms of her mother, who rediscovered her faith and put an end to the irregular union in which she had been living.

    The admirable example of the life of the young girl now known as Blessed Laura is a demonstration of the seriousness with which a true Catholic treats the sixth commandment of God and the sacredness and indissolubility of marriage. Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to avoid even the appearance of approving an irregular or adulterous union. The Church has always faithfully preserved and transmitted this divine command in its doctrine and practice, without any ambiguity. With the offering of her young life, Blessed Laura certainly did not intend to represent one of several possible different doctrinal or pastoral interpretations. One does not offer one’s life for a possible doctrinal or pastoral interpretation, but for an immutable and universally valid Divine truth. This truth has been demonstrated by a large number of saints who offered their lives, beginning with Saint John the Baptist to the simple faithful today whose name only God knows.

    The need for “Veritatis laetitia”

    Fortunately, there can be no doubt that AL contains theological affirmations, as well as spiritual and pastoral guidelines of great value. However, realistically speaking, it is insufficient to say that AL should be interpreted according to the traditional doctrine and practice of the Church. If an ecclesiastical document – which, in our case, is neither definitive nor infallible – is found to contain elements likely to give rise to interpretations and applications that could have dangerous spiritual consequences, all members of the Church, and especially the bishops, as the fraternal collaborators of the Supreme Pontiff in effective collegiality, have a duty to report this and respectfully request an authentic interpretation.

    In questions concerning Divine Faith, the Divine commandments and the sacredness and indissolubility of marriage, all members of the Church, from the simple faithful to the highest representative of the Magisterium, must join in the effort to keep intact the treasure of faith and practice. In fact, it was the Second Vatican Council that taught: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One (cf. 1 Jn 2: 20.27), cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (St. Augustine, De Praed. Sanct. 14 27), they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God (cf. 1 Thess 2: 13). Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints (cf. Jude 3) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life” (Lumen gentium, 12). The Magisterium, for its part, is “not above the Word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been transmitted” (II Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, 10).

    It was the Second Vatican Council that encouraged all the faithful and especially the bishops to express their concerns and observations without fear, for the good of the Church as a whole. Servility and political correctness have introduced a pernicious evil into the life of the Church. The famous bishop and theologian of the Council of Trent, Melchior Cano O.P., said these memorable words: “Peter does not need our lies or flattery. Those who close their eyes to the facts and indiscriminately defend every decision of the Supreme Pontiff are those who contribute most to undermining the authority of the Holy See. They destroy its foundations instead of strengthening them.”

    Our Lord has taught us clearly what constitutes true love and the true joy of love: “He that has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me” (John 14, 21). When he gave man the sixth commandment and ordered him to observe the indissolubility of marriage, God gave it to all men without exception, not just to an elite. Already in the Old Testament, God said: “This commandment which I have given you today is certainly not beyond your strength and reach” (Deuteronomy 30, 11) and “If you want to, you shall keep the commandments to remain faithful to his will” (Ecclesiasticus 15, 15). And Jesus said to all, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Which commandments? And Jesus answered, thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery” (Mt 19: 17-18). From the teaching of the apostles, we have received the same doctrine: “For to love God is to keep His commandments. And His commandments do not weigh heavily upon us” (1 John 5: 4).

    There is no true, supernatural and eternal life without keeping the commandments of God: “I command you to observe his commandments. I have set before you life and death. Choose life!” (Deuteronomy 30, 16.19). There is therefore no real life and no real, genuine joy of love without truth. “Love consists in living according to his commandments” (2 John 6). The joy of love is the joy of the truth. The authentically Christian life consists in the life and in the joy of truth: “Learning that my children live in the truth, there is nothing that brings me greater joy” (3 John 4).

    St. Augustine explains the intimate connection between joy and truth: “I ask them all whether they do not prefer the joy of truth to that obtained by lies. And they do not hesitate over this question any more than over the question of happiness. For the happy life is the joy of the truth, we all want the joy of the truth” (Confessions, X, 23).

    The danger of general confusion with regard to the indissolubility of marriage

    For some time already, we have seen, in some places and environments of the life of the Church, the tacit abuse of the admission of divorced and remarried couples to Holy Communion without requiring them to live in perfect continence. The unclear statements in Chapter VIII of AL have given a new dynamism to the declared advocates of the admission of divorced and remarried couples to Holy Communion in special cases.

    We now observe the phenomenon of the abuse beginning to spread even more in practice, since those in favour of it are now feeling justified to some extent. There is also obviously some confusion with respect to the interpretation of the relevant assertions in Chapter VIII of the AL. This confusion is increased by the fact that everyone, both supporters of the admission of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion and their opponents, are saying that “The doctrine of the Church concerning this issue has not changed”.

    Taking due account of historical and doctrinal differences, our situation shows some parallels and analogies with the general confusion caused by the Arian crisis in the 4th century. At that time, the apostolic and traditional faith in the true divinity of the Son of God was secured by means of the term “consubstantial” (“homoousios”), dogmatically proclaimed by the universal Magisterium of the Council of Nicaea I. The profound crisis of faith, accompanied by an almost universal confusion, was caused mainly by the refusal or avoidance strategies to use and profess the word “consubstantial” (“homoousios”). Instead, the clergy and mainly the episcopate began to propose alternative expressions that were ambiguous and imprecise, such as, for instance, “similar in substance” (“homoiousios”) or simply “similar” (“homoios”). The formula “homoousios” adopted by the universal Magisterium of that time expressed the full and true divinity of the WORD with so much precision that it left no space for equivocal interpretation.

    In the years 357-360, almost the entire episcopate had become Arian or Semi-Arian as a result of the following events: in 357, Pope Liberius signed one of the ambiguous formulations of Sirmium, in which the term “homoousios” was eliminated. Furthermore, the pope, in a scandalous move, excommunicated St. Athanasius. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the only bishop who dared to rebuke Pope Liberius severely for these ambiguous acts. In 359, the parallel synods of the Western episcopate in Rimini and that of the Eastern episcopate in Seuleukia had accepted fully Arian formulas that were even worse than the ambiguous formula signed by Pope Liberius. Describing the confusion of those times, St. Jerome said: “Everyone was surprised to realize that they had become Arians” (“Ingemuit totus orbis, et arianum se esse miratus est”: Adv Lucif, 19).

    Arguably, in our time, confusion is already spreading with regard to the sacramental discipline for divorced and remarried couples. There is therefore a very real basis for the assumption that the confusion may reach truly vast proportions, if one fail to propose and proclaim the following formula of the universal and infallible Magisterium: “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples” (S. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 84). This formula is unfortunately and incomprehensibly missing in AL. However, the apostolic exhortation inexplicably contains the following statement: “In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” (AL, 298, n. 329). Such a statement leaves the impression of a contradiction with regard to the perennial teaching of the universal Magisterium, as formulated in the cited passage from Familiaris Consortio 84.

    There is an urgent necessity for the Holy See to confirm and re-proclaim the cited formula of Familiaris Consortio 84, perhaps in the form of an authentic interpretation of AL. This formula may be seen, to some extent, the “homoousios” of our days. The lack of such a formal and explicit confirmation of the formula of Familiaris Consortio 84 from the Apostolic See could contribute to major confusion with regard to sacramental discipline, with the subsequent gradual and inevitable repercussions on doctrinal questions. This would lead to a situation to which it would be possible, in the future, to apply the following statement: “Everyone was surprised to find that divorce had been accepted in practice” (“Ingemuit totus orbis, et divortium in praxi se accepisse miratus est”).

    Confusion in sacramental discipline with regard to divorced and remarried couples, with its inevitable doctrinal implications, would contradict the nature of the Catholic Church, such as it was described by St. Irenaeus in the second century: “The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered around the world, keeps them carefully as though inhabiting a single house, and she believes in an identical manner, as though she had only one soul and one heart, and she preaches, teaches and transmits in a unanimous voice, as though having only one mouth” (Adversus haereses, I, 10, 2).

    The See of Peter, that is, the sovereign Pontiff, is the guarantor of the unity of the faith and of apostolic sacramental discipline. Considering the confusion regarding sacramental practice in respect of the divorced and remarried, and the many differing interpretations of AL amongst priests and bishops, one may consider justified the call on our beloved Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, the “sweet Christ on earth” (St. Catherine of Siena), to order the publication of an authentic interpretation of AL, which must necessarily contain the explicit proclamation of the disciplinary principle of the universal and infallible Magisterium concerning the admission of divorced and remarried couples to the sacraments, according to the formulation in Familiaris Consortio 84.

    In the great Arian confusion of the 4th century, St. Basil the Great made an urgent appeal to the pope of Rome, asking him to give though his word a clear direction, so as finally to ensure unity in the thought of faith and charity (cf.. Ep. 70).

    An authentic interpretation of AL by the Apostolic See would bring to the entire Church (“claritatis laetitia”) the joy in clarity. Such clarity will ensure the joy in love (“amoris laetitia”), a love and a joy that would not be “according to the minds of men, but to the mind of God” (Mt 16, 23). And this is what counts for the joy, the life and the eternal salvation of the divorced and remarried, and of all men.

    + Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan

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  • Bishop Athanasius Schneider on Evangelization, Zika, Freemasonry, the Orthodox & More!

    This interview was before the publication of the Pope's recent document. We publish it in full, as it is well worth being read by everyone whether Christian or not.

    Interview with Daniel Blackman in London, UK during March 2016:

    The well-known and much respected auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, Athanasius Schneider, has given a wide-ranging and hard-hitting interview during his week-long tour of England.

    Bishop Schneider spoke exclusively to me, taking on a number of controversial issues, including evangelization in relation to Jews and Muslims, the Pope’s recent comment on the Zika virus and contraception, Freemasonry within the hierarchy, and opening up about why refuses to let fear stop him from teaching all the truths of the Catholic Faith.

    Bishop Schneider’s week-long trip, organised by the founder and editor of Ireland’s Catholic Voice newspaper, Anthony Murphy, included several Holy Masses, clergy retreats and talks at the Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate, and the thriving shrines entrusted to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in New Brighton, and the Fraternity of St. Peter in Warrington. The bishop also stopped off at the Oxford Oratory.

    The following is a transcript of our interview.

    Daniel Blackman: You’ve been to England several times now. What do you like about coming here, and what’s distinct about the Catholics you meet here?

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider: It is wonderful to meet the young clergy, and laity, including young people, it is encouraging for me, I think they are continuing to hand over the noble traditions of the English Catholics which were known throughout the whole world. They were persecuted, and gave up their lives for the Catholic faith.

    So I think the situation today in the Church with this deep crisis, is met with good Catholic lay people and priests, especially here in England, as in those times of martyrs, confessors, and priests too, it is encouraging that English Catholics are faithful to their noble Catholic heritage.

    DB: Tell me about your prayer life? What devotions are special to you?

    BAS: Since my youth I have had a deep devotion to the holy Eucharist, especially adoration of Eucharist. I do it every day if I can. I consider it indispensable for the life of the Catholic priest. Of course we have the Holy Mass, which is the greatest thing each day, so I prepare very well, and we pray the breviary. Every priest, when possible, has to strive to make adoration every day. To be in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, to keep with him in this intimate dialogue, it is a need, I like it.

    DB: Within the Church there is a long history of Jewish converts to the Faith – Alphonse Ratisbonne, St Edith stein, WWII Chief Rabbi of Rome Eugenio Zolli, and more recently former Orthodox rabbi Jean-Marie Eli Satbon. Yet a recent document from the Commission for Interreligious Relations with the Jews, says the Church has no formal organised mission to convert the Jews (par 40-49). Is that now true? Is this a correction of previous teaching and practice?

    BAS: This is truly wrong. It contradicts the words of Our Lord who said “Go and teach all people,” he did not say “all people except the Jewish people,” he said all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that If you don’t believe in me you won’t have life. He told this to the Jews also, and he continues to say this to the Jews of our days. They too need to be obedient to God’s covenant which Jesus instituted. Therefore the apostles preached to the Jews in the synagogue.

    For 2000 years the Church has always prayed for the conversion of the Jews. This is an act of mercy and love. The church invites and encouraged the Jews to come to Christ. There were converts, even saints who were Jewish converts. Alphonse Ratisbonne founded a religious congregation to evangelize the Jewish people. So it is for me ever valid, and no Church document can invalidate this because it contradicts the words of Our Lord, it contradicts the Apostles, and all the unchangeable and permanent words of the Church for over 2000 years.

    DB: This document has come from within the Church, from an official body in the Vatican, how is it possible?

    BAS: This is very sad. This document has no infallible value and has no intention of being infallible, it is not an authentic expression of the Magisterium. There were in the history of the Church some documents of a pastoral character that had a temporal nature and contained errors, and this document contains errors. What is not infallible can be erroneous. I repeat, the Church has always taught only those statements which are taught ex Cathedra or taught by the Universal Magisterium – pope and bishops teaching for a long time, many centuries. The mentioned document however contains a new doctrine, an opinion, a theory.

    DB: The English & Welsh and German bishops’ conferences have called for traditional rite Good Friday prayer for the Jews to be changed, to bring it into line with current inter-religious practice with the Jews. Would this be a good thing? Is there something wrong with the current prayer?

    BAS: I don’t know what they want, but we have to see the truth. It’s against the charity and love against the Jews. When I love them I want them to know and love Jesus that they may be washed and cleansed by the most precious blood of Jesus, and know the most Holy Trinity. Therefore I have to pray for their conversion. I am questioning it, the German and English bishops, they are not the totality of the bishops. There are surely, I know bishops, who do not agree with this. I do not consider this opinion correct, it is invasive. It’s the administrative nomenclature which claims to represent all the bishops of a nation. This method of functioning of the bishops conference is itself very problematic, it is acting against the divine structure of the Church.

    DB: You live in a country that is about 70% Muslim. What is your experience of living in a Muslim majority country? Is there cooperation or conflict? Do Muslims become Catholics?

    BAS: Thanks be to God there is peace and harmony, the people are very tolerant, and there is no hostility. There has not been extremism in the mentality and culture of the people, and the government is very active in supporting inter-religious dialogue. They are very vigilant to avoid, and even expel from the country, those who are extremist.

