Church and World


Bishop Athanasius Schneider Speaks about the Extraordinary Synod

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, has given an extensive interview concerning the recently ended Extraordinary Synod on the Family. For those not familiar with His Excellency, he is the author of the book Dominus Est, which is a scholarly presentation of why Holy Communion “in the hand” should NOT be allowed. Additionally, he has called for Rome to issue a “Syllabus” of Vatican II clearly presenting the meaning of the texts of the council. This was done after Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the “hermeneutic of continuity” regarding the council documents and how the documents must be understood within the context of the Tradition of the Church. He has also celebrated the Traditional Mass many times and is a strong supporter of Tradition in general.

In the interview, His Excellency “pulls no punches” regarding the Synod and the danger it poses. Here are some excerpts:

“During the Synod there had been moments of obvious manipulation on the part of some clerics who held key positions in the editorial and governing structure of the Synod. The interim report (Relatio post disceptationem) was clearly a prefabricated text with no reference to the actual statements of the Synod Fathers. In the sections on homosexuality, sexuality and ‘divorced and remarried’ with their admittance to the sacraments the text represents a radical neo-pagan ideology…

“This is the first time in Church history that such a heterodox text was actually published as a document of an official meeting of Catholic bishops under the guidance of a pope, even though the text only had a preliminary character…

“A person who still has the indissoluble sacramental marriage bond and who in spite of this lives in a stable marital cohabitation with another person, by Divine law cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. To do so would be a public statement by the Church nefariously legitimizing a denial of the indissolubility of Christian marriage and at the same time repealing the sixth commandment of God: ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’…

“This fact is in itself grievous and represents an attitude of clerical arrogance towards the Divine truth of the Word of God. The attempt to put the Divine truth and the Divine Word to a vote is unworthy of those who as representatives of the Magisterium have to hand over zealously as good and faithful rulers (cf. Matt. 24:45) the Divine deposit. By admitting the ‘divorced and remarried’ to Holy Communion those bishops establish a new tradition on their own volition and transgress thereby the commandment of God, as Christ once rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes (cf. Matt. 15:3). And what is still aggravating is the fact that such bishops try to legitimize their infidelity to Christ’s word by means of arguments such as ‘pastoral need,’ ‘mercy,’ ‘openness to the Holy Spirit.’ Moreover they have no fear and no scruples to pervert in a Gnostic manner the real meaning of these words labeling at the same time those who oppose them and defend the immutable Divine commandment and the true non-human tradition as rigid, scrupulous or traditionalist…

“The final Relatio of the Synod also unfortunately contains the paragraph with the vote on the issue of Holy Communion for ‘divorced remarried.’ Even though it did not achieve the required two-thirds of the votes, there remains nevertheless the worrying and astonishing fact that the absolute majority of the present bishops voted in favor of Holy Communion for the ‘divorced and remarried,’  a sad reflection on the spiritual quality of the Catholic episcopacy in our days…

“In this extraordinarily difficult time Christ is purifying our Catholic faith so that through this trial the Church will shine brighter and be really light and salt for the insipid neo-pagan world thanks to the fidelity and the pure and simple faith firstly of the faithful…

“Catholic young people have to say to themselves: I refuse to conform to the neo-pagan spirit of this world, even when this spirit is spread by some bishops and cardinals. I will not accept their fallacious and perverse use of holy Divine mercy and of ‘new Pentecost.’ I refuse to throw grains of incense before the statue of the idol of the gender ideology, before the idol of second marriages, of concubinage. Even if my bishop were to do so, I will not do so; with the grace of God I will choose to suffer rather than betray the whole truth of Christ on human sexuality and on marriage…”

Although never shy to proclaim the Faith, Bishop Schneider has shown a high level of courage in speaking as he has given the current climate in Rome. It would do us all well to remember him in our prayers, that he will continue to have the required fortitude to defend the true Faith.

The entire interview is more than worth a careful reading. It is available here:,31907,i.html.