    The government organises meetings to share common values for society, there is nothing theological about these meetings, but only to make a contribution to improve the social life of the people, which I consider very positive. For example, in this current world-wide gender ideology which is now imposed on a world wide scale with dictatorial methods, thanks be to God, the Muslims share the same view on this issue. Together we condemn the gender agenda, and influences that are against the family.

    DB: Does the Catholic Church have a mission to Muslims?

    BAS: It is also our duty yes, they are redeemed by Christ, and they have to know Christ the same as the Jews do. But of course it is difficult to evangelise the Muslims in Islamic countries. It is very dangerous. But at least we can give, in those countries, our witness and presence. I have experiences of people with a Muslim background who start to seek Christ and ask for the truth, so I have witnessed conversion among my personal contacts. Since we have liberty and freedom, and since we are not yet in Islamic majority countries in Europe, not yet I say, as it can come, but since not yet, we can use and should use the mission to our Islamic neighbours, not proselytism which is not morally correct, but to evangelise.

    DB: Europe has suffered several Islamic terrorist attacks –Paris, serious concerns in Belgium, and also the Middles East, parts of Africa, and Pakistan, among others. Why is this happening?

    BAS: Well I don’t’ know exactly how ISIS arose, but we can see that it would be impossible for ISIS to have so many weapons and arms if they were not financed and supported by someone strong. They are doing business in arms on such a scale that it is not possible without a powerful state who gives, maybe through intermediaries, the finance and weapons they need.

    Another point I would like to make is this – the international community – US, NATO – have enough power to finish off ISIS, and they could have done it in the beginning. They have good, very good, secret services that already knew about the rise of ISIS, but they have done nothing. The EU, NATO, USA, have done nothing, yet they had the knowledge. They did not prevent ISIS. They have enough power, yet they allowed the ISIS terrorist movement.

    DB: Why do you think that might be?

    BAS: I don’t know their intentions, the intentions of the powerful of our world, the Western states. I don’t know why they didn’t prevent it. You can say that indirectly, they supported it. It could be that they have political aims. Through ISIS, they have programmed to bring about the invasion of many Muslim people to Europe, to bring about a destabilization, even in the heart of Europe, not just the Middle East. Such a huge presence of people from another culture, with a more radical view of Islamic religion, will cause conflicts, with time, and tensions with the local population. It is and will cause a general instability and confusion. Maybe someone who is powerful would like to use this instability for a purpose.

    DB: The Church has a long history, over a number of centuries, of denouncing Freemasonry. However, the new code of canon law has removed any reference to masonry, and we no long longer see documents or hear anything from Church leaders about this. It can give the impression Masonry is no longer a danger. The Masonic lodges have also warmly welcomed Pope Francis.

    BAS: Freemasonry is in itself intrinsically not compatible with Christian or Catholic faith, it is intrinsically not compatible, because the nature of freemasonry is anti-Christian. They deny Christ, and they deny the objective truths, they promote relativism, which is contrary to the truth, to the Gospel. So they promote the doctrinal errors of the Masonic philosophy. This is incompatible with Christian and Catholic faith.

    Freemasonry has also an esoteric aspect, which is not Christian. They have rituals and ceremonies which are esoteric, which they openly admit, and such ceremonials are contrary to the faith. Their symbols and rituals demonstrate that they are against the divine truths in the Gospel – these things transmit show that Freemasonry is another religion. I repeat, freemasonry is another religion, it is an anti-Christ religion.

    Even when they do good works, philanthropy and so forth, these dangerous things remain. Their philanthropy is not a justification that we can accept freemasonry, just because of their good philanthropic work. I will never recognise their doctrines and rituals which are against the Divine truths of the Gospel. The Church can never accept this. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1983 declaration on freemasonry is still valid. According to this Declaration it is a mortal sin to become a freemason – even pope Francis has not changed this law. This teaching is official and still valid.

    DB: Masonic websites and publications regularly speak favorably about Pope Francis. Recently, Why do they welcome Pope Francis?

    BAS: Well, they have to tell us, concretely. It is not a clear sign what they want to do with their affirmations, what their intentions are.

    DB: In 2013 on his return flight from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis made reference to a Masonic lobby. Recently, Cardinal Ravasi, in the Italian paper Il Sole 24 Ore, called for new dialogue and shared values with Freemasonry. Has Masonry won in the Church?

    BAS: Of course we know that Freemasonry is one of the most powerful influences at all levels of human society. This is manifest and clear. Theoretically, when one is a supporter, a leader in a very influential anti-Christian organisation, there is the tendency to infiltrate the organisation which is your enemy, it is very logical. So it is logical, over many centuries, that they would have tried and probably succeeded to infiltrate themselves into various levels of the Church – this is clear to me.

    It is difficult to demonstrate concretely, to identify, who is a member. It is very difficult and dangerous, because someone may be accused of being a member, then it is proved the person is not a formally a member. It’s because of the secrecy and esotericism of Freemasonry that makes it very difficult.

    One can assume that a cleric, a priest, bishop, or cardinal, has some connections with the masons by his speech. We hear clerics speaking like Freemasons, clearly, when they open their mouths, they use terms and concepts that are typically masonic. He could be a member, but you have to prove it, but at least when he speaks he has the spirit of the Freemason, maybe he is not a formal member, but some bishops and cardinals speak clearly with a Masonic spirit. I stress this does not mean they are formally members of the Freemasons.

    DB: Pope Francis has just met the Orthodox Patriarch of Russia. What is your view about the meeting? Will it bring about unity with Rome, or lead to a synodal Church which allows Holy Communion for the remarried?

    BAS: Firstly, the meeting itself is a cause for joy, that it took place, because the Orthodox are a strong Church with beautiful and authentic traditions, images, devotion to Our Lady, angels, devout liturgies, Holy Mass celebrating in a beautiful manner, penance, fasting, monastic traditions, they have so many true Catholic values they have kept.

    It seems to me that this meeting was conditioned politically, it was very quickly made, more politically motivated. And, I don’t think that this meeting will have an impact on the Church becoming synodal, or make it easy for the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion as they allow in the Orthodox Church.

    I agree with the strong statements of the pope and patriarch on the family, and against gender ideology, and against persecution of the Christians, but what I don’t agree with is the statement on the Uniates, this is an injustice, because the Uniates wanted to be united to the pope in the past, since the Council of Florence in the 15th century. It was very positive with many fruits – saints, martyrs, so we can’t say it was wrong.

    Also, the statement on proselytism, it was an accusation against the Catholic Church. I am living in an orthodox area and the Church does not do proselytism – this statement was unjust. And so I think the Holy See has ceded to the pressure of the patriarch. It seems the Orthodox dictated some points to accept, and this is against truth and against justice, such a dialogue is not a real ecumenical dialogue. Dialogue has to be fraternal, equal on the human level, so all these compromises, which harm truth and justice will not bear fruits for real unity.

    DB: Pope Francis has again given a press interview on the plane back from Cuba. He made a comment on the Zika virus and using contraception. He cited the case of the Congo nuns, and discernment. Fr Lombardi SJ has clarified the pope’s comment. The bishops of the Philippines publicly called for a review of Church teaching in this area. Is this really a debate the Church needs to address, or manoeuvres by people inside and outside the Church who want the teaching on contraception changed?

    BAS: This is part of an agenda, clearly, to change the truths of the Church in morality, in the topic of contraception. It is all a plan, a great pressure, and an agenda in the sphere in contraception. In the Church in our days there is the danger of a practical admittance of divorce and reception of Holy Communion, it is a practical denial of the indissolubility of marriage.

    DB: Are you speaking about the reformed annulment process?

    BAS: Yes, also the reformed process of annulment of marriage, for me, contains a danger of banalisation and superficiality in the process itself; it contains in itself, in the new norms, a danger of an attack against the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. When you treat a holy thing in a superficial and quick manner, banal manner, it is irresponsible. Theoretically, the new norms are now contrary to the perennial practice of the Church, because in the process there was always the presumption of the validity of the marriage, this was always presumed, because of the defense of the sanctity of the sacrament. The new norms however presume the invalidity of the marriage from the start. This is a dangerous change in mentality.

    It is the spirit of the world attacking, and so too with contraception. The truths of the church are unchangeable and will remain so. Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II in Vertatis Splendor and Familaris Consortio have taught that contraception is in itself always intrinsically evil. There are no circumstances and no exceptions that justify an intrinsically evil act. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II confirmed this.

    DB: You speak out a lot on important issues, giving the faithful clear and true Catholic teaching. Aren’t you concerned attacks will come? You seem to be setting yourself up to be a target – bishops can be moved, media attacks are launched, reputations destroyed.

    BAS: I have no fears and no concerns, about possible transfers or attacks, because the sense of my life and all my ambition is the truths of Christ and to be faithful to God, and to be acknowledged by God, not by bishops, mass media, and even not by the pope, but first by my conscience and by my vows I gave to Christ in Baptism and Episcopal consecration, to keep the truth pure and integral, and even to be ready to give my life for it. This is my desire and my aim, I don’t worry what people will say. It is ridiculous to fear human opinion because tomorrow it changes. I have to be concerned with what God thinks. People pass away very quickly, God’s opinion remains, so I am concerned to please God first.

    I am an auxiliary bishop in a diocese, I am happy, and when the pope will transfer me, he shall do this and I shall obey, and I shall carry in every place the desire to defend the truth.

    DB: Charity is the greatest virtue. What acts of charity, spiritual and corporal, are most needed today for Christians to practice?

    BAS: First, in the hierarchy of values, what is most important is what is eternal and immortal, and this is the soul, eternal values, and eternal life. Therefore those acts of charity which aim to transmit the eternal life to my neighbor and transmit to him everlasting values, to help him save his soul, these acts are more necessary. Of course we have at the same time to help immediately a person in need, hungry and so on, to help is very natural, it has to be done. But as Catholics we are not only thinking about giving food and clothes, but we have to give also the light of the Faith, we must not to forget it. This is true, authentic love for neighbor. Love God first, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

    God asks us to love Him with all our mind, power, heart; He reserved this for himself. Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves, and to love others as He loved us. So, we have to love with the love of Christ. He came to us to save our souls, not firstly or only our body, but our souls, and to give us His divine truth. He shed His blood for the salvation of our souls.

    So we have to love each other as Christ loves us. Our main task then, is to love God, prefer God and His truth even in our temporal lives, ready to be martyrs for Christ, and love others as we love ourselves and as Christ loved us – sacrificing ourselves for the good of others.

    DB: Your Excellency, thank you for your time.

    BAS: May God bless you and your noble work for the Catholic Truth. In Jesus and Mary.

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  • The Quality of Mercy does appear to be strained

    In this Year of Mercy, there seem to be a lot of curious misunderstandings. Do people really understand what Mercy is about? It would appear not. It is certainly not about God covering up our sins and forgetting about them, neither is it about Christ effecting our redemption on the Cross and we can now do anything we want, because he has sorted everything out, nor is it about God’s Mercy without reference to sin. It is sin, Original sin that so to speak calls forth God’s mercy and shows God at his most loving, and lovable. Worse still God is made somehow accountable for the suffering in the World. As Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI said in the recently published interview he gave in the Autumn of last year to Father Jacques Servais S.J. last year; I quote;

    For the man of today, compared to those of the time of Luther and to those holding the classical perspective of the Christian faith, things are in a certain sense inverted, or rather, it is no longer man who believes he needs justification before God, but rather he is of the opinion that God is obliged to justify himself because of all the horrible things in the world and in the face of the misery of being human, all of which ultimately depend on Him.

    Many non-Christians take this view and now very many Christians and very many “educated” Catholics would take this view. The problem with this view is that it is a distortion of reality. We have all become like little Kay in Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen. We have got the splinters from the Devil’s mirror, which fell from the skies, and are now lodged in our hearts. We can no longer see clearly. Everything is distorted, confused, and there is much cynicism; the kind of cynicism which almost destroyed Kay.

    The underlying heresy is an interesting one, and I am not sure that many theologians are addressing it. It is the heresy that as the world is such a wonderful place everyone should enjoy it. This of course is a variation on the Jewish misinterpretation of the Messianic age, which we find in the confrontation between Samuel and the people who demand a king, because they want to be like other nations, namely great and powerful. Thi was taken up by Marx whose earthly paradise is the paradise to which the class struggle looks forward to, and underpins the New World Order. However this view fails to take into account one very important fact. The World is not Paradise and, though according to the Fathers of the Church, it still exists it is still closed to the Human Race. Precisely because Adam fell, the world which we inhabit can never be paradise until the coming of the New Heavens and the New Earth. We are redeemed from an eternal banishment from Heaven. This is God’s great Mercy.

    All the Commandments, the Beatitudes and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are but a pale reflection of the Mercy of Christ’s great sacrifice on the Cross. Now it is essential that we are hard headed in all this and do not stoop to the extreme sentimentality and cruel heartless sensuality of our present Western Civilization.

    God did not need to create us. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are eternally self-sufficient, and infinitely happy. They do not need us, they do not need angels or the created Universe. It is out of God’s infinitely creative love that he created angels and men. Everything is a gift, and totally undeserved, but since the fall of Satan, there has been a doubt that God should somehow be giving first the angels more, and the human beings more. God is always being confronted with an amazing and immense ingratitude, and since the 19th century there has been a determination firstly by German liberal theologians, and then sadly by Catholic liberal theologians to diminish Christ’s Divinity, the Redemption, his love, and finally his Mercy. We must face up to the fact that God owes nothing, and does not need us. It is only when we have fathomed that rather unpleasant piece of information that we can appreciate his Mercy. He comes to redeem the human race who for the most part is not remotely bothered with God’s law or his wishes. Sadly human beings simply want a good time. Few want to worship God in Spirit and Truth. They want, as St. Francis de Sales wisely notes, the consolations of God, and not the God of all consolations. Human beings do not realize that the only way to share in God’s eternal love is to follow in the footsteps of Christ, which are marked with his sacrificial blood. We cannot have his Glory without his Cross, and the way we do that is by mirroring his Mercy, that Mercy which suffered all the abuse and sin of Man throughout time, so that many might be saved for eternal happiness. When we contemplate Christ’s life and Passion, then we can understand what mercy requires, and the one thing that is not required is a comfortable life, and a life devoid of suffering or sacrifice, and it is certainly not about making marriage easy, and family life easy, it is about raising these two primordial forms of life to the heroic dimensions of the Holy Family; now that is mercy.

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  • The Woman taken in Adultery and the Curious Case of Emma Bonino

    Recently the Pope caused great pain to the Pro Life movement in Italy by praising Emma Bonino the Doyenne of Italian Radicalism, Feminism, and abortion, for her work with refugees. He described her as “a forgotten great” of Italian society. This is quite remarkable as no-one could be more radical than Emma Bonino.

    Bonino, who was born in 1948, has all the qualities of a modern Italian Revolutionary. I suppose that if we wish to understand her, we should remember that she was part of a feminist demonstration that took place in Rome on 6th December 1975 and whose slogan was “No longer wives, mothers and daughters! Let’s destroy the family!” Added to this terrible view of the family is her espousal of total libertarianism (This is not the same as Libertarianism in the U.S. which is about being faithful to the American Constitution.). Bonino was a prime instigator if not the prime instigator of the whole abortion movement in Italy and founded with Adele Faccio CISA (Centre for sterilisation and abortion). Amazingly she “personally contributed to performing 10,000 illegal abortions.”

    In 1976 Bonino became a member of the Radical Party whose founder Marco Panella is her hero. She then helped to get Tony Negri, the “ideologue of Red Terrorism” and a criminal, elected to the Italian Parliament whereby he was given immunity from the Law, such are the peculiarities of Italian Political Society. Marco Panella’s whole programme is to promote gay marriage, transgenderim, free love, the legalizing of drugs, the abolition of the armed forces, the dismantling of NATO, and the enforcement of sex education.

    The reader at this point must be asking him or herself what is the Pope doing praising such a woman, but there is worse to come in this strange tale of Emma Bonino’s rise to power. In 1995 Silivio Berlusconi appointed Emma as a European Commissioner to the EU Parliament in Brussels where her behaviour became dangerously eccentric or eccentrically dangerous. She managed to found a parliamentary group which included Le Pen’s National Front Party. Jean Marie Le Pen was nothing if not a very traditional Catholic, unlike his daughter. If this marriage of complete opposites is not enough, then the pinnacle of paradox is reached when we find that Bonino and Panella are staunch supporters of Israel.

    This fog of contradictions begins to be dispelled by the sunlight of Truth, when we realize that for Bonino the ends justifies the means. She will work with anyone if it can promote her cause. She is a true spiritual daughter (If one can use such a term) of her fellow countryman, the disastrous and destructive Machiavelli. The fog is further dispelled when we find out that the Radical Party is funded by George Soros, the U.S. financier, that foe of Christianity who wishes among other things, to decriminalize drugs. This behaviour comes from a man who is a devoted disciple of Karl Popper, and who completely misunderstands him. It is over 40 years since I read Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and its Enemies” but even as a 21 year old student I knew that Popper was against totalitarianism and had no time for Marxism and psychoanalysis which he considered ‘pseudosciences’. As George Soros and David Rockefeller advocate Globalism, which is another form of totalitarianism one can only conclude that George Soros is simply another revolutionary who wants to have a society where drugs render a vast proletariat pliant as in Brave New World. This is hardly freedom.

    Into this vast jungle of financial, sexual, and radical left wing politics the Holy Father sallies forth full of glowing zeal to help the downtrodden, and those suffering from all the problems that spring from poverty. It is as if he is asking all the wrong people for advice. Like his hero Blessed Paul VI he is somewhat a victim of the last person he meets, who often seem to inhabit a left wing world when it comes to the secular domain, and unorthodox in the realm of the religious domain. The Pope is so much a man of the sixties, that he seems unaware that he is in the second decade of the 21st century, and so his views are, very oddly, old fashioned. Unfortunately they are not old fashioned enough. They should be as old fashioned as the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, but they are as old fashioned as the 60’s and Vatican II, which in trying to update everything, meant that the Church found herself out of date, much in the way a woman,who buys a new dress which she thinks is the latest fashion, then to her horror finds that it is quite passé. This was at its truest when dealing with psychology. In the 60’s and 70’s, the Church began to be beguiled by Freud, Jung, and Carl Rogers just as people were beginning to doubt the whole Freudian world view. Just when the Church was beginning to look at the World through a Left wing prism in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Soviet Union was beginning slowly to enter its death throes. In so far as the Church becomes involved with the contemporary zeitgeist, especially when it is anti-Christian or agnostic, she ends up with something that mirrors a marriage between a Christian and a non-believer. The tension can often result in a lessening of faith, and morals.

    The problem then arises for the Holy Father, as far as I can see it, that such people as Emma Bonino, who want to help the poor, are for him people of good faith if somewhat off the rails. The problem with being off the rails is that the train will grind to a halt at best and crash at worst. The Pope soon will find at some point, in the very near future, that not only has he hitched himself to the wrong cart but large parts of the Church along with him. Hard on the heels of this problem is that the Pope comes from the most militaristic Order in the Church, namely the Jesuits. However, whereas the Jesuit Order was utterly devoted to defending the Papacy for much of its history, it has been defending, since the 60’s at the very least, a view of the Church that is fundamentally Modernist, and disastrously dominated by the ghost of Teilhard de Chardin, whose thinking is just plain nonsense, but could take in such a fine man as de Lubac who wrote a book about him.

    Having been educated by the Jesuits, whom I liked very much, you sensed that there was that almost Marxist mode of operating, which is the last thing that Church needs. You saw how the authorities could be very hard on people like the saintly Fr.Cyril Martindale, or the fine Fr. Roger Charles, and what they were like in other lands I do not know. One also gets the impression that the Pope was very much like that as the Provincial of the Jesuit Province of Argentina. It was all based on strict obedience. One also has to ask oneself, that of the over 1000 Communist agents who became priests in the Catholic Church from the 1930’s onwards, how many were Jesuits? It is patently obvious that the Pope, for all his exuberant maverick behaviour, is not as confident in his own judgment as he should be. He relies too heavily on his friends, and looking at them they seem theologically somewhat lacking to put it mildly. St. Francis de Sales said that the best spiritual directors were the dead ones, and I believe the best theologians will also be the dead ones, and like the best wines they need to be the old and mature. I think we can safely say that most of the modern theologians have been too tainted with the views of modern philosophers like Kant, Hegel, and most unfortunately Heidegger.

    The fundamental floor with most contemporary thinking is found in the fascination with Man, and Pope Francis is not the only one to suffer from this problem, even somebody as great as St. John Paul II, because of his philosophical research, seemed to be very taken up with Man. Today the rights of God The Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth, are not taken into account. The World is, in most democratic countries profoundly influenced by a left wing way of looking at things. That is why the present Conservative Government in Britain looks, certainly from the moral point of view, thoroughly left wing and libertarian. Man’s needs must be met at all costs. The problem that dominates modern Man is the Utopian/Marxian idea of an earthly paradise.

    Within the glove of liberalism fits the iron fist of tyranny. This tyranny which begins with Marxism, is in some way connected with Freudian psychology and all its offshoots, which make up modern psychotherapy, and sociology. Following on from that we find Leninism, Maoism, thought control, and even the United Nations, which is a sort of secularized cross between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire dominating Western thinking. Then finally we have the EU which really is a secularized form of the Holy Roman Empire and far less effective.

    The laudable desire to feed the World’s poor, to care for the most vulnerable, runs parallel with a Western culture that wants abortion, sterilization, contraception, and which encourages sexual depravity, the destruction of marriage, and euthanasia. To complete this peculiar spectrum we see prisons (This is not the case in the United States I might add.) in some Western Countries, namely in Scandanavia, as being purely reformatory. However rather oddly Teresa May, Britain’s Home Secretary, several years ago, began to turn the British prisons into penitentiaries. As she is a devout Anglican, that seems a most odd thing to do, as the Anglican Church at present is so liberal in everything.

    For the West Man can be perfected by education, health care and enough food. This is very much the theme of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Russian and Chinese revolutions and goodness knows what other revolutions. The problem is that all that came out of these revolutions was persecution of Christianity and Totalitarianism.

    What few can grasp is that the Church is always battling or trying to control the ruling elite that it is dealing with. Pope Francis does not appear to be an historian, which means that he cannot see that the Church is facing are far greater threat than when Hildebrand was defending the Church in the Investiture Crisis. Hildebrand, known also as Gregory VII was determined to wrest the Church from lay control, and succeeded; if there had not already been a Gregory The Great, then Hildebrand would surely merit that title.

    Today, since St. John XXIII’s election as pope, there has been a woeful tendency to think that the Church could trust the apostate Christian, or even more bizarrely the Soviet East. It is rather like Innocent III trusting the goodwill of the Albigensians after they murdered the Papal legate. So too today the mission is not to the pagans and non-believers, but to the rebellious children of either Christian parents, apostate Christian parents, or, who themselves, happen to have turned against God, or the Church. This will be true also of nearly all the Christian Churches of the West. This is admirably summed up in the Pope’s relationship with the atheist maverick co-founder of La Republica, Eugenio Scalfari, who is either quoting or misquoting the Pope. The Pope is trusting the wrong people, and needs do only one thing. He must imitate Christ with the woman taken in adultery:

    When Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? Hath no man condemned thee?

    Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: neither will I condemn thee, God and now sin no more. (John: ch.8 vv. 10 -11)

    The Pope, of course, must be compassionate to his former student and his homosexual lover, to the transgender Diego Neria Lejarraga, and his fiancé (Once again we find ourselves in “ a never, never land” of paradox.) and to others who find themselves in sinful situations, by telling them that they cannot break God’s laws, however much they feel that those laws are wrong. The clay cannot tell the potter what to do, and far too many Christians think they can disagree with God. Obviously they have not comprehended the infinite majesty and justice of God, nor have they understood that to ask for mercy, like the woman who was taken in adultery, they must in some form or fashion admit their sin. If they do not, they do not understand Mercy. God’s Mercy is Christ crucified, and that should bring us weeping to our knees at the foot of the Cross.

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  • Laetare Sunday 2016

    On this Laetare Sunday as confusion in the Church becomes greater and greater, the wonderful Bishop Athanasius Schneider makes our hearts rejoice with his sound doctrine, and wonderful witness to the truths of the Faith which he so radiantly expounds. What a gift to the Church!

    Exclusive Interview: Bishop Athanasius Schneider on Evangelization, Zika, Freemasonry, the Orthodox & More!

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    BY DANIEL BLACKMAN ON MARCH 3, 2016CATHOLIC LIFE, FEATURED, THE CHURCH

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    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    London, UK: The well-known and much respected auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, Athanasius Schneider, has given a wide-ranging and hard-hitting interview during his week-long tour of England this past week.

    Bishop Schneider spoke exclusively to me, taking on a number of controversial issues, including evangelization in relation to Jews and Muslims, the Pope’s recent comment on the Zika virus and contraception, Freemasonry within the hierarchy, and opening up about why refuses to let fear stop him from teaching all the truths of the Catholic Faith.

    Bishop Schneider’s week-long trip, organised by the founder and editor of Ireland’s Catholic Voice newspaper, Anthony Murphy, included several Holy Masses, clergy retreats and talks at the Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate, and the thriving shrines entrusted to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in New Brighton, and the Fraternity of St. Peter in Warrington. The bishop also stopped off at the Oxford Oratory.

    The following is a transcript of our interview.

    Daniel Blackman: You’ve been to England several times now. What do you like about coming here, and what’s distinct about the Catholics you meet here?

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider: It is wonderful to meet the young clergy, and laity, including young people, it is encouraging for me, I think they are continuing to hand over the noble traditions of the English Catholics which were known throughout the whole world. They were persecuted, and gave up their lives for the Catholic faith.

    So I think the situation today in the Church with this deep crisis, is met with good Catholic lay people and priests, especially here in England, as in those times of martyrs, confessors, and priests too, it is encouraging that English Catholics are faithful to their noble Catholic heritage.

    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    DB: Tell me about your prayer life? What devotions are special to you?

    BAS: Since my youth I have had a deep devotion to the holy Eucharist, especially adoration of Eucharist. I do it every day if I can. I consider it indispensable for the life of the Catholic priest. Of course we have the Holy Mass, which is the greatest thing each day, so I prepare very well, and we pray the breviary. Every priest, when possible, has to strive to make adoration every day. To be in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, to keep with him in this intimate dialogue, it is a need, I like it.

    DB: Within the Church there is a long history of Jewish converts to the Faith – Alphonse Ratisbonne, St Edith stein, WWII Chief Rabbi of Rome Eugenio Zolli, and more recently former Orthodox rabbi Jean-Marie Eli Satbon. Yet a recent document from the Commission for Interreligious Relations with the Jews, says the Church has no formal organised mission to convert the Jews (par 40-49). Is that now true? Is this a correction of previous teaching and practice?

    BAS: This is truly wrong. It contradicts the words of Our Lord who said “Go and teach all people,” he did not say “all people except the Jewish people,” he said all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that If you don’t believe in me you won’t have life. He told this to the Jews also, and he continues to say this to the Jews of our days. They too need to be obedient to God’s covenant which Jesus instituted. Therefore the apostles preached to the Jews in the synagogue.

    For 2000 years the Church has always prayed for the conversion of the Jews. This is an act of mercy and love. The church invites and encouraged the Jews to come to Christ. There were converts, even saints who were Jewish converts. Alphonse Ratisbonne founded a religious congregation to evangelize the Jewish people. So it is for me ever valid, and no Church document can invalidate this because it contradicts the words of Our Lord, it contradicts the Apostles, and all the unchangeable and permanent words of the Church for over 2000 years.

    DB: This document has come from within the Church, from an official body in the Vatican, how is it possible?

    BAS: This is very sad. This document has no infallible value and has no intention of being infallible, it is not an authentic expression of the Magisterium. There were in the history of the Church some documents of a pastoral character that had a temporal nature and contained errors, and this document contains errors. What is not infallible can be erroneous. I repeat, the Church has always taught only those statements which are taught ex Cathedra or taught by the Universal Magisterium – pope and bishops teaching for a long time, many centuries. The mentioned document however contains a new doctrine, an opinion, a theory.