Extraordinary Synod on the Family

Many thousands of words have been written to date regarding the truly extraordinary “Extraordinary Synod on the Family” which took place in Rome during October. Leaving aside all the discussions on who was responsible for the mid-synod Relatio post disceptationem (a document supposedly presenting the thoughts and discussions of the Synod Fathers up to that point) and how it did not represent what was actually said by the various presenters, the reaction of a few of the Cardinals present at the synod is of particular interest to those in Tradition.

After seeing that the Relatio presented the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and civilly remarried as acceptable pastorally (à la Cardinal Kasper) and that homosexual “unions” had “positive aspects” which should be recognized by pastors, Cardinals Pell, Burke, and Mueller all took the floor to dispute the accuracy of the Relatio and demanded that the reports from the committees be made public. At their insistence this was reluctantly agreed to, and it became clear that the Relatio did not accurately reflect the discussions at the Synod.

What is most interesting is that in an interview after these interventions, Raymond Cardinal Burke made the extremely correct statement that one cannot separate pastoral activity from doctrine. Unfortunately, this is precisely what has been going on for the past 50 years since Vatican II first set the Church on the trajectory of implementing all sorts of actions which undermined doctrine under the label of being “pastoral.”

The fact that churchmen are critical that a synod in 2014 is doing something that has been applauded (or, at the very least, tolerated) by these same churchmen and their predecessors since the close of Vatican II, without laying the blame where it belongs (i.e., the separation of doctrine from pastoral practice following Vatican II—seen mostly clearly in the Novus Ordo Missae), seems disingenuous. The sad reality is that, until the root cause of fiascos such as occurred at the Extraordinary Synod is recognized and corrected, we should fully expect that continued attempts will be made to separate doctrine from pastoral practice and that documents like the Relatio will continue to be produced.

Having said this, there is need to be thankful that a few of the Synod Fathers had the fortitude to stand up and defend true Catholic teaching regarding the indissolubility of marriage and the disordered nature of homosexuality. The frightening part is that more cardinals and bishops did not do the same, and many even supported the attempted overturning of immemorial Church teaching.

Archdiocese of New York Closing Parishes

At the end of October, the Archdiocese of New York became the latest in a long line of dioceses and archdioceses throughout the world to shutter a significant number of its parishes (after having done so to many of its schools over the past 5 years) to merge 112 parishes into 55 new “parish communities,” which is almost one-third of its current number of parishes. This will effectively mean that 57 parishes will be closed under the program the Archdiocese has dubbed “Making All Things New.” In the mid 1980s, the archdiocese had 413 parishes; following the latest round of “Making All Things New” closings the total number will be approximately 300—and this from an archdiocese which boasts of over two million Catholics, though only twelve percent of these attend Mass each week according to the Archdiocese’s own figures, which are overly generous.

These parish closings are coming three years after the Archdiocese merged its seminary (St. Joseph’s in Yonkers) with the seminary of the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre. Though the three bishops involved attempted to put a good spin on the situation, it was clear that this was done due to a decrease in priestly vocations (for nearly 40 years, the number of yearly priestly ordinations in the Archdiocese has been significantly less than the yearly number of Archdiocesan priests who have died, and the median age of archdiocesan priests is 69 and rapidly increasing) and a shortage of priests for the faculty.

Needless to say, given the parish closings, school closings and seminary merger, it is very hard to see how there is the “new springtime” of the post Vatican II period in the Archdiocese of New York, despite the continual emphasis that there is no crisis in the Church.

The only positive news that emerged as these closures/mergers were announced was that the parish of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan that was originally scheduled to be merged with another parish (the “gay friendly” parish of St. Francis of Assisi) was not on the final list and will remain a parish in its own right. Holy Innocents is the only parish in the Archdiocese of New York where the Traditional Mass is offered daily. The uproar raised and the prayers offered by traditional Catholics in New York clearly had some effect on the powers that be in the Archdiocese.