    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    DB: The English & Welsh and German bishops’ conferences have called for traditional rite Good Friday prayer for the Jews to be changed, to bring it into line with current inter-religious practice with the Jews. Would this be a good thing? Is there something wrong with the current prayer?

    BAS: I don’t know what they want, but we have to see the truth. It’s against the charity and love against the Jews. When I love them I want them to know and love Jesus that they may be washed and cleansed by the most precious blood of Jesus, and know the most Holy Trinity. Therefore I have to pray for their conversion. I am questioning it, the German and English bishops, they are not the totality of the bishops. There are surely, I know bishops, who do not agree with this. I do not consider this opinion correct, it is invasive. It’s the administrative nomenclature which claims to represent all the bishops of a nation. This method of functioning of the bishops conference is itself very problematic, it is acting against the divine structure of the Church.

    DB: You live in a country that is about 70% Muslim. What is your experience of living in a Muslim majority country? Is there cooperation or conflict? Do Muslims become Catholics?

    BAS: Thanks be to God there is peace and harmony, the people are very tolerant, and there is no hostility. There has not been extremism in the mentality and culture of the people, and the government is very active in supporting inter-religious dialogue. They are very vigilant to avoid, and even expel from the country, those who are extremist.

    The government organises meetings to share common values for society, there is nothing theological about these meetings, but only to make a contribution to improve the social life of the people, which I consider very positive. For example, in this current world-wide gender ideology which is now imposed on a world wide scale with dictatorial methods, thanks be to God, the Muslims share the same view on this issue. Together we condemn the gender agenda, and influences that are against the family.

    DB: Does the Catholic Church have a mission to Muslims?

    BAS: It is also our duty yes, they are redeemed by Christ, and they have to know Christ the same as the Jews do. But of course it is difficult to evangelise the Muslims in Islamic countries. It is very dangerous. But at least we can give, in those countries, our witness and presence. I have experiences of people with a Muslim background who start to seek Christ and ask for the truth, so I have witnessed conversion among my personal contacts. Since we have liberty and freedom, and since we are not yet in Islamic majority countries in Europe, not yet I say, as it can come, but since not yet, we can use and should use the mission to our Islamic neighbours, not proselytism which is not morally correct, but to evangelise.

    DB: Europe has suffered several Islamic terrorist attacks –Paris, serious concerns in Belgium, and also the Middles East, parts of Africa, and Pakistan, among others. Why is this happening?

    BAS: Well I don’t’ know exactly how ISIS arose, but we can see that it would be impossible for ISIS to have so many weapons and arms if they were not financed and supported by someone strong. They are doing business in arms on such a scale that it is not possible without a powerful state who gives, maybe through intermediaries, the finance and weapons they need.

    Another point I would like to make is this – the international community – US, NATO – have enough power to finish off ISIS, and they could have done it in the beginning. They have good, very good, secret services that already knew about the rise of ISIS, but they have done nothing. The EU, NATO, USA, have done nothing, yet they had the knowledge. They did not prevent ISIS. They have enough power, yet they allowed the ISIS terrorist movement.

    DB: Why do you think that might be?

    BAS: I don’t know their intentions, the intentions of the powerful of our world, the Western states. I don’t know why they didn’t prevent it. You can say that indirectly, they supported it. It could be that they have political aims. Through ISIS, they have programmed to bring about the invasion of many Muslim people to Europe, to bring about a destabilization, even in the heart of Europe, not just the Middle East. Such a huge presence of people from another culture, with a more radical view of Islamic religion, will cause conflicts, with time, and tensions with the local population. It is and will cause a general instability and confusion. Maybe someone who is powerful would like to use this instability for a purpose.

    DB: The Church has a long history, over a number of centuries, of denouncing Freemasonry. However, the new code of canon law has removed any reference to masonry, and we no long longer see documents or hear anything from Church leaders about this. It can give the impression Masonry is no longer a danger. The Masonic lodges have also warmly welcomed Pope Francis.

    BAS: Freemasonry is in itself intrinsically not compatible with Christian or Catholic faith, it is intrinsically not compatible, because the nature of freemasonry is anti-Christian. They deny Christ, and they deny the objective truths, they promote relativism, which is contrary to the truth, to the Gospel. So they promote the doctrinal errors of the Masonic philosophy. This is incompatible with Christian and Catholic faith.

    Freemasonry has also an esoteric aspect, which is not Christian. They have rituals and ceremonies which are esoteric, which they openly admit, and such ceremonials are contrary to the faith. Their symbols and rituals demonstrate that they are against the divine truths in the Gospel – these things transmit show that Freemasonry is another religion. I repeat, freemasonry is another religion, it is an anti-Christ religion.

    Even when they do good works, philanthropy and so forth, these dangerous things remain. Their philanthropy is not a justification that we can accept freemasonry, just because of their good philanthropic work. I will never recognise their doctrines and rituals which are against the Divine truths of the Gospel. The Church can never accept this. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1983 declaration on freemasonry is still valid. According to this Declaration it is a mortal sin to become a freemason – even pope Francis has not changed this law. This teaching is official and still valid.

    DB: Masonic websites and publications regularly speak favorably about Pope Francis. Recently, Why do they welcome Pope Francis?

    BAS: Well, they have to tell us, concretely. It is not a clear sign what they want to do with their affirmations, what their intentions are.

    DB: In 2013 on his return flight from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis made reference to a Masonic lobby. Recently, Cardinal Ravasi, in the Italian paper Il Sole 24 Ore, called for new dialogue and shared values with Freemasonry. Has Masonry won in the Church?

    BAS: Of course we know that Freemasonry is one of the most powerful influences at all levels of human society. This is manifest and clear. Theoretically, when one is a supporter, a leader in a very influential anti-Christian organisation, there is the tendency to infiltrate the organisation which is your enemy, it is very logical. So it is logical, over many centuries, that they would have tried and probably succeeded to infiltrate themselves into various levels of the Church – this is clear to me.

    It is difficult to demonstrate concretely, to identify, who is a member. It is very difficult and dangerous, because someone may be accused of being a member, then it is proved the person is not a formally a member. It’s because of the secrecy and esotericism of Freemasonry that makes it very difficult.

    One can assume that a cleric, a priest, bishop, or cardinal, has some connections with the masons by his speech. We hear clerics speaking like Freemasons, clearly, when they open their mouths, they use terms and concepts that are typically masonic. He could be a member, but you have to prove it, but at least when he speaks he has the spirit of the Freemason, maybe he is not a formal member, but some bishops and cardinals speak clearly with a Masonic spirit. I stress this does not mean they are formally members of the Freemasons.

    DB: Pope Francis has just met the Orthodox Patriarch of Russia. What is your view about the meeting? Will it bring about unity with Rome, or lead to a synodal Church which allows Holy Communion for the remarried?

    BAS: Firstly, the meeting itself is a cause for joy, that it took place, because the Orthodox are a strong Church with beautiful and authentic traditions, images, devotion to Our Lady, angels, devout liturgies, Holy Mass celebrating in a beautiful manner, penance, fasting, monastic traditions, they have so many true Catholic values they have kept.

    It seems to me that this meeting was conditioned politically, it was very quickly made, more politically motivated. And, I don’t think that this meeting will have an impact on the Church becoming synodal, or make it easy for the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion as they allow in the Orthodox Church.

    I agree with the strong statements of the pope and patriarch on the family, and against gender ideology, and against persecution of the Christians, but what I don’t agree with is the statement on the Uniates, this is an injustice, because the Uniates wanted to be united to the pope in the past, since the Council of Florence in the 15th century. It was very positive with many fruits – saints, martyrs, so we can’t say it was wrong.

    Also, the statement on proselytism, it was an accusation against the Catholic Church. I am living in an orthodox area and the Church does not do proselytism – this statement was unjust. And so I think the Holy See has ceded to the pressure of the patriarch. It seems the Orthodox dictated some points to accept, and this is against truth and against justice, such a dialogue is not a real ecumenical dialogue. Dialogue has to be fraternal, equal on the human level, so all these compromises, which harm truth and justice will not bear fruits for real unity.

    DB: Pope Francis has again given a press interview on the plane back from Cuba. He made a comment on the Zika virus and using contraception. He cited the case of the Congo nuns, and discernment. Fr Lombardi SJ has clarified the pope’s comment. The bishops of the Philippines publicly called for a review of Church teaching in this area. Is this really a debate the Church needs to address, or manoeuvres by people inside and outside the Church who want the teaching on contraception changed?

    BAS: This is part of an agenda, clearly, to change the truths of the Church in morality, in the topic of contraception. It is all a plan, a great pressure, and an agenda in the sphere in contraception. In the Church in our days there is the danger of a practical admittance of divorce and reception of Holy Communion, it is a practical denial of the indissolubility of marriage.

    DB: Are you speaking about the reformed annulment process?

    BAS: Yes, also the reformed process of annulment of marriage, for me, contains a danger of banalisation and superficiality in the process itself; it contains in itself, in the new norms, a danger of an attack against the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. When you treat a holy thing in a superficial and quick manner, banal manner, it is irresponsible. Theoretically, the new norms are now contrary to the perennial practice of the Church, because in the process there was always the presumption of the validity of the marriage, this was always presumed, because of the defense of the sanctity of the sacrament. The new norms however presume the invalidity of the marriage from the start. This is a dangerous change in mentality.

    It is the spirit of the world attacking, and so too with contraception. The truths of the church are unchangeable and will remain so. Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II in Vertatis Splendor and Familaris Consortio have taught that contraception is in itself always intrinsically evil. There are no circumstances and no exceptions that justify an intrinsically evil act. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II confirmed this.

    DB: You speak out a lot on important issues, giving the faithful clear and true Catholic teaching. Aren’t you concerned attacks will come? You seem to be setting yourself up to be a target – bishops can be moved, media attacks are launched, reputations destroyed.

    BAS: I have no fears and no concerns, about possible transfers or attacks, because the sense of my life and all my ambition is the truths of Christ and to be faithful to God, and to be acknowledged by God, not by bishops, mass media, and even not by the pope, but first by my conscience and by my vows I gave to Christ in Baptism and Episcopal consecration, to keep the truth pure and integral, and even to be ready to give my life for it. This is my desire and my aim, I don’t worry what people will say. It is ridiculous to fear human opinion because tomorrow it changes. I have to be concerned with what God thinks. People pass away very quickly, God’s opinion remains, so I am concerned to please God first.

    I am an auxiliary bishop in a diocese, I am happy, and when the pope will transfer me, he shall do this and I shall obey, and I shall carry in every place the desire to defend the truth.

    DB: Charity is the greatest virtue. What acts of charity, spiritual and corporal, are most needed today for Christians to practice?

    BAS: First, in the hierarchy of values, what is most important is what is eternal and immortal, and this is the soul, eternal values, and eternal life. Therefore those acts of charity which aim to transmit the eternal life to my neighbor and transmit to him everlasting values, to help him save his soul, these acts are more necessary. Of course we have at the same time to help immediately a person in need, hungry and so on, to help is very natural, it has to be done. But as Catholics we are not only thinking about giving food and clothes, but we have to give also the light of the Faith, we must not to forget it. This is true, authentic love for neighbor. Love God first, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

    God asks us to love Him with all our mind, power, heart; He reserved this for himself. Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves, and to love others as He loved us. So, we have to love with the love of Christ. He came to us to save our souls, not firstly or only our body, but our souls, and to give us His divine truth. He shed His blood for the salvation of our souls.

    So we have to love each other as Christ loves us. Our main task then, is to love God, prefer God and His truth even in our temporal lives, ready to be martyrs for Christ, and love others as we love ourselves and as Christ loved us – sacrificing ourselves for the good of others.

    DB: Your Excellency, thank you for your time.

    BAS: May God bless you and your noble work for the Catholic Truth. In Jesus and Mary.

    OnePeterFive is a US 501(c)(3) organization which relies on your tax-deductible contributions.

    Read more...
  • Laetare Sunday 2016

    On this Laetare Sunday as confusion in the Church becomes greater and greater, the wonderful Bishop Athanasius Schneider makes our hearts rejoice with his sound doctrine, and wonderful witness to the truths of the Faith which he so radiantly expounds. What a gift to the Church!

    Exclusive Interview: Bishop Athanasius Schneider on Evangelization, Zika, Freemasonry, the Orthodox & More!

    3

    BY DANIEL BLACKMAN ON MARCH 3, 2016CATHOLIC LIFE, FEATURED, THE CHURCH

    874

    Shares

    277 5 1

    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    London, UK: The well-known and much respected auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, Athanasius Schneider, has given a wide-ranging and hard-hitting interview during his week-long tour of England this past week.

    Bishop Schneider spoke exclusively to me, taking on a number of controversial issues, including evangelization in relation to Jews and Muslims, the Pope’s recent comment on the Zika virus and contraception, Freemasonry within the hierarchy, and opening up about why refuses to let fear stop him from teaching all the truths of the Catholic Faith.

    Bishop Schneider’s week-long trip, organised by the founder and editor of Ireland’s Catholic Voice newspaper, Anthony Murphy, included several Holy Masses, clergy retreats and talks at the Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate, and the thriving shrines entrusted to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in New Brighton, and the Fraternity of St. Peter in Warrington. The bishop also stopped off at the Oxford Oratory.

    The following is a transcript of our interview.

    Daniel Blackman: You’ve been to England several times now. What do you like about coming here, and what’s distinct about the Catholics you meet here?

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider: It is wonderful to meet the young clergy, and laity, including young people, it is encouraging for me, I think they are continuing to hand over the noble traditions of the English Catholics which were known throughout the whole world. They were persecuted, and gave up their lives for the Catholic faith.

    So I think the situation today in the Church with this deep crisis, is met with good Catholic lay people and priests, especially here in England, as in those times of martyrs, confessors, and priests too, it is encouraging that English Catholics are faithful to their noble Catholic heritage.

    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    DB: Tell me about your prayer life? What devotions are special to you?