Changes in the Congregation of Divine Worship

The Congregation of Divine Worship (known as the Sacred Congregation for Rites before Pope Paul VI’s reorganization of the Curia) is responsible for all matters liturgical in the Church. Pope Benedict XVI had named the then Archbishop of Toledo, Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, as Prefect early on in his pontificate. Cardinal Cañizares was a close friend and collaborator with Pope Benedict (he was often called “The Little Ratzinger”) and was very sympathetic to the Traditional Mass, having offered it a number of times since he came to Rome. He was also a strong presence in the “reform of the reform” as the attempt to restore some dignity to the Novus Ordo Missae was called.

Cardinal Cañizares was removed from his prefectship in August 2014 by Pope Francis and was named Archbishop of Valencia in his native Spain. On November 5, 2014, the two undersecretaries of the Congregation (Monsignor Anthony Ward and Monsignor Juan Miguel Ferrer), who were brought in by Cardinal Cañizares, did not have their appointments as undersecretaries renewed the Pope. Both these priests were supporters of the Traditional Mass and worked tirelessly in the “reform of the reform.”

Msgr. Ward was the driving force behind the corrected English translation of the Novus Ordo Missae which went into effect in the English-speaking world three years ago (this corrected version was an exact translation of the Latin text and was a major step in trying to restore some nobility of language to the Mass in English).

Msgr. Ferrer is considered the foremost expert on the Mozarabic Rite. This very early Latin rite is still celebrated in some rare spots in Toledo and Salamanca.

Fr. Corrado Maggioni, the current Capo Ufficio of the Congregation, was named Undersecretary, replacing Ward and Ferrer. Maggioni is a devoted disciple of the liturgical thought of Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, the main architect of the liturgical revolution which resulted in the Novus Ordo Missae, and was recently also named to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

On November 23, 2014, Pope Francis nominated His Eminence, Robert Cardinal Sarah as the new Prefect of the Congregation. Cardinal Sarah had previously been in the Roman Curia as President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and also served in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He was ordained in 1969 for the Archdiocese of Conakry (Guinea, Africa) and in 1979 became its Archbishop. It should be noted that His Eminence was one of the cardinals who spoke out against the Relatio post disceptationem during the Extraordinary Synod on the Family this past October.

Also of interest is the fact that Cardinal Sarah has spoken against the dangers of “liturgical deviations,” and of turning the Church’s mission into a merely humanitarian effort. Where His Eminence will take Pope Benedict’s “reform of the reform” is an open question at this point, but it is clear that Cardinal Sarah will be more likely to maintain the current direction of the Congregation than the rumored choice for Prefect, Archbishop Piero Marini.

Raymond Cardinal Burke Demoted

What had been rumored to be happening became reality on Saturday, November 8. Raymond Cardinal Burke was removed from his position as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the “supreme court” of the Church which hears cases referred to it from other ecclesiastical courts) and given the purely honorary role of Cardinal Protector of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. This honorary role was normally given to a Cardinal over 75 years of age or as an “add on” position for a curial cardinal. Simply put, in and of itself, being Cardinal Protector is a job that entails very little work. To give the job to Cardinal Burke, who is only 66 years old, while replacing him at the Apostolic Signatura cannot be explained except as a demotion. It needs to be noted, as well, that there have been absolutely no revelations of incompetence or impropriety to warrant Burke being removed from office, and no official explanation of the move has been brought forward.

This sort of removal is utterly unheard of in the etiquette of the Roman Curia (commonly called Romanitá)—the norm being to remove someone from one office by promotion or at least to one equal to the position he is being removed from, as long as no impropriety or incompetence exists. This of course begs the question as to why has Pope Francis chosen to remove Cardinal Burke from the Apostolic Signatura? The answer can never be definitively known, of course, unless one is in the Holy Father’s “inner circle,” but it must be remembered the Cardinal Burke has been extraordinarily supportive of the Traditional Latin Mass and one of the few Cardinals to publicly critique Cardinal Kasper’s call for the admission of divorced and remarried persons to Holy Communion. Though no traditionalist (he is still an ardent supporter of Vatican II), he was clearly one of the least modernistic in the Roman Curia and we would do well to keep him in our prayers.