    BAS: Since my youth I have had a deep devotion to the holy Eucharist, especially adoration of Eucharist. I do it every day if I can. I consider it indispensable for the life of the Catholic priest. Of course we have the Holy Mass, which is the greatest thing each day, so I prepare very well, and we pray the breviary. Every priest, when possible, has to strive to make adoration every day. To be in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, to keep with him in this intimate dialogue, it is a need, I like it.

    DB: Within the Church there is a long history of Jewish converts to the Faith – Alphonse Ratisbonne, St Edith stein, WWII Chief Rabbi of Rome Eugenio Zolli, and more recently former Orthodox rabbi Jean-Marie Eli Satbon. Yet a recent document from the Commission for Interreligious Relations with the Jews, says the Church has no formal organised mission to convert the Jews (par 40-49). Is that now true? Is this a correction of previous teaching and practice?

    BAS: This is truly wrong. It contradicts the words of Our Lord who said “Go and teach all people,” he did not say “all people except the Jewish people,” he said all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that If you don’t believe in me you won’t have life. He told this to the Jews also, and he continues to say this to the Jews of our days. They too need to be obedient to God’s covenant which Jesus instituted. Therefore the apostles preached to the Jews in the synagogue.

    For 2000 years the Church has always prayed for the conversion of the Jews. This is an act of mercy and love. The church invites and encouraged the Jews to come to Christ. There were converts, even saints who were Jewish converts. Alphonse Ratisbonne founded a religious congregation to evangelize the Jewish people. So it is for me ever valid, and no Church document can invalidate this because it contradicts the words of Our Lord, it contradicts the Apostles, and all the unchangeable and permanent words of the Church for over 2000 years.

    DB: This document has come from within the Church, from an official body in the Vatican, how is it possible?

    BAS: This is very sad. This document has no infallible value and has no intention of being infallible, it is not an authentic expression of the Magisterium. There were in the history of the Church some documents of a pastoral character that had a temporal nature and contained errors, and this document contains errors. What is not infallible can be erroneous. I repeat, the Church has always taught only those statements which are taught ex Cathedra or taught by the Universal Magisterium – pope and bishops teaching for a long time, many centuries. The mentioned document however contains a new doctrine, an opinion, a theory.

    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    DB: The English & Welsh and German bishops’ conferences have called for traditional rite Good Friday prayer for the Jews to be changed, to bring it into line with current inter-religious practice with the Jews. Would this be a good thing? Is there something wrong with the current prayer?

    BAS: I don’t know what they want, but we have to see the truth. It’s against the charity and love against the Jews. When I love them I want them to know and love Jesus that they may be washed and cleansed by the most precious blood of Jesus, and know the most Holy Trinity. Therefore I have to pray for their conversion. I am questioning it, the German and English bishops, they are not the totality of the bishops. There are surely, I know bishops, who do not agree with this. I do not consider this opinion correct, it is invasive. It’s the administrative nomenclature which claims to represent all the bishops of a nation. This method of functioning of the bishops conference is itself very problematic, it is acting against the divine structure of the Church.

    DB: You live in a country that is about 70% Muslim. What is your experience of living in a Muslim majority country? Is there cooperation or conflict? Do Muslims become Catholics?

    BAS: Thanks be to God there is peace and harmony, the people are very tolerant, and there is no hostility. There has not been extremism in the mentality and culture of the people, and the government is very active in supporting inter-religious dialogue. They are very vigilant to avoid, and even expel from the country, those who are extremist.

    The government organises meetings to share common values for society, there is nothing theological about these meetings, but only to make a contribution to improve the social life of the people, which I consider very positive. For example, in this current world-wide gender ideology which is now imposed on a world wide scale with dictatorial methods, thanks be to God, the Muslims share the same view on this issue. Together we condemn the gender agenda, and influences that are against the family.

    DB: Does the Catholic Church have a mission to Muslims?

    BAS: It is also our duty yes, they are redeemed by Christ, and they have to know Christ the same as the Jews do. But of course it is difficult to evangelise the Muslims in Islamic countries. It is very dangerous. But at least we can give, in those countries, our witness and presence. I have experiences of people with a Muslim background who start to seek Christ and ask for the truth, so I have witnessed conversion among my personal contacts. Since we have liberty and freedom, and since we are not yet in Islamic majority countries in Europe, not yet I say, as it can come, but since not yet, we can use and should use the mission to our Islamic neighbours, not proselytism which is not morally correct, but to evangelise.

    DB: Europe has suffered several Islamic terrorist attacks –Paris, serious concerns in Belgium, and also the Middles East, parts of Africa, and Pakistan, among others. Why is this happening?

    BAS: Well I don’t’ know exactly how ISIS arose, but we can see that it would be impossible for ISIS to have so many weapons and arms if they were not financed and supported by someone strong. They are doing business in arms on such a scale that it is not possible without a powerful state who gives, maybe through intermediaries, the finance and weapons they need.

    Another point I would like to make is this – the international community – US, NATO – have enough power to finish off ISIS, and they could have done it in the beginning. They have good, very good, secret services that already knew about the rise of ISIS, but they have done nothing. The EU, NATO, USA, have done nothing, yet they had the knowledge. They did not prevent ISIS. They have enough power, yet they allowed the ISIS terrorist movement.

    DB: Why do you think that might be?

    BAS: I don’t know their intentions, the intentions of the powerful of our world, the Western states. I don’t know why they didn’t prevent it. You can say that indirectly, they supported it. It could be that they have political aims. Through ISIS, they have programmed to bring about the invasion of many Muslim people to Europe, to bring about a destabilization, even in the heart of Europe, not just the Middle East. Such a huge presence of people from another culture, with a more radical view of Islamic religion, will cause conflicts, with time, and tensions with the local population. It is and will cause a general instability and confusion. Maybe someone who is powerful would like to use this instability for a purpose.

    DB: The Church has a long history, over a number of centuries, of denouncing Freemasonry. However, the new code of canon law has removed any reference to masonry, and we no long longer see documents or hear anything from Church leaders about this. It can give the impression Masonry is no longer a danger. The Masonic lodges have also warmly welcomed Pope Francis.

    BAS: Freemasonry is in itself intrinsically not compatible with Christian or Catholic faith, it is intrinsically not compatible, because the nature of freemasonry is anti-Christian. They deny Christ, and they deny the objective truths, they promote relativism, which is contrary to the truth, to the Gospel. So they promote the doctrinal errors of the Masonic philosophy. This is incompatible with Christian and Catholic faith.

    Freemasonry has also an esoteric aspect, which is not Christian. They have rituals and ceremonies which are esoteric, which they openly admit, and such ceremonials are contrary to the faith. Their symbols and rituals demonstrate that they are against the divine truths in the Gospel – these things transmit show that Freemasonry is another religion. I repeat, freemasonry is another religion, it is an anti-Christ religion.

    Even when they do good works, philanthropy and so forth, these dangerous things remain. Their philanthropy is not a justification that we can accept freemasonry, just because of their good philanthropic work. I will never recognise their doctrines and rituals which are against the Divine truths of the Gospel. The Church can never accept this. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1983 declaration on freemasonry is still valid. According to this Declaration it is a mortal sin to become a freemason – even pope Francis has not changed this law. This teaching is official and still valid.

    DB: Masonic websites and publications regularly speak favorably about Pope Francis. Recently, Why do they welcome Pope Francis?

    BAS: Well, they have to tell us, concretely. It is not a clear sign what they want to do with their affirmations, what their intentions are.

    DB: In 2013 on his return flight from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis made reference to a Masonic lobby. Recently, Cardinal Ravasi, in the Italian paper Il Sole 24 Ore, called for new dialogue and shared values with Freemasonry. Has Masonry won in the Church?

    BAS: Of course we know that Freemasonry is one of the most powerful influences at all levels of human society. This is manifest and clear. Theoretically, when one is a supporter, a leader in a very influential anti-Christian organisation, there is the tendency to infiltrate the organisation which is your enemy, it is very logical. So it is logical, over many centuries, that they would have tried and probably succeeded to infiltrate themselves into various levels of the Church – this is clear to me.

    It is difficult to demonstrate concretely, to identify, who is a member. It is very difficult and dangerous, because someone may be accused of being a member, then it is proved the person is not a formally a member. It’s because of the secrecy and esotericism of Freemasonry that makes it very difficult.

    One can assume that a cleric, a priest, bishop, or cardinal, has some connections with the masons by his speech. We hear clerics speaking like Freemasons, clearly, when they open their mouths, they use terms and concepts that are typically masonic. He could be a member, but you have to prove it, but at least when he speaks he has the spirit of the Freemason, maybe he is not a formal member, but some bishops and cardinals speak clearly with a Masonic spirit. I stress this does not mean they are formally members of the Freemasons.

    DB: Pope Francis has just met the Orthodox Patriarch of Russia. What is your view about the meeting? Will it bring about unity with Rome, or lead to a synodal Church which allows Holy Communion for the remarried?

    BAS: Firstly, the meeting itself is a cause for joy, that it took place, because the Orthodox are a strong Church with beautiful and authentic traditions, images, devotion to Our Lady, angels, devout liturgies, Holy Mass celebrating in a beautiful manner, penance, fasting, monastic traditions, they have so many true Catholic values they have kept.

    It seems to me that this meeting was conditioned politically, it was very quickly made, more politically motivated. And, I don’t think that this meeting will have an impact on the Church becoming synodal, or make it easy for the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion as they allow in the Orthodox Church.

    I agree with the strong statements of the pope and patriarch on the family, and against gender ideology, and against persecution of the Christians, but what I don’t agree with is the statement on the Uniates, this is an injustice, because the Uniates wanted to be united to the pope in the past, since the Council of Florence in the 15th century. It was very positive with many fruits – saints, martyrs, so we can’t say it was wrong.

    Also, the statement on proselytism, it was an accusation against the Catholic Church. I am living in an orthodox area and the Church does not do proselytism – this statement was unjust. And so I think the Holy See has ceded to the pressure of the patriarch. It seems the Orthodox dictated some points to accept, and this is against truth and against justice, such a dialogue is not a real ecumenical dialogue. Dialogue has to be fraternal, equal on the human level, so all these compromises, which harm truth and justice will not bear fruits for real unity.

    DB: Pope Francis has again given a press interview on the plane back from Cuba. He made a comment on the Zika virus and using contraception. He cited the case of the Congo nuns, and discernment. Fr Lombardi SJ has clarified the pope’s comment. The bishops of the Philippines publicly called for a review of Church teaching in this area. Is this really a debate the Church needs to address, or manoeuvres by people inside and outside the Church who want the teaching on contraception changed?

    BAS: This is part of an agenda, clearly, to change the truths of the Church in morality, in the topic of contraception. It is all a plan, a great pressure, and an agenda in the sphere in contraception. In the Church in our days there is the danger of a practical admittance of divorce and reception of Holy Communion, it is a practical denial of the indissolubility of marriage.

    DB: Are you speaking about the reformed annulment process?

    BAS: Yes, also the reformed process of annulment of marriage, for me, contains a danger of banalisation and superficiality in the process itself; it contains in itself, in the new norms, a danger of an attack against the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. When you treat a holy thing in a superficial and quick manner, banal manner, it is irresponsible. Theoretically, the new norms are now contrary to the perennial practice of the Church, because in the process there was always the presumption of the validity of the marriage, this was always presumed, because of the defense of the sanctity of the sacrament. The new norms however presume the invalidity of the marriage from the start. This is a dangerous change in mentality.

    It is the spirit of the world attacking, and so too with contraception. The truths of the church are unchangeable and will remain so. Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II in Vertatis Splendor and Familaris Consortio have taught that contraception is in itself always intrinsically evil. There are no circumstances and no exceptions that justify an intrinsically evil act. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II confirmed this.

    DB: You speak out a lot on important issues, giving the faithful clear and true Catholic teaching. Aren’t you concerned attacks will come? You seem to be setting yourself up to be a target – bishops can be moved, media attacks are launched, reputations destroyed.

    BAS: I have no fears and no concerns, about possible transfers or attacks, because the sense of my life and all my ambition is the truths of Christ and to be faithful to God, and to be acknowledged by God, not by bishops, mass media, and even not by the pope, but first by my conscience and by my vows I gave to Christ in Baptism and Episcopal consecration, to keep the truth pure and integral, and even to be ready to give my life for it. This is my desire and my aim, I don’t worry what people will say. It is ridiculous to fear human opinion because tomorrow it changes. I have to be concerned with what God thinks. People pass away very quickly, God’s opinion remains, so I am concerned to please God first.

    I am an auxiliary bishop in a diocese, I am happy, and when the pope will transfer me, he shall do this and I shall obey, and I shall carry in every place the desire to defend the truth.

    DB: Charity is the greatest virtue. What acts of charity, spiritual and corporal, are most needed today for Christians to practice?

    BAS: First, in the hierarchy of values, what is most important is what is eternal and immortal, and this is the soul, eternal values, and eternal life. Therefore those acts of charity which aim to transmit the eternal life to my neighbor and transmit to him everlasting values, to help him save his soul, these acts are more necessary. Of course we have at the same time to help immediately a person in need, hungry and so on, to help is very natural, it has to be done. But as Catholics we are not only thinking about giving food and clothes, but we have to give also the light of the Faith, we must not to forget it. This is true, authentic love for neighbor. Love God first, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

    God asks us to love Him with all our mind, power, heart; He reserved this for himself. Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves, and to love others as He loved us. So, we have to love with the love of Christ. He came to us to save our souls, not firstly or only our body, but our souls, and to give us His divine truth. He shed His blood for the salvation of our souls.

    So we have to love each other as Christ loves us. Our main task then, is to love God, prefer God and His truth even in our temporal lives, ready to be martyrs for Christ, and love others as we love ourselves and as Christ loved us – sacrificing ourselves for the good of others.

    DB: Your Excellency, thank you for your time.

    BAS: May God bless you and your noble work for the Catholic Truth. In Jesus and Mary.

    OnePeterFive is a US 501(c)(3) organization which relies on your tax-deductible contributions.

    Read more...
  • Laetare Sunday 2016

    On this Laetare Sunday as confusion in the Church becomes greater and greater, the wonderful Bishop Athanasius Schneider makes our hearts rejoice with his sound doctrine, and wonderful witness to the truths of the Faith which he so radiantly expounds. What a gift to the Church!

    Exclusive Interview: Bishop Athanasius Schneider on Evangelization, Zika, Freemasonry, the Orthodox & More!

    3

    BY DANIEL BLACKMAN ON MARCH 3, 2016CATHOLIC LIFE, FEATURED, THE CHURCH

    874

    Shares

    277 5 1

    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    London, UK: The well-known and much respected auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, Athanasius Schneider, has given a wide-ranging and hard-hitting interview during his week-long tour of England this past week.

    Bishop Schneider spoke exclusively to me, taking on a number of controversial issues, including evangelization in relation to Jews and Muslims, the Pope’s recent comment on the Zika virus and contraception, Freemasonry within the hierarchy, and opening up about why refuses to let fear stop him from teaching all the truths of the Catholic Faith.

    Bishop Schneider’s week-long trip, organised by the founder and editor of Ireland’s Catholic Voice newspaper, Anthony Murphy, included several Holy Masses, clergy retreats and talks at the Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate, and the thriving shrines entrusted to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in New Brighton, and the Fraternity of St. Peter in Warrington. The bishop also stopped off at the Oxford Oratory.

    The following is a transcript of our interview.

    Daniel Blackman: You’ve been to England several times now. What do you like about coming here, and what’s distinct about the Catholics you meet here?

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider: It is wonderful to meet the young clergy, and laity, including young people, it is encouraging for me, I think they are continuing to hand over the noble traditions of the English Catholics which were known throughout the whole world. They were persecuted, and gave up their lives for the Catholic faith.

    So I think the situation today in the Church with this deep crisis, is met with good Catholic lay people and priests, especially here in England, as in those times of martyrs, confessors, and priests too, it is encouraging that English Catholics are faithful to their noble Catholic heritage.

    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    DB: Tell me about your prayer life? What devotions are special to you?

    BAS: Since my youth I have had a deep devotion to the holy Eucharist, especially adoration of Eucharist. I do it every day if I can. I consider it indispensable for the life of the Catholic priest. Of course we have the Holy Mass, which is the greatest thing each day, so I prepare very well, and we pray the breviary. Every priest, when possible, has to strive to make adoration every day. To be in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, to keep with him in this intimate dialogue, it is a need, I like it.

    DB: Within the Church there is a long history of Jewish converts to the Faith – Alphonse Ratisbonne, St Edith stein, WWII Chief Rabbi of Rome Eugenio Zolli, and more recently former Orthodox rabbi Jean-Marie Eli Satbon. Yet a recent document from the Commission for Interreligious Relations with the Jews, says the Church has no formal organised mission to convert the Jews (par 40-49). Is that now true? Is this a correction of previous teaching and practice?

    BAS: This is truly wrong. It contradicts the words of Our Lord who said “Go and teach all people,” he did not say “all people except the Jewish people,” he said all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that If you don’t believe in me you won’t have life. He told this to the Jews also, and he continues to say this to the Jews of our days. They too need to be obedient to God’s covenant which Jesus instituted. Therefore the apostles preached to the Jews in the synagogue.

    For 2000 years the Church has always prayed for the conversion of the Jews. This is an act of mercy and love. The church invites and encouraged the Jews to come to Christ. There were converts, even saints who were Jewish converts. Alphonse Ratisbonne founded a religious congregation to evangelize the Jewish people. So it is for me ever valid, and no Church document can invalidate this because it contradicts the words of Our Lord, it contradicts the Apostles, and all the unchangeable and permanent words of the Church for over 2000 years.

    DB: This document has come from within the Church, from an official body in the Vatican, how is it possible?

    BAS: This is very sad. This document has no infallible value and has no intention of being infallible, it is not an authentic expression of the Magisterium. There were in the history of the Church some documents of a pastoral character that had a temporal nature and contained errors, and this document contains errors. What is not infallible can be erroneous. I repeat, the Church has always taught only those statements which are taught ex Cathedra or taught by the Universal Magisterium – pope and bishops teaching for a long time, many centuries. The mentioned document however contains a new doctrine, an opinion, a theory.

    Image Credit: Daniel Blackman

    DB: The English & Welsh and German bishops’ conferences have called for traditional rite Good Friday prayer for the Jews to be changed, to bring it into line with current inter-religious practice with the Jews. Would this be a good thing? Is there something wrong with the current prayer?

    BAS: I don’t know what they want, but we have to see the truth. It’s against the charity and love against the Jews. When I love them I want them to know and love Jesus that they may be washed and cleansed by the most precious blood of Jesus, and know the most Holy Trinity. Therefore I have to pray for their conversion. I am questioning it, the German and English bishops, they are not the totality of the bishops. There are surely, I know bishops, who do not agree with this. I do not consider this opinion correct, it is invasive. It’s the administrative nomenclature which claims to represent all the bishops of a nation. This method of functioning of the bishops conference is itself very problematic, it is acting against the divine structure of the Church.

    DB: You live in a country that is about 70% Muslim. What is your experience of living in a Muslim majority country? Is there cooperation or conflict? Do Muslims become Catholics?

    BAS: Thanks be to God there is peace and harmony, the people are very tolerant, and there is no hostility. There has not been extremism in the mentality and culture of the people, and the government is very active in supporting inter-religious dialogue. They are very vigilant to avoid, and even expel from the country, those who are extremist.

    The government organises meetings to share common values for society, there is nothing theological about these meetings, but only to make a contribution to improve the social life of the people, which I consider very positive. For example, in this current world-wide gender ideology which is now imposed on a world wide scale with dictatorial methods, thanks be to God, the Muslims share the same view on this issue. Together we condemn the gender agenda, and influences that are against the family.

    DB: Does the Catholic Church have a mission to Muslims?

    BAS: It is also our duty yes, they are redeemed by Christ, and they have to know Christ the same as the Jews do. But of course it is difficult to evangelise the Muslims in Islamic countries. It is very dangerous. But at least we can give, in those countries, our witness and presence. I have experiences of people with a Muslim background who start to seek Christ and ask for the truth, so I have witnessed conversion among my personal contacts. Since we have liberty and freedom, and since we are not yet in Islamic majority countries in Europe, not yet I say, as it can come, but since not yet, we can use and should use the mission to our Islamic neighbours, not proselytism which is not morally correct, but to evangelise.

    DB: Europe has suffered several Islamic terrorist attacks –Paris, serious concerns in Belgium, and also the Middles East, parts of Africa, and Pakistan, among others. Why is this happening?

    BAS: Well I don’t’ know exactly how ISIS arose, but we can see that it would be impossible for ISIS to have so many weapons and arms if they were not financed and supported by someone strong. They are doing business in arms on such a scale that it is not possible without a powerful state who gives, maybe through intermediaries, the finance and weapons they need.

    Another point I would like to make is this – the international community – US, NATO – have enough power to finish off ISIS, and they could have done it in the beginning. They have good, very good, secret services that already knew about the rise of ISIS, but they have done nothing. The EU, NATO, USA, have done nothing, yet they had the knowledge. They did not prevent ISIS. They have enough power, yet they allowed the ISIS terrorist movement.

    DB: Why do you think that might be?

    BAS: I don’t know their intentions, the intentions of the powerful of our world, the Western states. I don’t know why they didn’t prevent it. You can say that indirectly, they supported it. It could be that they have political aims. Through ISIS, they have programmed to bring about the invasion of many Muslim people to Europe, to bring about a destabilization, even in the heart of Europe, not just the Middle East. Such a huge presence of people from another culture, with a more radical view of Islamic religion, will cause conflicts, with time, and tensions with the local population. It is and will cause a general instability and confusion. Maybe someone who is powerful would like to use this instability for a purpose.

    DB: The Church has a long history, over a number of centuries, of denouncing Freemasonry. However, the new code of canon law has removed any reference to masonry, and we no long longer see documents or hear anything from Church leaders about this. It can give the impression Masonry is no longer a danger. The Masonic lodges have also warmly welcomed Pope Francis.

    BAS: Freemasonry is in itself intrinsically not compatible with Christian or Catholic faith, it is intrinsically not compatible, because the nature of freemasonry is anti-Christian. They deny Christ, and they deny the objective truths, they promote relativism, which is contrary to the truth, to the Gospel. So they promote the doctrinal errors of the Masonic philosophy. This is incompatible with Christian and Catholic faith.

    Freemasonry has also an esoteric aspect, which is not Christian. They have rituals and ceremonies which are esoteric, which they openly admit, and such ceremonials are contrary to the faith. Their symbols and rituals demonstrate that they are against the divine truths in the Gospel – these things transmit show that Freemasonry is another religion. I repeat, freemasonry is another religion, it is an anti-Christ religion.

    Even when they do good works, philanthropy and so forth, these dangerous things remain. Their philanthropy is not a justification that we can accept freemasonry, just because of their good philanthropic work. I will never recognise their doctrines and rituals which are against the Divine truths of the Gospel. The Church can never accept this. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1983 declaration on freemasonry is still valid. According to this Declaration it is a mortal sin to become a freemason – even pope Francis has not changed this law. This teaching is official and still valid.

    DB: Masonic websites and publications regularly speak favorably about Pope Francis. Recently, Why do they welcome Pope Francis?

    BAS: Well, they have to tell us, concretely. It is not a clear sign what they want to do with their affirmations, what their intentions are.

    DB: In 2013 on his return flight from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis made reference to a Masonic lobby. Recently, Cardinal Ravasi, in the Italian paper Il Sole 24 Ore, called for new dialogue and shared values with Freemasonry. Has Masonry won in the Church?

    BAS: Of course we know that Freemasonry is one of the most powerful influences at all levels of human society. This is manifest and clear. Theoretically, when one is a supporter, a leader in a very influential anti-Christian organisation, there is the tendency to infiltrate the organisation which is your enemy, it is very logical. So it is logical, over many centuries, that they would have tried and probably succeeded to infiltrate themselves into various levels of the Church – this is clear to me.

    It is difficult to demonstrate concretely, to identify, who is a member. It is very difficult and dangerous, because someone may be accused of being a member, then it is proved the person is not a formally a member. It’s because of the secrecy and esotericism of Freemasonry that makes it very difficult.

    One can assume that a cleric, a priest, bishop, or cardinal, has some connections with the masons by his speech. We hear clerics speaking like Freemasons, clearly, when they open their mouths, they use terms and concepts that are typically masonic. He could be a member, but you have to prove it, but at least when he speaks he has the spirit of the Freemason, maybe he is not a formal member, but some bishops and cardinals speak clearly with a Masonic spirit. I stress this does not mean they are formally members of the Freemasons.

    DB: Pope Francis has just met the Orthodox Patriarch of Russia. What is your view about the meeting? Will it bring about unity with Rome, or lead to a synodal Church which allows Holy Communion for the remarried?

    BAS: Firstly, the meeting itself is a cause for joy, that it took place, because the Orthodox are a strong Church with beautiful and authentic traditions, images, devotion to Our Lady, angels, devout liturgies, Holy Mass celebrating in a beautiful manner, penance, fasting, monastic traditions, they have so many true Catholic values they have kept.

    It seems to me that this meeting was conditioned politically, it was very quickly made, more politically motivated. And, I don’t think that this meeting will have an impact on the Church becoming synodal, or make it easy for the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion as they allow in the Orthodox Church.

    I agree with the strong statements of the pope and patriarch on the family, and against gender ideology, and against persecution of the Christians, but what I don’t agree with is the statement on the Uniates, this is an injustice, because the Uniates wanted to be united to the pope in the past, since the Council of Florence in the 15th century. It was very positive with many fruits – saints, martyrs, so we can’t say it was wrong.

    Also, the statement on proselytism, it was an accusation against the Catholic Church. I am living in an orthodox area and the Church does not do proselytism – this statement was unjust. And so I think the Holy See has ceded to the pressure of the patriarch. It seems the Orthodox dictated some points to accept, and this is against truth and against justice, such a dialogue is not a real ecumenical dialogue. Dialogue has to be fraternal, equal on the human level, so all these compromises, which harm truth and justice will not bear fruits for real unity.

    DB: Pope Francis has again given a press interview on the plane back from Cuba. He made a comment on the Zika virus and using contraception. He cited the case of the Congo nuns, and discernment. Fr Lombardi SJ has clarified the pope’s comment. The bishops of the Philippines publicly called for a review of Church teaching in this area. Is this really a debate the Church needs to address, or manoeuvres by people inside and outside the Church who want the teaching on contraception changed?

    BAS: This is part of an agenda, clearly, to change the truths of the Church in morality, in the topic of contraception. It is all a plan, a great pressure, and an agenda in the sphere in contraception. In the Church in our days there is the danger of a practical admittance of divorce and reception of Holy Communion, it is a practical denial of the indissolubility of marriage.

    DB: Are you speaking about the reformed annulment process?

    BAS: Yes, also the reformed process of annulment of marriage, for me, contains a danger of banalisation and superficiality in the process itself; it contains in itself, in the new norms, a danger of an attack against the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. When you treat a holy thing in a superficial and quick manner, banal manner, it is irresponsible. Theoretically, the new norms are now contrary to the perennial practice of the Church, because in the process there was always the presumption of the validity of the marriage, this was always presumed, because of the defense of the sanctity of the sacrament. The new norms however presume the invalidity of the marriage from the start. This is a dangerous change in mentality.

    It is the spirit of the world attacking, and so too with contraception. The truths of the church are unchangeable and will remain so. Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II in Vertatis Splendor and Familaris Consortio have taught that contraception is in itself always intrinsically evil. There are no circumstances and no exceptions that justify an intrinsically evil act. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II confirmed this.

    DB: You speak out a lot on important issues, giving the faithful clear and true Catholic teaching. Aren’t you concerned attacks will come? You seem to be setting yourself up to be a target – bishops can be moved, media attacks are launched, reputations destroyed.

    BAS: I have no fears and no concerns, about possible transfers or attacks, because the sense of my life and all my ambition is the truths of Christ and to be faithful to God, and to be acknowledged by God, not by bishops, mass media, and even not by the pope, but first by my conscience and by my vows I gave to Christ in Baptism and Episcopal consecration, to keep the truth pure and integral, and even to be ready to give my life for it. This is my desire and my aim, I don’t worry what people will say. It is ridiculous to fear human opinion because tomorrow it changes. I have to be concerned with what God thinks. People pass away very quickly, God’s opinion remains, so I am concerned to please God first.

    I am an auxiliary bishop in a diocese, I am happy, and when the pope will transfer me, he shall do this and I shall obey, and I shall carry in every place the desire to defend the truth.

    DB: Charity is the greatest virtue. What acts of charity, spiritual and corporal, are most needed today for Christians to practice?

    BAS: First, in the hierarchy of values, what is most important is what is eternal and immortal, and this is the soul, eternal values, and eternal life. Therefore those acts of charity which aim to transmit the eternal life to my neighbor and transmit to him everlasting values, to help him save his soul, these acts are more necessary. Of course we have at the same time to help immediately a person in need, hungry and so on, to help is very natural, it has to be done. But as Catholics we are not only thinking about giving food and clothes, but we have to give also the light of the Faith, we must not to forget it. This is true, authentic love for neighbor. Love God first, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

    God asks us to love Him with all our mind, power, heart; He reserved this for himself. Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves, and to love others as He loved us. So, we have to love with the love of Christ. He came to us to save our souls, not firstly or only our body, but our souls, and to give us His divine truth. He shed His blood for the salvation of our souls.

    So we have to love each other as Christ loves us. Our main task then, is to love God, prefer God and His truth even in our temporal lives, ready to be martyrs for Christ, and love others as we love ourselves and as Christ loved us – sacrificing ourselves for the good of others.

    DB: Your Excellency, thank you for your time.

    BAS: May God bless you and your noble work for the Catholic Truth. In Jesus and Mary.

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  • the comfort of man

    I have been unable to get onto the Internet since Lent began, and so only now am I able to write anything. Recently I heard that the Pope commenting on the possible use of contraceptives to prevent the birth of babies with small heads caused by a new virus, said that such a course of action was a lesser evil. Now if he really has said that he then really needs to do a refresher course in moral theology, but as it is so badly taught these days, perhaps he should just apply common sense. We do not have a right to anything. Soldiers in the first world war might have been wounded in their private parts and then never been able to marry, or if they were married could never have sex again. That is simply life, and to make it bearable, we have to realize that we will never be happy in this World; it is the next World, Heaven, that matters.

    There is the case of one of the loveliest saints in the French Church Blessed Marie of the Incarnation, who incomprehensibly has not been canonized and yet her younger namesake, the founder of the Ursulines in Canada, has. Blessed Marie, usually known by her married name of Madame Acarie, was a famous Parisian beauty, known in late 16th century Paris as La Belle Acarie. She was married to Pierre Acarie, known as the lackey of the League (A group of Catholic nobility who did not want the Protestant Henri of Navarre as their king.) who was very eccentric to put it mildly. He was married to Barbe of the greatest mystics of the day, who was called “The Conscience of France” and did not seem to appreciate this fact. Madame Acarie, whose baptismal name was Barbe managed amidst her mystical transports, ecstasies, and levitations to be the perfect wife, mother, and organizer of her large household. She also managed to feed half of Paris during a great famine. Pierre, however unlike his saintly wife, was fairly incompetent, and when Henry of Navarre said “Paris is worth a Mass!” and became Henry IV of France, the bottom fell out of Pierre’s world. He was banished from Paris by Henry, and then the creditors descended on the Acarie household and Barbe saw them taking the plate off her table. She sent her sons to boarding school, and her daughters to relatives, and was not put out by Job’s comforters who told her to apprentice her sons to cobblers to learn a trade. Barbe’s brilliance with dealing with the Courts stunned the Judges, and she saved her family, and the family fortune, but at a price. Twice, when riding to visit Pierre in his exile near Paris, she broke her pelvis, and at the age of 30 was denied the happiness of marital relations, for if she conceived a child it would be fatal. Both she and Pierre accepted this sacrifice as coming from the hands of Divine Providence.

    Barbe, as a result of two visions of St. Teresa of Avila, whose autobiography she did not care for {For that matter did she care for St. Teresa, and one can sympathise with her disliking the biography, which does ramble, to put it mildly.} found herself being instrumental in founding the Discalced Carmelites in France. When Pierre died she became a lay sister in Carmel. She was appallingly badly treated by a nun there, and even worse by her cousin, the famous and overpowering, Cardinal de Berulle. She also had the stigmata. Perhaps the price she had to pay for these great gifts was the cessation of marital relations.

    Many Jesuits unfortunately try and save souls in the wrong way, by trying to make things as easy as possible, but that is missing the point. The Dominicans are quite different, after all St. Thomas Aquinas was more pessimistic about the number of souls saved than Calvin!

    An example of this tendency to make things easy for people is summed up by this little story. An elderly Capuchin confrere of mine, who had been a missionary, many years ago told it to me about 25 years ago. Fr. Edmund Delapine was his name and his ancestor was the squire who carried the Crown of Thorns in procession in front of St. Louis of France.

    This is the story. Some British soldiers in British Somali Land in World War II wanted to go to Mass on a Sunday. Now the nearest mission post was quite a way away. Those soldiers who were educated by the Jesuits said that as the mission post was over 3 miles away (In the old days you did not have to go to Mass on a Sunday if it was over 3 miles away.) they were excused from the Sunday obligation. Those soldiers who were educated by the Benedictines got hold of a truck and drove to Mass. It is a great shame that the Benedictines are not the movers and shakers in the Church, but they too may well have been tainted by Jesuit casuistry. Yes we all want to help and save people, and Pope Francis has a great and sincere love of the poor, but at the end of the day we are here to get people to Heaven, and if we can we also try and ease their burdens so much the better. However we cannot choose a lesser evil, we must choose the Cross. Ultimately we will find what to do if we simply listen to the words of Christ in the Gospel, and imitate his life. If we imitate Christ we will suffer with him, but we will also ultimately reign with him. Comfort is always a danger, the Cross always leads to Salvation.

    Perhaps the Holy Father should read about this other Blessed Marie of the Incarnation, and then canonize her; in the process he will realize that the love of God satisfies totally, whereas sex even in marriage can be both ambiguous and downright dangerous, especially in our highly sexualized society, and I am sure that Latin America is no stranger to dangerous sensuality.

    Lent is a time when we try and curb our appetites, and does not St. Paul warn us that the flesh wars against the spirit, and that is why we must ration our comforts, but never ration our love for God, which will always necessitate taking up our Cross and following him to Calvary, but ultimately to Heaven. Blessed Marie of the Incarnation pray for us.

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  • The Presentation, A Lesson in Purity, Modesty, and Majesty

    Two things, more than anything else, sum up the Western World today. They are not the theories of secularism, materialism, nihilism, even the theory of the Superman, but two terrifying and intertwined monsters, Impurity and a total obsession with self, that find their ultimate stand in total infidelity.

    In the Western World everyone goes on about sex. The majority group, it appears, offers total libertinism which advocates that you can, even must, have sex whenever you want it, with whomsoever you want it, and however you want it, The other group, much smaller indeed, resists this with a call to purity and chastity, words that make no sense at all to modern Man.

    Bruce Jenner, now Caitlin Jenner, and former Olympic Gold Medal Decathlon winner in the 1976 Olympics, a most important year for America as it was the Second Centenary of the foundation of that great nation, is considered the most famous Transgender person in the World, and is regarded rather interestingly as a hero, but should he/she perhaps be a heroine, rather than a hero? Caitlin has never been homosexual, and finds women attractive. This would certainly be backed up by the fact that he, in his previous life, was married three times. This of course begins to become utterly nonsensical when he/she describes himself/herself as a Christian. Logic simply is thrown out of the window, for a person who embarks on having a sex change or gender reorientation is basically saying that God has made a mistake. God never makes mistakes. Finally there is the ominous note that Bruce was married into the Kardashian family, who are supposedly involved in the Illuminati, whether that is true or not would be hard to know. However the late Ted Gunderson, who was in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, noted, and he is not alone in this regard, that the Illuminati run the entertainment industry in the States, and so it is more than likely that these very unfortunate people are caught up in the machinations of the Devil.

    At the root of the whole sordid mess, that is now the West, there is one thing and one thing only, namely Pride. The obsession with sex, and self is the monotonous leitmotif of the Devil’s dismal and degrading gargantuan symphony of enticement by excitement.

    Now it must be remembered that Lucifer is the Light Bearer. Prior to his fall he was the greatest of the Archangels, and with his fall he becomes the Prince of Darkness. In his despair he has one aim and one aim only, to deprive God of as many souls as possible. He knows that he cannot destroy God, but he can try to damn as many people as possible. He of course does not use simply sexual sins to do this, but in the present age this is his preferred weapon, along with drugs. This of course was part of the programme of the Illuminati back in 1776 when they were determined on the destruction of the Church, and Christianity. Until the opening of Pandora’s box back in the 1960’s, with the explosion of the Sexual Revolution, I would imagine that mental illness was far less all pervasive as it is today. Sin begets madness. The whole problem of transgenderism is about rebellion against God’s loving creation. Those who wish to change their sex, which is a philosophical impossibility, are in many ways no different from the recent phenomena of the Norwegian teenage girl who thinks that she is a cat, the Englishman who wants to be a parrot and has had his ears cut off, and the Leopard man who lived in the Highlands of Scotland for years, had his teeth filed, was tattooed as a leopard and wore just a loincloth. He is now living in sheltered accommodation; ageing must have brought some sanity to the man.

    The selfishness of sexual sin, the self-centredness of trying to re-invent oneself are all part of Satan’s obsession with himself and his own importance. He wishes to be like God. He wants to be God. This ambition doomed to utter failure and despair will not disappear until the end of Time, and the great battle between good and evil has been won by God who shares great task, through his infinite love and mercy with his angels and saints. The importance to modern Western Man and Woman is the desire to be loved, adored, and be that peculiar creature the celebrity.

    Now Satan thinks that he can make sex infertile through contraception and abortion. He thinks that he can make people genderless, quite how I do not know. He thinks that he can catch them by making them want to be animals. What he does in fact is to make them poor imitations of himself, for he, being a spirit, cannot reproduce himself. It is this terrible love of self, which ultimately becomes a hatred of self. The more one sins the more dissatisfied one becomes with things, and oneself. Sin which is about the misuse of God’s gifts to us, finally blinds us to the love of God. Modern Western men and women, who should know better, as they come from a once profoundly Christian culture, are pursuing the cult of self-adoration. This leads ultimately to complete darkness, a darkness which leads to Hell.

    Nothing could be more different than Joseph and Mary, who take Jesus to present him to his Father in the Temple. They bring Jesus to the temple on the fortieth day after his birth. The Mother of God and Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, but even more his father than a natural father could be, as he is the representative of God the Father on Earth, come modestly, hidden, unnoticed into Herod’s awe inspiring Temple. There are no fanfares, no cameras, no selfies, no appalling trophies to be received, neither are there those adoring crowds that inhabit our stadiums, our convention halls, and our theatres. There is love and obedience. Our Lady, of all women, did not need to be purified. Jesus did not have to be bought back as the firstborn son of Mary and the eternally begotten Son of the Father, but he did all that was required by the law for he had to break man’s pride and arrogance, and his weapon was humility and suffering, and ultimately his death on the Cross.

    Christ in his life told us that he came to be served and not to be served. He told us that the first would be last and the last first. He washed his Apostles feet at the Last Supper; the job of a slave. God becomes a slave, and we want, in our crazed and cruel Western World want, to become God.

    Who then recognizes Jesus? Only an old man Simeon and a very old woman Anna.

    And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

    “Lord, now You are letting Your servant

    depart in peace,

    According to Your word;

    For my eyes have seen Your salvation

    Which You have prepared before the

    face of all peoples,

    A Light to bring revelation to the

    Gentiles,

    And the glory of Your people Israel.”

    And Joseph and His mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

    Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day, and spoke of him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:vv.25-38)

    Simeon and Anna were simple devout old people who served God with their whole hearts, and their whole preoccupation was with God and loving him. They were not caught up with what we would now call the Social Gospel, but with their eyes, and hearts and mind totally fixed on God, so that they could hear him speaking to them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    I have often observed that the Catholic Church in Britain, when it was made up, in the main, of Irish immigrants, was a humble Church. Several generations down the line we see that the descendants of those Irish immigrants are now very English, many very middle class, and sadly so well educated that they have been educated out of the Faith. What are they educated in? Well in the profane, not the sacred sciences, and if they happen to be theologians they will have had their heads filled with the nonsense of 19th century German Scripture scholarship which has all but destroyed their Faith, by explaining the miraculous away. Sadly just when the Protestant churches were beginning to back track from that most destructive of religious enquiry, the Catholics decided to take it up with aplomb, and so many priests and religious lost their faith and left their vocations! Perhaps this was bound to happen when the Church herself had got caught up in a too defensive position regarding all branches of the theology, and law. Though the Church should be a strong bulwark against Satan and particularly in these days of secularism and sexual sin, she needed great theologian saints, and there were none. Whether Blessed John Henry Newman is a really great theologian who can rank alongside the Fathers of the Church, Anselm, Bonaventure, and Bellarmine only time will tell; of his heroism and brilliance there is no doubt.

    So when we attend the Feast of Candlemass tomorrow let us go with Joseph and Mary into the Temple with Jesus, and let us contemplate this beautiful family, and that wonderful old man Simeon and that marvellous holy old woman Anna (I prefer the tradition that sees her as a woman of about 104.). Here we see a mirror of what humanity should be, all of them from the baby to the old woman, wishing to live for the Father, do his will and love him in a state of continual contemplation. This is what we are meant to do, namely to love God with every fibre of our being. If we do that then, while carrying our candles in procession before the Mass begins, we will be lights of hope to a disordered and despairing world. The message that we carry is that the more we love God, then our preoccupations with what we have, what we look like, whether we are going to do great things or not, or whether we are going to be celebrities or be overlooked, pales into insignificance, for we must all ultimately choose the better part, for if we do not we are lost. For Martha’s preoccupations were getting in the way of her contemplation. If she had kept her mind and heart centred on Jesus she would not have been bothered whether her sister was apparently doing nothing, her joy should have been simply to serve the Lord. Each of us must want, as C.S. Lewis said in his great sermon “The Weight of Glory”, to be an ingredient in God’s happiness, which of course cannot be true on one level, but somehow we know what Lewis means, just as children bring their parents happiness. Let us do what Meister Eckhart so wisely advises “Know yourself, love yourself, forget yourself.”

    It would do Caitlin Jenner, and so many other transgender people immense good to meditate on these profound words. It would also save them much heartache, sorrow, remorse and despair, for the more we move away from God, then we lose a sense of who we are, where we come from, where we are going and what we are meant to do, and this confusion produces the chaotic state which we called, in the 60’s, the sexual revolution, and which today is transgenderism and which tomorrow will be transhumanism. All of it ultimately leads not to Heaven, but to Hell and that Hell will begin in this life unless we humbly repent, turn to God and ask for his love and mercy. Then indeed can we fall happily and gently into his Everlasting Arms.

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  • THE GREAT TRAGEDY OF THE WEST

    THE GREAT TRAGEDY OF THE WEST

    Introduction

    Last week the excellent John Henry Western, Editor of Lifesite News, was commenting on a recent sermon of Pope Francis, where the Pontiff scolded those Catholics, presumably traditional, and traditionalist Catholics, who range from what might be described as simple down to earth Catholics to those Catholics who attend the Tridentine Mass. The tragedy of this misunderstanding between the Pope and good traditional Catholics at present seems to hinge on the whole question of whether divorced and remarried Catholics should receive communion or not. The more radical Church leaders seem to want practicing homosexuals to receive communion. The Pope appears to be unhappy, and that is something that is not adverted to. If he is scolding he will not be happy. People who scold are not happy. Why he is not happy, I do not know.

    In the days and months after Pope Francis’ election he breathed joy in his wonderful daily homilies. They were full of wisdom. He consecrated his Papacy to Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady was clearly his guiding star, and I am sure she still is. However he is beset on every side by, I fear, bad men, Cardinals, bishops, and priests, who are driven by the spirit of the world, who are in love with the modern world, with all its pomps and triumphs, and very poor triumphs at that.

    Now the Pope is a very compassionate man. He wants the poor to be fed, the old to be looked after, and the young to have jobs. That is all well and good, but it is not enough. The Pope, like so many Latin Christians since the great tragedy of the Schism in 1054 between the Orthodox East and the Catholic West has been a prey to the concept of development. Since Vatican II everything has been about development. Catholics in the West, are continually lured into wanting to know as much about anything and everything that they can. The Jesuits more than any other religious order have been obsessed by every department of knowledge that comes within their grasp. Now the Old Liturgy gives us a hint of what is happening. In the Old Rite and I suspect the Anglicans may still adhere to this as well, we are celebrating Septuagesima Sunday, and so begins the remote preparation for Lent and the great celebration of Easter. In Matins in the Breviary, the First Nocturn takes us back to Eden. Now Eden holds the key to the present lamentable state of affairs in the Catholic Church, which has been building up for centuries and few have been able to see it, except for the monks, and this is another key.

    The West is Eve

    Chapter 2 of Genesis closes with the creation of Eve. The crucial verses are these:

    Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh. And they were both naked: to wit, Adam and his wife: and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2: vv.24-25)

    Eve had been “built” from Adam’s rib. 150 years ago most Catholics would have taken this to be literally true. Sadly this is no longer the case due to the preposterous, and unscientific theory of Evolution that has seduced the West and pretty well most societies in the World. However among the Orthodox East there is still a very considerable group who will hold to this as being factually true, and it goes without saying that many Evangelical Christians will hold this truth as well.

    Chapter 3 of Genesis opens with a completely different feel and with a new actor. It is Satan who now takes centre stage. He begins by questioning Eve; “Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?” What a brilliant ploy, as he knows that God did not command this, but he wants to draw Eve into his web. She answers by saying that she and Adam are free to eat of any of the trees of paradise, but not from “the tree which is in the midst of paradise”. Not only that, but neither should Adam and Eve touch it “lest perhaps we die”. Satan then in masterstroke tells Eve that neither she nor Adam will die if they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but will “be as God, knowing good and evil”. The rest as they say is history, and it really is. Now what is rather interesting is this, that prior to the Fall, neither Adam and Eve were ashamed of being naked. They were one flesh; they were one body. Now sin has sundered them. They are no longer in harmony. They no longer understand each other. A chasm, almost unbridgeable has grown between them. The future is sombre, tending to despair, but God’s prophecy to the distraught Father and Mother of the human race that a Messiah will come and put things right is a reason for the human race to hope.

    However since that terrible desire for knowledge which caused Eve to eat the fruit and share it with Adam, the human race has been plagued with sin.

    Since St. Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, who were great theologians, appeared on the scene, this desire for knowledge, which with them was kept just within limit, then began to get out of hand. Well they got out of hand with Abelard, and it needed the great if somewhat brutal hand, in this instance anyway, of St. Bernard, to prevent decadent scholasticism from swamping the Church. The best way to sum things up is in this vignette from the Chronicle of Thomas of Eccleston that I cannot lay my hands upon, but will have to rely on my memory. The founder of the English Province of Franciscans, Blessed Agnellus or Pisa was visiting the friars at their study house at Oxford. Listening to the students discussing whether God existed or not Blessed Agnellus wryly remarked “While the friars (in this case the clerical students) discuss whether there is a God or no, the lay brothers make their way to heaven.

    The enormously learned Father Cuthbert OFM Cap., who was one of the great Catholic English intellectuals of the early 20th century, has this to say about St. Francis’ prophetic understanding of the state of things that would come upon the Church with the Reformation. These things are coming again, as they did with the birth of Modernism towards at the beginning of 20th century and which is wreaking havoc now within the Catholic Church.

    St. Francis’ ideal, it must be remembered, was to follow Christ in all simplicity of heart and sincerity of mind. Whatever would take away from this simplicity and sincerity was to him an evil to be avoided. As he saw the world, two evils especially afflicted Christendom ---- the arrogance of wealth and the arrogance of academic learning. The civilised world was overrun with scholars, the majority of whom sought nothing better than intellectual brilliancy and dissipation; and intellectual dissipation is as ruinous to the spiritual life as carnal luxury. The two chief studies of the schools at the time were dialectics and law. Here and there a thinker like St. Anselm was honestly searching for truth, but the general tendency of the schools was to stifle thought and exalt a lifeless legalism and brilliant sophistry. The contest between St. Bernard and Abelard was not merely a dispute about special points of doctrine, but rather an episode in the eternal struggle between the thinker and the mere logician. Abelard was little else than an intellectual juggler, and he typical of the temper of the age. It was manifestly against this temper of mind that St. Francis wished to guard the brethren. He was opposed not to Thought, but to the Intellectualism which is the caricature of thought. His was the prophetical instinct. For was not the break-up of Christendom in the sixteenth century due as much to this very intellectualism as to material luxury. (The Friars and how they came to England, trans. Father Cuthbert, Sands and Co. London 1903 pp.81-82)

    If today we substitute modern theological discourse for dialectics, and moral/psychological/sociological discourse for law then we will find that we are fighting the old enemies that St. Francis was fighting, namely the arrogance of academic learning, which too often or not is muddled up with the arrogance of wealth. When we think of who funds Universities, and how wealthy some of the Catholic American Universities are, we realize how serious the situation is. God willing St. Francis and St Bernard are praying for the Church. Of course they are, as are the other great reforming saints are, such as St. Peter Damian, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Elizabeth of Shonau, St. Bridget of Sweden, St Catherine of Siena, and St. Teresa of Avila, to name but a few.

    The real problem facing Pope Francis is that he is a Jesuit to his fingertips. He is part of an order that is absolutely mesmerized by the pursuit of knowledge. No other order in the history of the Church has been such a devotee of profane learning. That has never been the case with the other great intellectual order, namely the Dominicans, who have made the study of theology their main task. However what is a complete mystery is why they were simply unable to deal with Luther’s revolt. He was hardly a profound theologian. More worryingly is that with the explosion of the Reformation that shook Christendom to its extremities, the Dominicans were nowhere to be seen in the Counter Reformation. There is only one Dominican Blessed among the ranks of the martyrs of the Reformation in England and Wales. The laurels in the Counter Reformation were to be given to the Capuchins, and then secondly to the new order of the Jesuits, who in their infancy were still safe in what might be called a boyish fascination with knowledge. The order was still, to use an odd word innocent.

    However the seeds of destruction were already in place, and it was given to that great, but slightly unorthodox theologian and ex-Jesuit, namely Hans Urs von Balthasar to note that Ignatius did something that was seemingly a very little thing. He drove a wedge between devotion and theology. Hans Urs von Balthasar said that anyone listening to St. Bernard would understand him, as it was all of a piece, since Ignatius they would not understand a theologian. However as I cannot now remember all von Balthasar’s argument I will say this. The rot had set in a long time before with Abelard, Duns Scotus, Bacon and Ockham. It seems that they were all fascinated by argument, and possibly argument for argument’s sake. This fascination for knowledge was going to ultimatel be fed by the Renaissance which was fascinated by Man. This fascination is with us today, but with the extraordinary advances in science the fascination has become dangerous. People are now fascinated by artificial intelligence, and robots and aliens and so Western Man will be looking more and more at himself; how can he prolong his life using artificial intelligence and machines. That Man wants to transfer the intelligence of his brain onto a computer is staggeringly daring and staggeringly stupid. He is born to be immortal and he insists upon being not so much human as mechanical and materialist. Now let us look at Eastern Orthodoxy.

    The East is Adam

    If we look at the Orthodox East, and the Oriental churches, like the Copts and the some of the other churches like the Armenian, we see a very different Church. These are churches of monasticism and mysticism. For the East it is about gazing on God, it is about being Divinized by the Holy Spirit. It was St. John Chrysostom who wanted everyone to live some form of the monastic life, and what drives Orthodoxy is the monastery. It is not for nothing that it was St. Antony of Egypt who was a staunch supporter of Athanasius in his titanic struggle with Arianism which was the heresy of a secular priest as we would call Arius these days.

    If one wants to sum up in a nutshell what distinguishes Orthodoxy from Catholicism, then the following is a perfect example. A 19th century Russian Orthodox bishop was asked what Orthodoxy’s social program was. He replied “The Trinity”. This shows the utter difference, at the present time, between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The Orthodox, like Adam are lost in wondering contemplation of God, Modern Catholicism seems enraptured with Man.

    The last Ecumenical Council for the Orthodox was Nicea III, which was the last of the seven ancient councils of the Church. And it was St. John Damascene who so to speaks closes that age with his great work ‘The Fount of Knowledge’ described by Frederic H. Chase Jr. as “the first great Summa of theology to appear in either the East of the West.”

    Since that time sadly, and especially since the Great Schism, for all the talk of Unity, the Catholic Church looks to all intents and purposes as if it is moving in something of an Anglican direction, if that is not too much of a caricature. As the Anglican Church is constantly changing along with the Lutheran and many other Protestant Churches, so too does the Catholic Church seem to be doing. After all it really does seem that the New Mass has more than a passing resemblance to Thomas Cranmer’s Communion Service. But perhaps it is all part and parcel of the Latin West’s desire to know more and more about God, rather than simply loving him and worshipping, for if we get that right then everything else will fall into place. If “A little learning is a dangerous thing” as the saying goes, then a lot of knowledge is perfectly disastrous.

    Is There a Way Forward?

    Is there a way forward? I think that there is. The Liturgy in the Catholic Church must be restored to its former glory. That does not necessarily mean simply going back to the Tridentine Rite, but possibly going back to the different Ancient Rites like the Sarum, the Gallican, the Mozarabic, and the Ambrosian (The latter is still used as far as I can gather.), and then developing a truly profound understanding of the Fathers, and that everything must be referred back to them. The Patristic Age finishes really with St. John Damascene in the East, and some would say with Bernard in the West. Then it should be incumbent on every Catholic to live a more ‘monastic life style’ by belonging to some Third Order, the first in time of course being the Franciscan, or to be an Oblate of some Abbey so as to live a more intense Christian life, and more to the point to live a more liturgical life. Every parish should have a choir, and not some appalling ‘Music Ministry’ which is about barely sanctified secular music, usually played by middle aged people who ought to no better. This choir should have more in common with the Orthodox parish choirs and be a proper Scola that chants. Everyone in the West should be conversant with plain chant, which until the Second Vatican Council was making great headway in the Church as a result of the authentic liturgical renewal which was then capsized by some liturgical vandals headed by Anibale Bugnini. The Latin West must return to the East Facing celebration of the Mass, as is still the immemorial tradition of the Orthodox and Oriental East.

    Finally we should heed the words of the French Orthodox writer Olivier Clement who insists that Christianity is essentially an Oriental religion, the other two being of course Judaism and Islam. And here is something to ponder, the more Western Judaism has become and the more Western the Jews have become, so too has their ancient faith withered and they have produced the great secular heresiarchs of the West, namely Marx, Freud, Durkheim and Einstein. The Moslems remain unrepentantly Eastern and Oriental, and their Faith though quite wrong does not change, but they do live it very publically.

    I will leave you with a remark of the great early 20th century English Dominican Father Vincent McNabb. “There is only one thing worse than a bad Jew, and that is a bad Catholic” It is about time that Catholics reclaim their Eastern Heritage, and that they will find especially in Gregorian chant, which, experts claim, goes back to the chant used in Solomon’s Temple before its destruction by the Babylonians. One thing that I would ask of my fellow Catholics is to simply meet Christ in the Gospels and follow his teachings. This does not require theological expertise, or great flights of mysticism, it requires a love that sacrifices all for the beloved, namely Christ. The reason why contemporary Catholicism is in the shocking mess that it is, is because there is much comfort but little of the Cross. Soon the Cross will be thrust on us, and our reaction to it will seal our eternal fate.

    A Final Thought

    If Adam and Eve had not fallen then we would have a Bible of about four chapters. You would have the first two chapters of Genesis and the last two of the Apocalypse, because Man would have been steadily and surely making his way to Heaven, and that surely is what every Christian is about. It is certainly not about Utopia and building Heaven on Earth.

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